One of my favorite dishes in all of Manhattan is the cheese enchiladas at Taqueria St. Mark’s in the East Village neighborhood. You really can’t do much better than Taqueria St. Mark’s. The ambiance is fun, energetic and casual, and the food is super good, fresh, simple and cheap. Everything I, or anyone else, has tried, has been nothing short of fantastic. But I’ve found that the cheese enchiladas with red sauce are simply to die for and therefor I rarely get anything else. This dish inspired me to attempt a homemade red enchilada sauce that tastes just good as theirs. I succeeded. I am still surprised at how unbelievably easy enchilada sauce is so easy; oil, flour, veggie stock, a simple blend of spices and about 15 minutes. That’s it! Sweet.
Now the question is, what to put it on? I could do a classic enchilada. Or I could do something a little more fun and inventive. I landed on fun and inventive. The idea came very easily to me. My friend, Kaitlyn, eats stuffed peppers made by her mama all the time for lunch at work. Every time she has them, I wonder why I still haven’t made some stuffed peppers. And just a couple nights ago my best friend from St. Louis texted me for advice on some stuffed peppers she was making. It was clearly a sign. So it was settled, enchilada stuffed peppers. Genius.
The whole dish, including the homemade enchilada sauce and quinoa-black bean stuffing, is actually very simple. As always, I prep most of the ingredients before starting, just to make the process smoother. I hallow out the bell peppers, measure out the sauce spices and flour, shred the cheese, and rinse the beans. While the quinoa cooks, I make the enchilada sauce and quickly boil the prepped peppers for a couple minutes to get the cooking process started. When the quinoa is done, I toss it with beans, canned tomatoes and salt. Now all that’s left is assembling the peppers, baking, and making the avocado smash that goes on top of the finished peppers. Yum.
Before I get to the recipe, there’s one more thing to talk about. The nutrition breakdown. These peppers are obviously vegetarian and also simple to make vegan (use vegan cheese, that’s the only dairy in here). I made this batch to be light and healthy by portion controlling the cheese, using quinoa as the stuffing base, and keeping my oil usage to a minimum. But you can really assemble them anyway you want (aka use more cheese, coat the inside of the peppers with oil or butter before stuffing them, top with sour cream, substitute rice for the quinoa, triple the avocado smash recipe etc). But trust me when I say, the healthier version of this dish is a knockout. The enchilada sauce is so incredibly rich and flavorful, that I don’t even feel like I need more cheese (that’s rare for me). Keep in mind that there are plenty of parties and activities to splurge on this time of year, so I really try to keep my weekday meals light, healthy and portion controlled. Follow my lead or not, your call.
Black Bean and Quinoa Enchilada Stuffed Peppers
Serves: 4-6 Start to Finish: 1 hour Calories: 390 per pepper
6 Red Bell Peppers
3/4 cups Uncooked Organic Quinoa
1 can Black Beans (I used organic, no-salt-added variety)
1 can Diced Tomatoes (I used organic, no-salt-added variety)
4-6 ounces Shredded Jack or Cheddar Cheese
Avocado, cut in half, pit removed
1 1/2 cups Enchilada Sauce
(use my recipe below or store bought)
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 tablespoons Flour
3 1/2 tablespoons Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/8 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flake (optional)
2 cups all-natural Vegetable Broth
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water, enough to boil all 6 peppers.
First prep peppers. Cut off the very top, cut out the ribs, and carefully cut off a little bit of the bottom of the peppers don’t stay standing on their own. This is also a good time to shred the cheese, drain/rinse beans, and open the can of tomatoes (do not drain tomatoes).
Start the quinoa. Add to sauce pan with 1.5 cups water, plus a couple extra tablespoons. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 13-15 minutes.
Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, make enchilada sauce. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until flour is all moist with oil. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and red pepper flake. When completely combined with flour, add the veggie stock and stir, one cup at a time. Add salt to taste (I added 1/2 tsp). Allow sauce to simmer until thickened, 5-8 minutes.
While sauce simmers, add pepper to boiling water, cook for 2-3 minutes, remove promptly and dump out excess water.
Quinoa and sauce should be done at this point. Mix beans, tomatoes m, and 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce into cooked quinoa, add salt to taste (I added 1 tsp). Now assemble the stuffed peppers. Place the peppers on a baking sheet. I make little ropes of aluminum foil to wrap around the base of each pepper so they are sturdy while filling/cooking.* Fill each pepper with a couple spoonfuls of quinoa mixture. Top with 2 spoonfuls of sauce, and then 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Repeat with one more layer of each until the cheese reaches the top edge. Cover with an aluminum foil tent and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 or until the peppers are super tender.
While the peppers bake, mash up the avocado with the juice of one lime and salt to taste (1/4 tsp or so). Serve finished peppers with avocado-lime smash.
*I buy 100% recycled aluminum foil and use it sparingly for the ropes and tent. Think about the environment whenever using disposable products.