This week's recipe is in honor of MountainTop Bleu's recent bronze medal award at the 2012 American Cheese Society Conference that took place in Raleigh, NC a few weeks back. It had been far too long since i'd made stuffed peppers -- something I often ate growing up in my Italian-American household. This time I substituted rice for quinoa, and the result was spectacular. I am not sure i'll ever go back to a traditional rice-stuffed pepper again!
Stuffed peppers are a total nostalgia food for me -- so I always find them really fun to prepare. I found the quinoa to be an excellent alternative to rice in this case, and highly recommend it -- but if you like to stick to what you know, rice would work just fine. 

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup of quinoa 
2 cups of vegetable stock or broth -- I used veggie stock for added flavor
4 medium to large bell peppers
1 shallot -- finely chopped
1 small eggplant, skinned & cubed -- I used an organic purple eggplant from Whole Foods
1 tbs minced garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil
Cayenne pepper 

Start by combining 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of veggie stock/broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until quinoa is translucent -- when you see a white ring around the grains you'll know they're done. 

Warm a medium sized saucepan over high heat. Coat saucepan with extra virgin olive oil. Add shallots and garlic -- cook for a few minutes. Add the cubed eggplant and basil. Allow eggplant to cook for about 8 minutes -- or until soft but not mushy. In the meantime, prepare your peppers to be filled! Wash and remove stem, core, and seeds from pepper. Halve them lengthwise. Preheat your oven to bake at 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil -- shiny side down and coat with some olive oil. 

Combine your cooked quinoa to eggplant mixture in saucepan and season with a few shakes of cayenne pepper. Let quinoa/eggplant mixture warm over low flame for a few minutes -- stirring throughly to evenly distribute flavors. Spoon filling into peppers and pop into oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and place a few strips of MountainTop Bleu over peppers -- place back into oven for another minute or so, allowing cheese to fully melt. Prepare your palate for a truly delicious tasting experience and dig in! Or, as my grandmother says: mangia! 

-- Quinoa & Eggplant Stuffed Peppers with Melted MountainTop Bleu provided by Daniel


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