Photo by Judith Hausman
Stuffed vegetables remind me of the first Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen (Ten Speed Press, 1977). Recipes for “comprehensively” stuffed vegetables, especially acorn squash, put the vegetables center stage in a way that many of us had just started to think about. While I never became a vegetarian, I did rely on Moosewood Cookbook in my developing vegetable repertoire.
Stuffed vegetables also remind me of the south of France, where the freshest hot-weather vegetables are topped with the simplest garlic-breadcrumb mix and briefly broiled. Warmed, their summer flavors melt in olive oil and Mediterranean herbs. Mmm. Julia Child’s recipe is the real thing.
Dolmas, part of Eastern Mediterranean cuisines, such as Greece’s and Turkey’s, can also be stuffed with practically anything, from grape leaves to tiny eggplants and squash.
Right now, our coop has yellow squash, deeply ribbed green squash, round squash and two-tone squash. It’s so easy to open them up, scoop out some flesh with a melon baller, re-stuff them, and bake. You chop up the innards and sauté them briefly with onions, herbs and garlic, and then season the mix as you like. You can mix it all with rice and season it Asian style or with Indian or Mexican (melt some Monterey Jack or queso fresco on top) spices.
You can use breadcrumbs or little pasta shapes, such as orzo, and Italian or Southern French herbs; don’t forget some black pepper, too, and maybe anchovies and some Parmesan or goat cheese on top. You can use quinoa or couscous, currants and almonds, as well as Moroccan elements, such as lemon, cinnamon and cumin, or Greek flavors, such as feta cheese, oregano and olives. Feel free to add browned ground beef or lamb or chopped, leftover cooked chicken. I’ve never tried shrimp, but why not?
You can scoop out eggplants, too. (You may have to cook them briefly to soften the flesh.)
Cut in half and clean the seeds and white ribs out of red, green, yellow or purple bell or long peppers. You may not have to pre-cook them at al if they are thin-walled, home-garden peppers.
Another style is to fill small peppers with cheese, then batter and fry them. Stuff the spread-open layers of a sweet onion. Wrap big cabbage leaves around a large tablespoon of filling and “pin” them with a toothpick. Cook the packets in a tomato sauce.
There’s even a “cheater’ way to prepare stuffed vegetables. I was recently served them this way at a restaurant. Rather than scooping out the insides, the chef had simply piled the breadcrumb filling on top of thick cylinders of zucchini, onion halves and tomato halves. The veggies were baked until tender in a little olive oil and then very briefly broiled.
Recipe: An All-Purpose Stuffing for Summer Vegetables
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen (Ten Speed Press, 1977)
- 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil * 3/4 cup onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 eggs, beaten*
- 1/2 cup cheese (optional)
- a few chopped tomatoes (optional)
- 3 tablespoons at least, parsley and other herbs of choice (see above), chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- salt, pepper and 1 to 2 teaspoons of the spices of whatever cuisine you like best (see above)
Scoop out the inside of the stuffed vegetable. This may require you to cook it a little bit first (the eggplant) or even a lot (acorn squash). Chop the innards up a little bit and sauté with the onion, garlic and seasonings. Remove from heat and add cheese, tomatoes, flour, eggs and herbs. Re-fill the stuffees with the stuffing and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until the filling is firm. Stuffs about 8 pieces.
*If you prefer, you can use 1 cup crumbled soft breadcrumbs and omit the eggs.