Home Food A Stuffed Pepper Recipe That Goes Hard on Spiced Chickpeas

A Stuffed Pepper Recipe That Goes Hard on Spiced Chickpeas

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A Good Appetite

Blanketed with cheese, this filling recipe is perfect for summer and surprisingly light.

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Of all the vegetables you can stuff, sweet bell peppers are among the most amenable. Unlike eggplant, onions or zucchini, which need their guts scooped to make room, or cabbage or grape leaves, which first have to be blanched, bell peppers are ready to go. Just slice them in half, shake out the seeds (or don’t; they’re harmless), and they’re all set for any savory mixture you can think of.

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers With Chickpeas and Cheese

Since their hollow insides practically beg for filling, peppers have been prime candidates for stuffing the world over, using whatever locally adored mixture fits. Shredded chicken or pork, fish paste, mashed potatoes, bulgur, bread crumbs, cheese, various vegetables and eggs have all found themselves wrapped in the sweet embrace of a roasted pepper.

Here in the United States, stuffed peppers are customarily packed with beef and rice, doused with chili sauce and blanketed in cheese. These darlings of high school Home Economics classes have long been beloved for their soft, familiar coziness.

Though my recipe draws inspiration from those distinctively American peppers, it takes a few liberties. I’ve made these vegetarian, for a start, by replacing the meat with earthy chickpeas, and kept things lighter by leaving out the rice. The cheese stays, obviously.

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Riffing on the Elvis-era chili sauce, I opt here for chili powder. Chili powder with an “i,” as opposed to chile powder, is a mix of spices specifically blended to flavor a pot of chili, and includes ground chiles (usually ancho), oregano, garlic powder and salt. (Chile powder is usually ground from one particular variety of chile, such as chipotle.) Using chili powder here is a shortcut that rounds out the filling without resorting to syrupy chili sauce. Then, I layer in even more complexity with judicious amounts of ground cumin, scallions, lemon juice and tomato paste.

The peppers soften and sweeten as they bake, their flesh turning velvety. Yet the best part of the dish might be the bits of cheese that fall to the bottom of the baking dish, getting as crunchy as shards of salty frico. Use the sharpest Cheddar you can find, and be prepared to pry the bits off the pan with a spatula before sprinkling them on top.

It’s almost as if the bell pepper, like nature itself, abhors a vacuum — at least when there’s something wonderful to fill the void.

Melissa Clark has been writing her column, A Good Appetite, for The Times’s Food section since 2007. She creates recipes for New York Times Cooking, makes videos and reports on food trends. She is the author of 45 cookbooks, and counting. More about Melissa Clark

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