Cheesy as it may be, I am still currently in Halloween theme fever with cooking as the holiday draws near this weekend. I was planning on making stuffed peppers for dinner one night and decided that it would be festive to use orange bell peppers, as they look like pumpkins. Anyway, this recipe combines a mixture of flavors and international influences; from Baharat spice mix to Ajvar red pepper relish.
This recipe is a perfect vegetarian meal for any night, or perhaps the day after Halloween when many people have consumed WAAY too much candy and want a healthy meal. 😉 I use canned chickpeas, bulgur, salt, ground black pepper, Baharat, toasted pine nuts, and Ajvar (red pepper relish) mixed together and stuffed into an orange bell pepper. The peppers are then topped with some mozzarella cheese, although virtually any cheese you like will work, such as feta, gouda, parmesan, or mild provolone.
Baharat spice mix is really interesting and flavorful. The recipe I included here is was adapted from a recipe given in Ottolenghi’s marvelous Jerusalem cookbook which is great for perusing not only for lovely recipes, but also for providing me with my own recipe inspirations.
Ajvar is a really interesting condiment. I had never heard of it before until I went to my local market that sells Indian/Pakistani foods and also a selection of Mediterranean/European foo ds. The Ajvar that I picked up contains vinegar, spices, eggplant, and red peppers. I got the mild version, but there is also a hot version as well that unsurprisingly has hot peppers in it. According to Wikipedia, Ajvar originates from Serbian cuisine and is now popularly consumed in the Balkans. It is primarily made in the fall months at home as bell peppers are readily available during that time of year. It typically contains roasted red bell peppers, garlic, and vinegar, but sometimes also contains roasted eggplant. The version I bought was produced by a brand called Podravka (left).
As I am a fan of both red bell peppers and eggplant, I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a relish made from them. I’ve tried it as a spread on falafel or grilled chicken wraps, on top of a slice of bread, and in this dish. I like it as a condiment for a wrap or even as a dip with meat or veggies. I found it a little on the overly sweet side to be eaten by itself on top of a slice of bread, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it goes really well with the bulgur and chickpeas in this dish. If you can’t get your hands on some tasty Ajvar, I think that a thick chutney or similar tomato, eggplant, or red pepper spread would go nicely in this dish. This dish is both simple and quick to make and is full of fiber and protein from the bulgur and chickpeas.
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ¼ tsp. allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground cumin
- seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp. red chili flakes
- 1 ½ tsp. Baharat spice mixture
- 2 orange bell peppers, each cut in half and seeds removed
- one 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 3 tbsp. Ajvar (red pepper spread)
- ½ cup. fine ground bulgur, uncooked
- 2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
- Shredded Mozzarella cheese for sprinkling on top of peppers
- Dried Basil flakes for sprinkling
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Boil 1 ¼ cup of water on the stove. Once boiling, add ½ dried bulgur and stir. Remove from heat and cover pot. Let it sit covered for 15 minutes, until bulgur is fluffy.
- Slice peppers in half and remove seeds. Place on a greased baking sheet. Rinse and drain can of chickpeas and place in a large bowl.
- Add to the chickpeas the cooked bulgur and mix thoroughly. Add the Baharat, Ajvar, and toasted pine nuts and stir to incorporate everything evenly.
- Spoon the chickpea mixture into the bell peppers and top each pepper with a sprinkling of basil flakes followed by mozzarella cheese.
- Bake peppers at 375°F for 30-35 minutes until peppers are tender and cheese has melted.