Make Ahead

Stuffed Peppers With Lamb, Orzo & Halloumi

March 19, 2020
Photo by TY MECHAM. PROP STYLIST: MEGHAN HEDGPETH. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.
Author Notes

There are millions of recipes for stuffed peppers on the internet right now. Some call for the peppers to be blanched in advance or stuffed raw and cooked longer—either way, both techniques result in peppers that taste steamed rather than roasted. I much prefer to roast the peppers to soften, then stuff and roast them again. The first round in the oven guarantees some sweetness and caramelization. Then the second round ensures a pepper that is tender but not falling apart.

When it comes to flavors, I looked to the Eastern Mediterranean for inspiration. Ground lamb gets spiced with cumin, chili powder, and a little allspice, giving this dish a warm savoriness. (If ground lamb is unavailable, you can certainly use ground beef instead. In fact, this recipe would work well with many varieties of ground meat, including pork, chicken, or turkey.) Then caramelized onions, lots of garlic, diced tomatoes, halloumi cheese, and plenty of fresh herbs make this filling good enough to eat even without the peppers.

Lots of different grains are called for in stuffed peppers—like rice, quinoa, couscous, and bulgur. Ultimately, I found that the tenderness of orzo paired perfectly with hearty lamb. Orzo is also easy to cook: Its texture remains intact, even after being boiled then roasted.

Now, how to cut the peppers? Many recipes opt to cut off the tops—but I find this yields a stuffed pepper that is hard to dig into. Instead, I like to cut the peppers lengthwise, creating a wide surface that is easy to stuff and even easier to eat. —Josh Cohen

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Makes 12 stuffed peppers
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or another neutral-flavor, high-heat oil, such as grapeseed oil or peanut oil)
  • 1 pound ground lamb (see Author Notes about substitutes)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 6 bell peppers (some combination of red, orange, and yellow—they’re sweeter in flavor than green)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup roughly chopped dill fronds, loosely packed
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 pound halloumi cheese, cut into ½ inch dice (fresh mozzarella also works in a pinch)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Add the canola oil to a large skillet and set over high heat. When wisps of smoke just begin to appear, add the ground lamb and season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let the lamb cook undisturbed for about 30 seconds to develop some caramelization, then use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small crumbles. After 2 to 4 minutes, when the lamb is nicely caramelized, add the onion and another ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook the onion and lamb together for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly. When the onion begins to soften and caramelize, add the garlic, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is nicely fragrant. Add the tomatoes (including their juice) and another ¼ teaspoon of salt, then turn off the heat. Use the wooden spoon to scrape up the bits at the bottom of the skillet (the tomato juice will help deglaze the skillet).
  2. Set a large pot of water over high heat. When the water is boiling, generously season with salt (figure about 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water). Cook the orzo for 1 minute less than the box recommends. When the orzo is almost done, add ⅓ cup pasta water to the skillet with the lamb. When the orzo is done cooking, strain it and return it to the pot that it was just cooking in. Add the tomato mixture from the skillet to the pot with the orzo. Add the chili powder, cumin, and allspice. Mix thoroughly to combine. At this point, you can store this mixture in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, then proceed to the next step.
  3. Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife or spoon to remove all seeds, and do your best to trim away any white pith inside the pepper. Arrange the peppers cut-side up on a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment. Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and season each one with a pinch of salt. Roast for 25 minutes.
  4. While those are in the oven, roughly chop the parsley, dill, and mint, and add these to the lamb-orzo mixture, along with the halloumi and lemon juice. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust with more salt as necessary.
  5. Remove the peppers from the oven after they have roasted for 25 minutes. Evenly divide the lamb-orzo mixture between the roasted peppers and drizzle a little olive oil on top of each (if you have any extra filling, save and eat it later as a snack.) Return the sheet pan to the oven, and cook for 15 minutes, until the peppers look slightly charred and the cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

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Review
Josh Cohen

Recipe by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.