September is a golden month here. This is the time of year when there is an abundance of the final harvest and gardens spill over with late tomatoes, sweet onions, squash of all kinds and gorgeous green, red, yellow and purple peppers.
Filling these just-picked vegetables with savory stuffings and roasting them until tender and browned produces some of the most satisfying dishes of the harvest season.
The basic technique for making stuffed vegetables is surprisingly straightforward. Cut off the top, carve or scoop out the seeds to make a hollow vessel, then fill it with an aromatic stuffing.
Stuffings should be assertive but not overwhelming. They literally should burst with flavor to highlight the natural goodness of the vegetables without overpowering them.
Remove the stems, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh from the cavities. Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle each of the cavities with salt, pepper and a touch of sage. Place 1 tablespoon chopped tomato in the bottom of each cavity. Divide the cheese among the 4 squash halves, add 2 tablespoons wine to each cavity and top with the remaining tomato and sage. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the remaining wine around the squash and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for one hour, basting the squash several times. Check the bottom of the pan to make sure the liquid hasn’t cooked away; add more wine or water if necessary.
The squash should feel tender when pierced with a fork; if not, bake another 10-15 minutes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon maple syrup on top of each squash half and top with the cubed butter. Bake another 5 minutes or until butter is melted and the syrup has formed a glaze on top. Serve hot to four.
Stem tomatoes and cut them in half widthwise. Use a small knife or a spoon to remove about 2 tablespoons of pulp from each half. Chop the pulp finely and reserve. Place the tomatoes in a shallow roasting pan.
Pour the olive oil into a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add the reserved tomato pulp, half of the parsley and basil, and the thyme, and cook another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1½ tablespoons olive puree, stir well and remove from the heat. Add the remaining parsley and basil and season with salt and pepper.
Spread 1/2 teaspoon olive puree in the bottom of each tomato. Divide the stuffing among the 8 tomato halves and top each with 1/2 tablespoon bread crumbs.
Drizzle the top of each tomato with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Bake in a preheated 400-degreen oven 15 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature with a garnish of basil leaves.
Place the cooled rice in a large bowl, stirring to separate the grains.
Cut off the tops of the peppers and use a small knife to remove the ribs and seeds from inside the peppers, being careful not to pierce the skins. Very carefully cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pepper so they sit flat.
In a large skillet, heat 1½ tablespoons olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and half the garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and the remaining tablespoon of oil, and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the nuts, the remaining garlic, currants, apricots and 1/4 cup of the mint, and cook about 5 minutes or until the scent of the spices is released into the air.
Add the onion-spice mixture to the rice and stir well. Add the remaining mint, the lemon juice and cayenne, and taste for seasoning.
Divide the mixture among the 8 peppers. Place the stuffed peppers in a shallow roasting pan and top with half the tomato sauce. Add the remaining sauce and 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven about 45 minutes. Baste the peppers with the sauce once or twice.
Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, and garnished with fresh mint.
These recipes can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven just before serving. And, in true Mediterranean fashion, stuffed vegetables tend to be low in fat.
Reach Marian Platt at email@example.com.
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