When Jason and I met, I was living in this tiny, dirt cheap apartment with my fluffy white kitty, Shasta. Shasta & I had accidentally stumbled across the greatest deal in the entire city. We had million dollar houses, the city’s nicest park, running trails, a golf course, and gorgeous green space at our front door. At our back door? Legit crack houses. But not for long.
The area was seeing major regentrification. Just 2-3 years before, if you’d asked anyone “Hey, I’m on Washington – what should I do over here?” They would have screamed “GET DOWN AND CALL 911!” But even at that point, it was only half-sketch. Plus, the million-dollar-homeowners across the street paid for fancy private security to roam the neighborhood. We had security-by-proximation. (And to be fair, crack-house-by-proximation.)
New fences went up weekly, flanked by construction signs and “Coming Soon!” banners. But none of those new places would ever top Bibas.
Bibas was a 24-hour Greek diner on Memorial that promised two things: the world’s fluffiest pita bread and fabulously accented late-night conversations from owners who seemed to never take a break, much less a day or night off. Throw in a plate of dolmades and you had one of the best ways to unwind after a play-hard downtown Saturday night.
Then I met a guy who didn’t eat Greek food, Bibas closed down, and I moved to the suburbs.
But 8 years later, that guy didn’t protest when I dragged him down to the Greek Festival. Mostly because after 8 years of all the life changes that come with being an adult, he knew that our Friday nights could very likely otherwise involve a super unsexy trip to the home improvement store for a plunger.
Related: That age where they outgrow flushing things down the toilet? Not here yet.
To the Greek festival we went, sampling dolmades and baklava and souvlaki and tiropita. The light in a person’s eyes when he realizes that a “scary” word like souvlaki means manly grilled red meat on a stick? Beats any look of joy and magical wonder on Christmas morning
This month’s HEB Primo Picks showed up with a couple of pantry staples that I regularly buy:
Central Market’s Quick Cooking Quinoa
HEB Basting Oil (a garlic & herbed oil that’s great for dipping pita bread and cooking and sauteeing and drizzling over just about everything)
Along with the black olives, I whipped up some Greek-style stuffed bell peppers to serve along some pita and tzatziki sauce.
The first time I ever made stuffed peppers, I got the expected nose-wrinkling “Why’d you ruin perfectly good food by shoving it in a bell pepper that hasn’t been sliced and grilled and served next to fajitas?” look while poking at the pepper to confirm that it was, in fact, not going to leap off the place and whack him on the head.
But the first time I made a Gyro-inspired stuffed bell pepper on “Greek night,” I got the expected mouth-full mumble, “Th2diy so3048x Greek dhdslkashd” head-nodding approval.
The rambly lesson here? Stuff it in a pepper, call it Greek food. Everyone is happy.
Gyro-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Quinoa & Feta
Greek-style bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, ground beef, feta, and black olives.
- 1 cup Central Market Quick-Cooking Quinoa
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 1 lb lean ground beef (or substitute half lamb)
- 2 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 chopped HEB Black Olives
- 15 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
- 2 tsp greek seasoning*
- 4 oz crumbled feta, divided
- Small handful of cilantro and/or parsley, chopped and divided
- 6 large bell peppers
- HEB Basting Oil, for drizzling
- Tzatziki sauce, for serving (purchased or homemade)
- *This was a purchased mix of dried herbs: oregano, parsley, basil, marjoram, garlic, and onion. A mixture pretty decently wingable at home.
- Preheat oven to 425 and lightly grease a casserole dish.
- Take a thin sliver off the rounded edges off the bell pepper "feet" so the peppers stand on their own.
- With the tip of your knife, poke 1-2 small holes in the bell pepper bottom - just deep enough to create an opening for any excess liquid to drain. Soggy stuffed peppers are no fun.
- Heat 2 cups of water or chicken stock and cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside.
- Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat and brown the ground beef.
- Transfer the cooked meat to a colander to drain.
- Add the cooking oil and heat, then cook the onions 3-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and stir, cooking another minute more.
- Return the ground beef to the pan along with the cooked quinoa, olives, tomatoes, Greek seasoning, 3 oz of the crumbled feta, and most of the parsley/cilantro (reserving a couple of pinches for garnish).
- Mix well and taste for seasoning.
- Spoon the filling into the peppers, lightly drizzle with basting oil if using, and transfer the dish to the oven to bake ~15 minutes.
- Top with remaining feta and garnish with chopped herbs before serving.
- Reheat foil-covered leftovers in a small baking dish until heated through.
Yields: 6 servings
Estimated time: 45 minutes
This recipe was developed in conjunction with H-E-B and I was provided ingredients as well as compensated for my time. Messy fingers, stretchy-waisted pants, and baby-Elmo-clogged-toilets are all mine. You can find H-E-B on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you’re as lucky as we are, 3 locations within a 5 mile radius.