FONIO FILLED PEPPERS
What fun to discover a new food, this ancient grain from West Africa called fonio! It is ready in five minutes and quadruples in volume. Delicious, nutritious, and gluten free, fonio promises limitless creative possibilities in the kitchen. Stuffed vegetables are an item in almost all of world cuisine. For this small plate dish or appetizer, we use colorful peppers and roast them to bring out their sweetness. Combining the grain with dried beans makes a complete protein, so feel free to stuff reglar size bell peppers for a balanced one dish meal. Tunisia’s fiery harissa is a favorite condiment in my Moroccan dishes, so here it is adapted to use Ethiopian Berbere spice blend, and added to the filling to create a complex flavor profile of salt, heat and savory to complement the sweet, smoky peppers.
12-15 Sweet Mini Peppers — roast in a 400° oven for 30 minutes.
(You may use full size bell peppers in this recipe as well.)
Remove to a paper bag, close it up and allow to steam until cooled down. You may peel loose skins or leave them on the mini peppers. Remove skins if you use large bell peppers.
While peppers are in the bag, prepare filling and berberissa.
¼ cup fonio
½ cup water
Bring water to boil. Add pinch of salt and fonio. Stir once. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Makes 1 cup.
3 scallions, finely chopped white and green parts
1 can cowpeas (black-eyed peas) , cooked, drained & chopped
¼ cup finely minced parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon berbere spice blend
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ t cumin
½ teaspoon salt
3 T olive oil, or other neutral oil
Combine dry ingredients and then add oil and whisk to combine.
When fonio is ready:
Put a tablespoon of olive oil and the minced garlic in a skillet and bring up medium low heat to warm the oil and release the garlic’s essence - less than a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown. As soon as you can smell the garlic and it has begun to sizzle, add the beans and stir to combine. Saute for a minute or two, mashing a portion of the beans as they soften. Turn flame off. Remove from burner and add the fonio. Mix well. Allow to cool a few minutes. Add the scallions and the parsley and as much berberissa to the mix for your desired heat level and combine well. Add salt if needed.
Remove the stems from the peppers and with your finger, scoop out the seeds inside.
Fill peppers, packing filling in. Continue until you use all the filling or all the peppers.
Cut each pepper into 2 or 3 sections on the bias and arrange – reassembling each pepper and replacing the stem on the top section – on a platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Feel free to add fresh or leftover chopped greens or other vegetables to the saute.