Originally created 07/21/02

Stuffing adds zest to veggies



With the height of summer comes an abundance of fresh, often home-grown produce. Zucchini and bell peppers lurk in many a Southern garden, and Vidalia onions topple from their stately stacks in grocery stores and produce markets.

We saute them, grill them, steam them, bake them and make casseroles out of them. Everything imaginable to utilize this amazing harvest.

But as wonderful as they are, their appearance night after night, side dish after side dish, can become monotonous. If you feel as if you are in a cooking rut, try looking at these stars of the summer in a different way - stuff 'em!

STUFFED VADALIA ONIONS

These are great hot, warm or cold. The savory proscuitto ham nicely complements the sweetness of the onion.

4 vadalia onions, peeled

1/4 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup chopped parsley

8 leaves fresh basil, chopped

4 thin slices proscuitto ham, chopped

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

To hollow out the peeled onions: cut off the top (not the root end) then cut around the onion's interior rings, leaving the outer ring intact. Scoop out the excess onion with a spoon.

In a bowl, combine all other ingredients (except for 1 tablespoon melted butter) and mix well.

Spoon 1/4 of the breadcrumb mixture into each hollowed- out onion and drizzle evenly with the remaining melted butter.

Place the stuffed onions in a baking pan and pour water into the pan so that it comes 1/4 inch up the sides of the onions.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the onions are soft when pierced with a sharp knife.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI

Delicious! Don't be put off by the mint; it's subtle and adds a depth to the recipe.

3 small zucchinis, halved lengthwise and scooped out

1/2 of the zucchini 'meat' that was scooped out, roughly chopped

1/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon dry mint

1/3 cup cooked brown or white rice

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Kosher or sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste

1 egg white

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saute pan, over medium-high heat, begin to brown the beef. When beef is half cooked, add 1/2 of the scooped-out zucchini, shallot and garlic.

Continue cooking until the beef is fully cooked.

Once cooked, allow to cool, then stir into the cooled cooked rice. Add mint and season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes.

Now add the egg white and mix well.

Sprinkle the zucchini boats with a bit of salt, then fill with the beef/rice mixture.

Place the filled boats into a baking dish, pour in enough water to come just 1/4 inch up the sides of the zucchini, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender, removing the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Makes 6 side dishes or 2-3 entrees.

HEARTY STUFFED PEPPERS

These may be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator (for up to 2 days) until ready to bake and serve. They make a beautiful and delicious summer supper.

4 fresh, large green, red or yellow bell peppers

Olive oil or nonstick spray

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 medium fresh tomatoes, seeds intact, roughly chopped

1 pound lean ground beef, chicken or pork

16 leaves fresh basil, washed and roughly chopped

1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Set the peppers aside.

In a large saute pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or spray liberally with nonstick spray.

Add the garlic and allow to cook until it just begins to turn golden, being careful not to burn it.

Add the onion, ground meat and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is fully cooked.

Add the fresh basil leaves, taste and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Spoon meat filling into peppers, layering the shredded cheese as you go. Finishing off the top with some of the cheese.

Place filled peppers into a baking pan and pour in enough water to come 1/4 inch up the sides of the peppers.

Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a sharp knife can be easily inserted into the side of a pepper.

Serve hot.



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