A filling made with fontina and Parmesan cheese, zucchini, onion, tomato paste, garlic, and basil adds tons of flavor to these stuffed and grilled red bell peppers. Serve them with a crunchy green salad for a vegetarian meal or with a meaty steak for the carnivores.
Special equipment: You’ll need a pastry brush for this recipe.
What to buy: Israeli couscous has larger, pearl-shaped granules and is more glutinous than the smaller, more grainlike North African variety.
- Yield: 6 servings as a meal, 12 servings as a side dish
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 1 hr 30 mins
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 cup medium-dice yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups small-dice zucchini (from about 2 medium zucchini)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3/4 cup Israeli couscous
- 6 medium red bell peppers (about 3 pounds)
- 2 cups shredded fontina cheese (about 6 ounces)
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/4 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 18 toothpicks
- Bring a medium saucepan of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Meanwhile, heat the measured oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium high, add the zucchini, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in some spots and still crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook until the raw flavor has cooked out, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- When the water is boiling, add the couscous and cook until al dente, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer and then rinse under cold water until cool. Shake out any excess water and let the couscous drain in the strainer in the sink while you prepare the peppers, at least 10 minutes.
- Use a paring knife to cut a wide circle around each bell pepper stem (like when carving a jack-o’-lantern), so you end up with a cap that can be replaced once you’ve stuffed the peppers; be careful not to puncture or rip the peppers. Remove and discard any seeds and membranes from the cap and from the interior. Brush the insides of the peppers with oil and season the insides generously with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the drained couscous to a large bowl; add the reserved onion-zucchini mixture, cheeses, and basil; and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Evenly divide the filling among the peppers. Replace the caps and press each cap into the filling. Pierce 3 toothpicks through each cap and out the sides of the pepper to secure the caps while on the grill. Set aside until ready to grill. (If you’re stuffing the peppers more than 30 minutes before grilling, cover and refrigerate them for up to 4 hours. Let the peppers sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before grilling so that they cook faster and more evenly.)
- Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium (about 350°F to 450°F). Place the stuffed peppers on their sides and close the grill. Roll each pepper a quarter turn about every 7 minutes to cook all four sides. The peppers are finished once the filling is hot, the skins are well-charred, and the flesh is soft to the touch, about 30 minutes total grilling time. Remove the peppers to a serving platter, let cool for 5 minutes, and remove the toothpicks. If serving as a side dish, slice the peppers in half vertically.