Get stuffed…vegetables!

In Recipies on August 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Garden vegetables are in full swing at the house de Phyne Dyning. Our own produce is coming in from our microgarden and generous friends and neighbors have been sharing their bounty with us as well. The cucumbers are slowing up a bit, but the tomatoes and eggplant are just getting ready for liftoff. The birdies are eyeballing our row of sunflowers in anticipation of the oily seeds they’ll produce.

The “problem”, faced by many hobby gardners, is what to do with so many vegetables coming available so suddenly?

A lot of folks serve stuffed vegetables. The stuffing often adds ground meat or, at least, chickpeas, for texture. This recipe, from a friend in Israel, uses a stuffing made from parts removed from the vegetables when they are hollowed out.

A large zucchini presents a dilemma for summer cooks. Called “marrows”, they can be seedy and tough and cooking one whole often gives a result on par with a football filled with oatmeal. Removing the innards from a marrow and then cooking it down with other vegetables, spices, and herbs drives out the excess moisture and yields a very tasty filling for a big zucchini.

A word of warning: This recipe makes enough to feed an army of hungry kibbutzniks. It doesn’t freeze well either. So plan on having multiple days where the dish is either the main course for a meal, or where a stuffed vegetable shares a plate as a side dish. Another warning: This can be a fair amount of work to prepare. It’s a modest meal, but it is not something you will want to whip up after a day of hard work.

Stuffed veggies can be flavored with a wide variety of herbs and spices. You can either make one version with which to fill the hollowed vegetables, or you can divide up the innards and flavor them with single spices (or herbs), or a combination of herbs and spices. Yes, it’s that versatile!

Here are a few suggested herb/spice pairings: Cumin and turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon and cardamom, cardamom and curry, oregano, oregano and basil, or just basil. If you can find ras al hanout (a Moroccan spice blend), try mixing ½ tsp of it with a generous pinch of allspice or cinnamon. It makes a wonderful, Moroccan-inspired meal.

Or, be inventive and mix up something you might like.

When I make stuffed vegetables, I select veggies that are on the large side. They are easier to hollow out and they’re easily cut into portions so everybody can have a little of everything from the pot.

Let’s state making some stuffed veggies!

You’ll need:

1 marrow (zucchini 3-4” dia) cut into 3-4” lengths

1-2 large, sweet onions (peeled)

1-2 sweet red (and/or green) pepper

1-2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed

4 large garlic cloves, mashed

4 TBS tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

1 TBS chopped parsley (or cilantro)

4 TBS olive oil

2 TBS lemon juice

herbs and spices (from the above list)

salt and pepper

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add the potatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Then, add the onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the marrow and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The vegetables should be barely tender. [NOTE: I had a bit of success cooking the potatoes in a microwave on the “baked potato” setting and stopping the cooking a bit early.] Remove the vegetables from the water to a large platter and allow them to cool. While the veggies are cooling, mash up the garlic, core the peppers (by slicing off their tops and chopping the tops), and chop up the herbs.

When the cooked vegetables are cool enough to handle, use a small spoon or vegetable corer to remove their centers, leaving their walls about 3/8” to ½” thick. [A melon baller works great!] You may have to carefully use a knife to ‘work up’ the insides of the onions and potatoes for removal. BE CAREFUL! Reserve all of the removed into a large bowl.

 Pre-heat an oven to 375-400F.

Stir the garlic, tomato paste, diced tomato, herbs and spices, parsley and cilantro, and 2 TBS of the olive oil into the bowl of veggie innards and add the chopped pepper tops. Mix well by tossing gently. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Arrange the hollowed out vegetables into an oiled oven-safe baking dish or pan. Use a spoon to fill each vegetable with the seasoned, spiced, and herbed veggie innards. Spoon any left over vegetable mixture around the stuffed vegetables. Splash the lemon juice over each stuffed vegetable and season the tops with a bit of salt and pepper. Finally, pour (or spoon) the remaining olive oil over each stuffed vegetable.

Bake the vegetables for 40-45 minutes, or until the stuffed vegetables are tender. If the stuffed peppers are getting too soft, remove them and set them aside until service. The oiled tops of the stuffing should turn a pleasant, golden brown when it is done.

Serve with hard bread or pita to sop up the juices.

[COOK’S TIP! I am becoming very fond of “tomato paste in a tube”. It always seems like I never use a full can of tomato paste and freezing it was a hassle. The stuff in a tube solves the problem. You must use the paste, once opened, within 3 weeks of opening. But that’s fine…I use tomato paste regularly.]


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