Eggplant and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

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Here’s another blast from the recipe archive past for you, because I’m on my second business trip of two weeks and have barely cooked in days.  And also because I love looking at my beautiful granite countertops from my old condo.  Sigh.  I haven’t made this recipe in a LONG time and now I’m thinking of picking up the ingredients next time I hit the market.  Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite foods… Hope you enjoy these!

This dinner started out planned, in my menu notebook, as Zucchini and Orzo Stuffed Peppers, a Giada de Laurentiis recipe.  But then a certain someone – who shall remain nameless – threw out my zucchini.  He thought it was a weird cucumber, apparently.  This sort of thing happens occasionally – little elves raid my produce drawer – and fortunately, I was prepared this time.  A few quick adjustments, some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sauteeing, and I had some incredibly delicious Eggplant and Orzo Stuffed Peppers on my hands.  You know what?  I like eggplant better anyway.

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Eggplant and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and finely diced
4 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
1/4 cup full-bodied red wine, such as Cab or Zin (2012 edit: or sub mushroom broth)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup + 4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup orzo
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
4 red bell peppers
4 teaspoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
Fresh chives

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and simultaneously begin heating vegetable oil (a moderate amount) in a saute pan, and water in a saucepan.  Add the diced eggplant to the saucepan, season with salt, and saute until browned and crispy in parts, soft in others.
  • Add red wine – not too much, just enough to deglaze the pan.  Stir eggplant around and be careful to scoop up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add cracked pepper and dried oregano.
  • Meanwhile, cook orzo until al dente, according to the instructions on the box.  Drain and reserve.
  • When eggplant starts to smell too divine for words (it’s a scientific process), add diced tomato and stir just until warm.  Dump the whole mess into a bowl and stir in 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan and orzo.
  • Prepare the red peppers – slice off the top (and if necessary, a tiny sliver from the bottom so the peppers will stand upright in the baking dish).  Carefully cut out the ribs and remove the seeds, but don’t bother being too terribly precise.
  • Scoop the eggplant and orzo filling into the red pepper shells.  Top with breadcrumbs, remaining Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil on each pepper.
  • Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden and peppers are slightly soft.  Let cool slightly before serving.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh chives, if desired.

Yield: Serves 4 moderately hungry people (with sides) or 2 very hungry people.

Source: Adapted from Giada’s Kitchen, by Giada de Laurentiis

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