This is a leftover use-up that turned out unexpectedly fantastic. It started with a nub of smoked mozzarella, a couple use-them-or-lose-them bell peppers, and some leftover steamed rice. Mixed up with a few pantry staples and some scallions, the rice and cheese became a gooey, smoky, slightly spicy stuffing for the bell peppers. This is a meal that's rich and indulgent without being heavy or greasy--my favorite kind. —ieatthepeach
2 as an entree, 4 as a side dish or light lunch
green bell peppers
Salt to taste
garlic cloves, minced
crushed red chile flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 cups
leftover cooked rice (white or brown)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
pitted black or green olives, roughly chopped
smoked mozzarella (depending on how cheesy you like your filling)
Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. Sprinkle the inside of each cut half with a pinch of salt, then place the peppers cut side down on paper towels to drain while you make the filling.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add scallions and a pinch of salt and sweat for 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until fragrant. Add tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and chile flakes, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add water and stir until the tomato paste dissolves. Add rice and mix thoroughly, cooking until the rice is coated with the seasoning mixture and any excess liquid in the pan is gone.
Taste the rice mixture and season lightly with salt and black pepper to taste (remember, the peppers already have some salt in them). Transfer the rice mixture to a bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally, until it’s no longer hot.
While the filling cools, preheat the oven to 400º F and position a rack in the middle. Cut or tear the smoked mozzarella into bite-sized pieces.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and place the pepper halves cut side up on the baking sheet. Add the olives and mozzarella pieces to the rice mixture, and toss to combine. Divide the rice-and-cheese mixture evenly among the four pepper halves, and sprinkle each half generously with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender but not mushy and the cheese on top is golden.
Remove the peppers from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately.