Recently Stan started lifting weights. He’s doing this in part to be healthy, but mostly to gain some muscle mass. As a result, he eats all the time – even when he is not hungry. Sigh… must be nice… While his Herculean caloric consumption is not so great for our budget, it is good news for you folks because it means I have been cooking up a storm.
I came across the recipe for this casserole one day after talking with Stan about what types of food will help him pack on the pounds. Protein and whole grains topped the list. This casserole has both of those components, stirred together and baked in the oven. Now, I’m the first to admit I was a little skeptical of how this casserole would taste. I like all of the ingredients on their own, but I’d never thought about putting them all together. However, the Moosewood Cookbook has never led me astray, so I decided to give it a go. Let me tell you, the leap of faith was worth it.
Imagine, if you will, brown rice scented with lemon and dill, combined with sautéed bell peppers and onions, and tossed with feta cheese. Cottage cheese, blended smooth, binds the casserole together before it is topped with sliced tomatoes, olives, and slivered garlic. You can serve it as an entrée with a green salad and some crusty bread, or make it a side dish to go along with something like the Dijon Chicken I told you about the other day. That’s what we did, and it made for a delicious, protein-packed meal, guaranteed to help Stan pack on the pounds and healthy enough to keep me from doing the same… hopefully.
Bulgarian Pepper Casserole
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
2 3/4 cups water1 T. lemon juice
2 tsp. dried dill
1 1/2 T. olive oil
2 cups onion, minced
4 to 5 bell peppers, any color, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt (more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese (lowfat is okay)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 cup whole Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted
In a medium pot, combine rice and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, without stirring, for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork, and stir in lemon juice and dill. Set aside until ready to use.
Add peppers, salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Remove pepper mixture from heat and stir in feta cheese.
**Note: Rice and peppers can be prepared a couple of days in advance. You can assemble and bake the casserole just before serving. **
When ready to serve:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place cottage or ricotta cheese in a blender and purée until smooth.
Combine rice, pepper mixture, and puréed cheese. Mix thoroughly.
Transfer to a greased 9x13 pan and top with tomato slices. Sprinkle olives and sliced garlic over the top of the casserole.
Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
I did not have any regular brown rice on hand, so I cheated a little and used instant brown rice. If you do the same, just make sure you are using equivalent amounts. You want to prepare 6 servings worth of rice.