Couscous (or Rice) Stuffed Peppers, and about smart recycling #Againstwaste

‘Aren’t you going to peel that?’
‘Absolutely not. Most of the fiber is in the skin.’
Most of the scenes in my kitchen between me and my mom start in a similar scenario, and end with my mom’s befuddled looks.
I grew up in a family that, albeit not wasteful in the slightest, peeled every single thing that had an outside layer that could be removed. The weird thing is, when I was younger and was seen by my grandpa peeling an apple, leaving thick chunks of flesh attached to the peel falling on the plate, he said: ‘what in the world are you doing? You could feed another person with what you’re discarding.’

My grandpa knew what he was talking about. After all, he was not going to see any children grow up eating bread and onions year-round ever again, like kids his age did.
‘You kids are far too spoiled,’ he grunted. ‘You clearly do not know what hunger is… thank God.’
I have never peeled a piece of fruit again since.

Still, the real revolution came years later, when I got back home after living by myself in the city, and the very thought of discarding part of the food I had so difficultly earned in merciless NYC made my skin crawl.
‘What in the world are you doing?’ my mom said, as I dumped chunks of unpeeled Kabocha squash into a pot.
‘Soup.’
She rolled her eyes.

It is not infrequent to hear news on the tv about reports on how much food is wasted every year. And, if there is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy, that is waste – especially if it is food. We are in a time and place in which we just cannot afford waste. I would even eat meat if I knew that was going to end up in the trash. And it pains me to see how many people still let their food be tossed without blinking an eye. Still today, some people in Italian restaurants are too intimidated to ask for a ‘doggy bag’ to take home, because, apparently, it’s not chic.
I think these people are mental.
Mental.

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

As I mentioned in this post, I am about to start renovating my little home where I’ll finally have my own kitchen. Following the Peel Philosophy of ‘Waste Not, Want Not’, most of my furniture, will be made out of reclaimed wood, doors and wine barrels, old furniture, and secondhand stuff. We had so much junk lying around that I felt could be transformed into treasure that neither me nor Enrico had the slightest intention of buying something new. A great artist called Giuseppe, who owns a small carpentry lab in Cattolica, will take care of renovating most of the old wood I presented him. We are going to turn an old window frame into a bathroom cabinet, an old elderwood wine barrel into a table, some old wood planks into beams for the ceiling, and an old carpenter table into a work table.
We also found this old piece of furniture that was once part of a Pastificio, a pasta shop. All the drawers were used to keep the pasta. It’s going to look amazing!

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

This stunning piece of furniture used to be part of a pasta shop. All those drawers used to hold pasta of various shapes. This is gonna be part of my kitchen!

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

This year’s long peppers from the garden, and last year’s Ricotta stuffed peppers (link below)

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

And today’s recipe is all about recycling as well. Even though the rice for these stuffed peppers was freshly made, they could technically be stuffed with any leftover grain salad/risotto/farrotto/legumes or even pasta you have lying around. Think of the vegetable containers as little treasure chests to hold your precious leftovers. For stuffing, also try this Sicilian Couscous Salad, this Spring Farro Salad, or this other Summer Rice Salad. Or even this Barley-Chickpea Onion Stuffing. All are vegan options. You could even just cook the peppers (or tomatoes, same procedure) and add the cold salad and have them cold.
MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: just use rice, millet or quinoa instead of couscous!

Because learning to find a treasure where everybody sees trash is a real form of fast-forward evolution. And, you’ll see that, if you learn to do that, you’ll start to see treasures everywhere you look.

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

Couscous-Stuffed Peppers, Mediterranean Style, and about smart recycling #Againstwaste
 
Ingredients
  • 8 peppers (round, bell, or horn)
  • 170g whole wheat couscous + 200 ml water
  • 1 can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (220g)
  • 1 lb seasonal veggies (I used eggplants and zucchini - optional but I like bulking up with veggies)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 15 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for dressing and oiling the tray
  • A handful pine nuts or almonds
  • A handful rehydrated sultanas (optional)
  • Spices you like: either a pinch of saffron, or a mixture of: ½ tsp paprika, ½ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp toasted sunflower or sesame seeds
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. Fluff, and add spices.
  2. Thinly slice the onion and cut the vegetables into small cubes, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. Sauté everything in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste until soft, about 15 mins. Add some water if the veggies stick.
  3. Thinly mince the basil, and combine the couscous, chickpeas, basil, veggies, pine nuts and raisins in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little extra olive oil.
  4. At this point, you have a delicious salad that is also great enjoyed as is!
  5. But we're not stopping here, so here's how to proceed:
  6. Preheat the oven to 390 F˚.
  7. Cut the top of the round peppers and get rid of seeds. If using bell peppers, cut them in half instead. Add baking paper to a tray and lightly oil it, then add the peppers and bake for about 15 minutes. Take them out and stuff each with the couscous. Cover with the 'pepper cap', and lightly oil the top of the peppers as well. Finish cooking for about 20-30 more minutes, until soft. Add some seeds to the top, under the cap, and serve. They are awesome both warm and cold!
  8. You can use fist-sized ripe tomatoes for this recipe as well, following the same procedure.
  9. MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: just use millet, rice or quinoa instead of couscous!

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MORE STUFFED VEGGIES RECIPES:

Ricotta Stuffed Peppers
Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini
Barley & Chickpea Stuffed Onions 
Crumb-Stuffed Artichokes ‘Alla Romagnola’

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