Meatless Monday Meal (on Tuesday, but who's counting?)

Cheesy Couscous Stuffed Baby Bells with Marinated Summer Salad and Garlic Cheesy Bread

I have joined the "Meatless Monday" bandwagon of a late and have been looking for recipes that will be filling and satisfying.  I say that because, as you already know, I am carnivoric by nature, so being perfectly happy with a non-animal protein meal is difficult. I have been experimenting and enjoying a few meals and I do believe I have a winner!  Let's get to my starting line-up!

Ingredients for the couscous and bells:
1 box of your favorite coucous (I used garlic pearl couscous)
extra virgin olive oil (evoo) 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon for the skillet
1 cup parmesan cheese
fresh chopped rosemary, thyme and oregano
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
4 baby bell peppers
1 1/4 cup water or chicken stock (I used chicken stock)
fresh ground black pepper

Summer Marinated Salad 
1/4 cup evoo
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I love Cento)
1 tablespoon Mirin (my new favorite)
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning or fresh chopped herbs (I did use fresh herbs)
1 tablespoon stone ground spicy mustard with white wine 
3 Roma tomatoes, slivered
1 mostly peeled cucumber, thin discs on grater or mandolin
1 red onion, sliced into thin crescents

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Add the tomatoes, onion and cucumber and toss liberally.  Cover and let marinate as long as possible.  

Back to the bells!  In a sauce pan, add the two tablespoons evoo and a tiny amount of fresh grated or finely chopped garlic over low heat.  Allow the garlic to infuse the evoo with its flavor for five or so  minutes.  Elevate the heat to medium-high and add the couscous when the garlic begins to sizzle.  Stir to coat the pearl couscous thoroughly.  Add the water or chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Basically, follow the directions on the box of your favorite couscous, then add the fresh herbs and stir to thoroughly incorporate. The aromas will be stunning! Cover, reduce the heat and allow it to finish cooking.  When the cooking time allotted by the box directions has expired, add two heaping tablespoons of the parmesan cheese.  For extreme freshness, fresh grate parmigiano-reggiano and add. Because I added this cheese, I did not add salt to the list of ingredients. 

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. 

In the meantime, while the couscous is cooking and cooling a bit, prep the bells.  On a cutting board, slice off the lumpy bottom of the bells.  This will help them stand up.  Next, slice off the top about a half inch from the stem. Rib and seed the peppers, noting that most all of the seeds will be under the stem cap. Add the rest of the evoo to a skillet to coat. (Another tip I thought about, but for a large scale process, if you are feeding a family of four or more, use a muffin tin sprayed with non-stick spray, which will help the peppers stand up better). Stand the peppers, cap side down in the skillet. 

The following is a visual progression of my stuffing the peppers.  

 I add a little cheese to the bottom of the bell, stuff it, rounding the top with couscous, and top it with more cheese.  Remember, there is Parmesan in the couscous already!

Ready for the Parmesan topping!

 Ready for the oven!

 Bake at 350-degrees for twenty to thirty minutes!  Cool away from heat for ten to fifteen minutes before handling to allow the cheese to set and the pepper to maintain its form. 

Plate with the bells front and center, perhaps over greens or basil, as I used, and add some of the marinated summer salad and garlic cheesy bread to top it off with brisk texture.  Make it your own.  Plate it your way.  Either way, no matter what, this is healthy and delicious!  Hope you make it and enjoy!

 Thank You for your time and readership, gentle readers!  Much Appreciation!

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