Food for Soul

Recipes: It’s the season for stuffed vegetables

Stuffed pepper boats are served with quinoa and lentils with Mediterranean and Mexican flavors (Photo by Yakir Levy

By FAYE LEVY | foodfaye6@gmail.com and YAKIR LEVY | foodfaye6@gmail.com |PUBLISHED: September 24, 2021 at 10:47 a.m. | UPDATED: September 24, 2021 at 10:47 a.m.

Stuffed vegetables are popular these days because eggplant, peppers, zucchini and tomatoes, which are perfect for stuffing, are at the height of their seasons.

Usually the stuffings are made from meat, grains such as rice or bulgur wheat, or a mixture of both. Cooks flavor the fillings with sautéed onions and often with garlic, spices and herbs. The stuffed vegetables are moistened with olive oil, broth or tomato sauce, and can be baked or stewed.

Peppers have a natural cavity for stuffing. The other vegetables are hollowed; the pulp that is removed can be added to the filling.

On menus of the weeklong Jewish harvest celebration–the festival of Sukkot, which began Monday evening, Sept. 20, stuffed vegetables are time-honored stars. Many eat their meals in a sukkah, a temporary hut built in the garden or on the patio, that has a leafy roof, often with fruits and vegetables hanging from it. It’s a fun holiday in which meals take on a picnic-like air. Stuffed vegetables make satisfying, special occasion meals in one dish, and a platter of them is easy to carry from the kitchen to the sukkah.

MedMex Stuffed Peppers are shown in this photo from “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive” by Mareya Ibrahim. (Photo by Mareya Ibrahim, courtesy of St. Martin’s Publishing Group)


Medmex Stuffed Peppers
Mediterranean and Mexican seasonings flavor the quinoa and lentil stuffing of these peppers. You can stand the peppers upright or slice them in half lengthwise to make boats. This recipe is from “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive” by Mareya Ibrahim (copyright by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group).

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
Stuffed Peppers:

6 large bell peppers

2 tablespoons raw coconut oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 shallot, minced

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 cup lentils, rinsed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Tomato Sauce:

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 teaspoon raw coconut oil, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

Topping:

2 tablespoons crumbled sheep’s-milk feta cheese

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh dill or parsley (optional)

PROCEDURE

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut top 1/2 inch off each bell pepper; remove seeds and ribs.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add quinoa, lentils, tomato paste, broth, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper. Cook mixture until most of liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. For sauce: In a medium saucepan, whisk together tomato paste, vegetable broth, coconut oil, pepper, chili flakes and salt. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook until reduced by about half, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Stand peppers upright in an 8-inch baking dish. Spoon filling into peppers, filling them three-quarters full; place tops back on. Cover with foil and bake until filling is thoroughly cooked, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Spoon sauce over peppers and sprinkle with feta. Garnish with dill, and serve.
Baby eggplants are shown filled with bulgur wheat, pomegranate-scented juice, labneh, herbs and garlic. (From “Taste of Beirut” by Joumana Accad)
Bulgur Salad in Eggplant Boats

Bulgur Salad in Eggplant Boats

This recipe is from “Taste of Beirut” by Joumana Accad. The fried baby eggplants are filled with bulgur wheat soaked in pomegranate-scented juice, then combined with labneh (thick, drained yogurt), fresh herbs and garlic.

Yield: 6 to 8 appetizer or 4 main-dish servings

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces plain yogurt (scant 1 1/2 cups), more if needed

2 pounds baby eggplants

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat

1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1/2 cup olive oil, or more as needed

6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, any green shoots discarded

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh mint, dill and basil

1/2 teaspoon hot Aleppo pepper or smoked chili powder (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Pita bread (for serving)

PROCEDURE

  1. Line a sieve with a coffee filter or cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Place 12 ounces yogurt in sieve and drain it for 4 hours.
  2. Peel eggplants, keeping caps on; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Place them in a colander and let stand for 30 minutes or longer.
  3. Put bulgur in a bowl. Dilute pomegranate molasses in 1/2 cup hot water and pour over bulgur.
  4. Wipe eggplants dry. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Fry eggplants on all sides until browned and soft. Remove from skillet and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Set on a serving plate.
  5. Chop garlic fine. Pound in a mortar with remaining 1 teaspoon salt to consistency of a paste.
  6. Add drained yogurt to bowl of bulgur. Add garlic paste, parsley, mint mixture, Aleppo pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and green onions. If salad is too stiff, add some undrained yogurt. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  7. With a small, sharp knife, make a slit along length of eggplants. Open up eggplants gently with a spoon and fill the cavities with the bulgur salad. Garnish with pine nuts. Serve at room temperature with pita bread.

