So, I've been sitting here, staring blankly at my computer screen, trying to craft some pithy-yet-drool-inducing way of luring you into this post, and unfortunately it's just not happening today. Writer's Block: 1. Joy: 0. So I'm going to skip all that and say it to you straight:
These stuffed peppers are delightful and should absolutely make their way into your mouth as quickly as possible.
This is due in part to finding lovely sweet (mini!) peppers, which roasted in the oven are a home run in and of themselves, but mostly due to the fact that the stuffing turned out perfectly. I should perhaps feign humbleness, here, but I'm not going to. This stuffing is can't-stop-eating-it awesome. I was playing around with a Sicilian flavor profile and stumbled upon the best combination of flavors a stuffing has ever seen. Miso gives the stuffing a salty richness reminiscent of parmesan, capers give a briny bite, and red pepper flakes provide a subtle kick. To ensure the herb-y goodness so associated with stuffing, I turned to rosemary and.... wait for it.... fennel pollen.
Let's take a moment to discuss fennel pollen. It sounds all fancypants, but fennel pollen, while rare in most kitchens, is as tasty as it is versatile. It tastes of fennel in a manner completely distinct of fennel root or fennel seed. I love the way Peggy Knickerbocker (um, best name ever) described it in Saveur. Peggy would like us to know that fennel pollen has a "heady, honeylike herbaceous aroma", is "intoxicating", and believes that "if angels sprinkled a spice from their wings, this would be it".
If that's not a strong sell, I don't know what is. A couple caveats: fennel pollen is pricey and a bit hard to find, but 100% worth the cost and effort. You can find it in local co-ops with spice bulk bins, specialty herb/spice shops, and even health stores (it's also an effective nausea cure). Quality online sources like Zingerman's, World Spice Merchants, and Amazon are helpful if you can't find it locally.
I served the stuffed peppers with a side of saffron cous cous and peas, but they're quite filling and can be enjoyed with a simple salad for lunch or a light dinner.
Roasted Peppers with Sicilian Tempeh Stuffing
4 sweet bell peppers (or 6 mini sweet peppers)
1 (8 ounce) package tempeh, crumbled
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional oil for drizzling
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon mild white miso
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed well and chopped
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using full-sized peppers, slice off the top of each pepper and scoop out the seeds. If you're going the mini-pepper route, slice in half length-wise and remove the seeds. Set aside.
Bring a skillet over medium heat and simmer broth and crumbled tempeh until tempeh has absorbed the broth (about 5-10 minutes). Add oil, onion, garlic, rosemary, fennel pollen, and red pepper flakes to skillet; saute until onions are softened (feel free to deglaze the pan with a spoonful of water to capture all the nice brown bits on the bottom of the skillet). Once onions are soft, remove skillet from heat and stir in the miso and capers until evenly combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix until stuffing is well-combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Scoop stuffing into the peppers, filling each pepper generously (a mound of stuffing peeking over the top is fine). If you have extra stuffing, place in ramekins or a small baking dish, like so:
Drizzle tops of stuffed peppers (and extra stuffing, if you have it) with olive oil and bake 45-50 minutes for full-sized peppers or 30-40 minutes for mini peppers. The peppers should be tender and carmelized on their edges, with a golden, crisp stuffing crust. Serve warm.