Meatless Monday: Squash-Stuffed Sheepnose Pimento Peppers

Happy Monday!

This is a wonderful time of year -- late Summer produce is my favorite. So many peppers, tomatoes, and squash: the reds, yellows, greens and oranges make for a gorgeous and tasty plate!
I had a basket full of pretty delicata and acorn squash, deep green zucchini, and bright-red sheepnose pimento peppers. The peppers are sweet and the perfect size for stuffing, so I did just that.

At first, I was going to stuff the peppers with brown rice, quinoa or barley, and chopped herbs, then smother everything in a garden tomato sauce. But, as I roasted up the squash (to serve on the side), I changed my mind and decided to use it as the stuffing. It was a pretty delicious change of plans if I can say so myself.

Squash-Stuffed Sheepnose Pimento Peppers
4 sheepnose pimento peppers (or other small red pepper)
1 large delicata squash
1 large acorn squash
Walnut oil
Kosher salt/ground black pepper
1 large zucchini
3 small mini sweet peppers (assorted colors)
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
*1 TBS ras el hanout
*2 TBS maple zucchini relish
1 TBS unsalted butter
Olive oil
*optional/see "To Do" for substitutions

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 2

To Do:

For the Peppers:
  • Gently carve a circle around the stem, then twist it out and slice off any seeds/pith attached to the cap and save the cap piece (w/stem) for later. 
  • Carefully clean out any seeds/pith from the inside of the pepper with a sharp knife or my favorite tool, a grapefruit spoon. Set aside.
  • Note: If your pepper doesn't sit level, slice off a tiny piece from the bottom (without going through to the inside) so that it does. Also, if you get too knife happy and cut a hole in the side or bottom, just use a thin slice of zucchini (with peel facing outward) to patch the hole.
For the Squash:
  • Wash, seed, and quarter the long, stripy delicata squash, then season the flesh with walnut oil, salt and pepper. Roast it in a 400 degree oven until brown and tender. 
  • Do the same with the adorable acorn squash, but cut into slices instead of quartering, since this type of squash is thicker.
  • The delicata squash was sweet and creamy, while the acorn squash was nutty with a consistency similar to a potato. (Which is what made me decide to forgo the rice/barley/quinoa stuffing and just use the squash!)
  • Note: I saved some seeds from each and salted/toasted them up in the oven for use as a salad dressing and topping. (They are great for snacking, too.)
For the Filling:
  • Finely dice the zucchini and sweet peppers.
  • Mix them together and stir in parsley, garlic powder, ras al hanout, salt/pepper, and zucchini relish (if using) then set aside to let flavors meld.  
  • Note: If you don't have ras el hanout, use a mixture of 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon tumeric, and 1/2 tsp ground coriander. If you don't want to get yourself some fantabulous zucchini relish, you can use 2 tsps of good quality maple syrup instead.
  • In the meantime, mash the roasted squash pieces with the butter until you have a mashed-potato-like consistency. 
  • Stir in the pepper/zucchini mix until well combined, then using a small spatula or spoon, gently fill the peppers to the brim with the filling.
  • Note: Use any leftover filling for fritters/pan cakes.
To Bake:
  • Add a bit of olive oil to the bottom of a dutch oven (or other lidded oven-safe pot), then gently place the peppers inside. Return the reserved caps, then drizzle the peppers with some of the olive oil.
  • Bake covered at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly blistered and give a little when touched (they shouldn't be wilty/overly soft, but they also shouldn't be overly firm). You'll start to smell them when it's time to take off the lid.
To Eat:
  • Remove caps before serving. These are great and hearty enough to serve as a main dish with a salad, or as a side dish for chicken, meat, or fish (or tofu on Meatless Monday).

Enjoy the season's veggies while you can!