Stuffed Chayote Squash, Mexican Style features tomato and cheese filling. (Photo by Yakir Levy)


Stuffed Chayote Squash, Mexican Style
Pear-shaped chayote squashes are sweet and firmer than zucchini. For this vegetarian dish, they are stuffed with a tomato and cheese filling. We based it on a recipe in “Mexican Cookery” by Barbara Hansen.

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 chayote squashes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

1/2 to 3/4 cup chunks of creamy goat cheese

Hot red chile powder such as Hatch chile powder, for sprinkling

PROCEDURE

  1. Put squashes in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until chayotes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain chayotes and let cool.
  2. Scoop out chayote pulp with a sharp spoon, being careful not to tear shells. Put shells in a lightly oiled baking dish in which they fit in one layer. Dice chayote pulp.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onion is soft but not brown. Add diced chayote pulp, tomatoes, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon parsley. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated.

4, Spoon half of tomato mixture into chayote shells. Add half the pieces of goat cheese. Top them with remaining stuffing, mounding it in the squashes. Add remaining pieces of cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot. To serve, sprinkle lightly with chile powder and a little parsley.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables with Lamb and Rice is plated for serving. (Photo by Yakir Levy)


Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables with Lamb and Rice


Shape the eggplants and zucchini in tubes or boats, and stew or bake the stuffing in them. You can use the same stuffing in tomatoes or cabbage leaves.

Yield: 4 or 5 servings

INGREDIENTS
Stuffing:

1/2 cup long-grain rice, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 pound lean ground lamb or beef

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Vegetables:

2 to 2 1/2 pounds small eggplants or zucchini or 4 or 5 green peppers, preferably flat-bottomed

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (for zucchini and eggplants)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

PROCEDURE

  1. Stuffing: Add rice to 3 cups boiling salted water in a medium saucepan. Cook until not quite tender, about 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water; drain.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet, add onion and cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes; cool.
  3. In a bowl mix lamb with allspice, salt and pepper. Add sauteed onions, pine nuts and parsley; mix well. Lightly mix in rice.
  4. To shape the vegetables:

To shape the vegetables:

a. Eggplant or zucchini tubes: Halve eggplant or zucchini crosswise. Carefully remove pulp with a zucchini hollowing gadget, vegetable peeler, apple corer or long thin knife, leaving hollow cylinders for stuffing.

b. Whole pepper cups: Cut off a slice from stem ends, leaving stems on and reserving slices; discard cores and seeds.

c. Boats: Halve vegetables lengthwise and scoop out centers.

  1. Chop pulp removed from eggplant or zucchini. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet, add chopped zucchini or eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes. Cool; mix with stuffing.
  2. Spoon stuffing into vegetables without packing too tightly.
  3. For vegetable tubes and whole peppers: Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and saute stuffed zucchini or eggplant (but not peppers) lightly on all sides, turning them carefully. Transfer to a stew pan. Put peppers, standing upright, in stew pan; cover them with reserved slices.
  4. For boats: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put stuffed vegetables in a baking dish.
  5. Make sauce: In a small bowl gradually stir 1/4 cup water into tomato paste until smooth. Add garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Add to stew pan or to baking dish. Add enough water to cover vegetables by one fourth. Cover.
  6. Either simmer vegetables for about 45 minutes, adding water if it evaporates or uncovering if there is too much liquid; or bake vegetables for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 30 more minutes. Vegetables should be very tender. Serve hot or warm.

Faye Levy is the author of “1,000 Jewish Recipes.”

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