Sometimes I distract myself from what I am doing in the moment by remembering meals from long ago. I recall the taste of stracciatella gelato from a holiday in Italy, or the stuffed cabbage rolls my grandmother used to make, or perhaps that cookie I nibbled in a cafe high up in a New York skyscraper a few years ago. Just last week I was recalling the exact heat of the sunshine and the lap of the water against the piers when I sat in a restaurant in Sausalito with a German girl I met at the bed and breakfast I was staying in. Two strangers in one of the best cities in the world we had banded together for two days of wandering. A short ferry ride from San Francisco we ended up in the dreamy town of Sausalito. After admiring the little shops and sidewalk flowerbeds spilling over with spring blooms we ended up at one of the many great restaurants that crowd along the seashore.
Not only were we treated to views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline of San Francisco, the food was also stunning. My eyes were immediately drawn to a couscous stuffed capsicum and when it arrived at the table, pearls of giant couscous spilling from the scarlet casement, I knew I had ordered right. Perhaps that is where my capsicum/pepper stuffing obsession began.
This is my early summer ode to that long ago spring day. Sweet long peppers (I think these were either banana peppers or Sonora chili peppers) are opened and stuffed with a millet, black bean, tomato and spice filling and then baked in the oven to soften the flesh and bring out the natural sweetness of the pepper. If you are looking for a make ahead dish to impress dinner party guests, this is your answer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance, and on the day you only need to assemble the peppers, leave them to soften and blister in the oven and then serve them with a fresh green salad to the delight of your guests. And this recipe will delight your guests, so chic, so colourful, and gluten free and vegan so it pleases many palates. If you are serving this to omnivores, some roast chicken would be a great accompaniment.
Millet has an unfortunate reputation as food for the birds, and I for one would love to see this small ancient seed have its time in the sun. The yellow grains are easy to cook and provide decent amounts of important minerals such as copper and magnesium. Millet is so versatile, and in this dish the millet is combined with tomatoes, black beans, onions, herbs and spices for a hearty stuffing that contrasts well with the sweet roasted pepper. You could even serve the filling by itself with a crispy green salad if you do not have time to roast the peppers.
I can’t wait to make these again for a dinner party and share them with friends and family. Add some wine and some travel stories and you have the makings of a great summer evening.
Black Bean and Millet Stuffed Peppers
Gluten Free | Vegan | Serves 4 | Leftovers will keep well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to two days. To reheat: place on a microwave safe plate and cover with paper towel. Heat on high for two minutes.
- 4 large banana peppers (or medium red capsicums instead)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup uncooked millet
- 400 gram tin crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 cup water
- 400 gram tin black beans
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
- Wash and dry peppers well. Cut peppers from stem to tip and carefully remove seeds and white ribs from the insides. Leave the stem intact. Lay peppers on a lined baking sheet until required.
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy based sauce pan, over medium heat. Fry diced onion, crushed garlic, paprika, herbs, salt and pepper until onions are translucent.
- Add millet to pan along with crushed tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cover with lid. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until millet is firm but not crunchy.
- Rinse black beans well and add to the millet mixture. Stir well.
- Remove millet mixture from heat. Spoon stuffing into prepared peppers.
- Place peppers into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the peppers are soft and wrinkled.
- Remove from oven and serve with a large green salad.