We have many wonderful restaurants in the Milwaukee area, and have several that specialize in the current 'Small Plates' trend. Hate it or love it? Lots of people must love it because you can't get a table at the most popular of these restaurants unless you make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. I think it is fun to sample several different things during the meal.
One of these restaurants used to serve a goat-cheese stuffed mini bell pepper dish on its menu, and, while I am not a fan of goat cheese in general, they were delicious. However, I do like feta cheese, since it is made with at least 70% sheep's milk. Who knows why our taste buds prefer some things and not others?
I tried to re-create the recipe at home using a couple of different cheeses and some freshly cut herbs from my garden containers. If you have a big yard, a window sill, or tiny 5th-story porch, I highly recommend growing a couple of containers of herbs. They make everything taste better!
Begin by cutting the peppers in half lengthwise, trying to cut the stem in half also as the stem makes a nice 'handle' with which to eat them. Scrape out the seeds and any white membrane, then wash and dry them on paper toweling. If your pepper halves are 'wobbly', simply slice a thin, flat strip off the bottom, lengthwise.
I used half feta and half cream cheese (Philadelphia style soft, mild cheese). A little salt and pepper, a small clove of garlic, a dash of Tabasco and 1-2 teaspoons of chopped oregano, thyme, tarragon and basil, and blended it all together until smooth with a fork and then filled the mini pepper halves.
Cheese and Herb-Stuffed Mini Peppers AppetizerPrintable Recipe
Serves 4 as an appetizer - Makes approximately 16 pieces
8 Mini bell peppers of various colors
1/2 cup feta cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup Philadelphia-style cream cheese, room temperature
1 small clove garlic, minced
Dash of Tabasco hot sauce (or you may use a pinch of red pepper flakes)
1-2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh basil,
1-2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh oregano
1-2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh tarragon
1-2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh thyme
Pinch of salt and a good pinch of freshly ground pepper, to taste
Tuscan-flavored or plain olive oil and freshly chopped parsley for garnish - optional.
Preheat oven to 350F
Place each pepper lengthwise on a cutting board and with a sharp, serrated knife, cut in half from the bottom of the pepper up to the stem, trying to cut through the stem evenly, if possible. Remove seeds and any white membrane, wash and place on paper toweling to dry. If the pepper doesn't lie flat, cut a very thin flat strip off the bottom, lengthwise.
Combine the cheese, garlic, Tabasco, herbs and salt and pepper in a bowl. You may soften the cheese in a microwave for about 20 seconds if it isn't soft enough to mix. Blend everything until thoroughly combined.
Fill pepper halves with cheese mixture (don't overstuff) and place on a baking sheet, cheese side up, and bake for 10 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender. Remove from oven and change oven to broiler. When ready, broil peppers for about 1 minute, watching carefully, until just golden on top.
Sprinkle with olive oil, if desired and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley for garnish.