Saturday, June 1, 2013

Stuffing Vegetables with More Vegetables

Saturday is Farmer's Market day in Playa del Rey, and today this great big zucchini really caught my eye.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to stuff it, but with what?  Then it came to me.  I'll do a twist on the Turkish classic, Imam Bayildi, a delicious dish of eggplant stuffed with a mixture of onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic.  After all, what could be more VB6-worthy than a giant vegetable stuffed with more vegetables!  To the purist, the substitution of zucchini for eggplant in this iconic dish might be viewed as sacrilege, but I think it sounds yummy, so I'm going for it.  (And of course, it is perfectly fine to substitute smaller zucchinis for the large one, but if you do, then adjust cooking times, keeping an eye on finished product during the baking stage to ensure it does not become overcooked and mushy.)

First, I peel off the zucchini skin in strips.

Then I cut the zucchini in half and hollow it out, like so.

Next, I slice a large white onion into thin vertical slices, crush two cloves of garlic, and peel and slice two large juicy tomatoes.  I like to put a little salt on the tomatoes to enhance their flavor.

This is a Turkish olive oil dish -- a vegetable dish (no meat!) cooked in olive oil and generally eaten cold --so I drop the onions, garlic and tomatoes into a shallow pot with about 1/4 cup of very good olive oil and saute them, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.

While the tomatoes, onions and garlic are cooking, I chop up a big handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, toss it into the pot, and cook the ingredients for another 5 minutes or so.  When finished, the onions and tomatoes should be tender, but not mushy.  I set this aside and let it cool for a bit.

While the tomato and onion mixture is cooling, I slice some Anaheim peppers into thin strips and fry them in just a little bit more olive oil until they are tender.

I fill the zucchini with the cooked tomato and onion mixture, place the sauteed peppers on top, and put the stuffed zucchinis into a casserole dish with 1/4 cup of water and a drizzle of olive oil at the bottom of the dish.  I cover the whole thing with foil, and bake it at 350 degrees for at least and hour.  After an hour, I remove the foil, and let the zucchinis continue to bake until tender (for another 15-30 minutes).

The finished dish looks like this and should be served at room temperature or cold.  For those of you who are not used to cold cooked vegetables, I promise you are in for a treat!