Nothing has been more important to my development as a home cook — and as a person who eats the vegetables she buys instead of letting them liquify in the crisper — than learning to cook without recipes. Once I learned a few go-to methods by heart, "a quick dinner" came to mean kitchen improvisation rather than ordering Seamless.
I'm 100% adding this roadmap for stuffed vegetables from Food52 to the rotation. I love its adaptability, and the fact that it makes a complete meal — I too often roast up some tasty vegetables and then panic and just throw a slab of tofu on top.
Here's the gist:
- Cut your vessel vegetables in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides to make boats. (If you're using winter squash, rinse the seeds for roasting; if you're using softer vegetables, chop up the insides to add to the filling.)
- Roast the vessels at 190 degrees Celsius, sprinkled with olive oil and salt, until they're fork-tender. Soft veggies will take 10-15 minutes, while hard ones like winter squash will take up to 45.
- While the vessels cook (and then cool), sauté the filling. Food52's formula is: "starch + alliums + cheese + nut + dried fruit + greens + herbs." Use some or all of the above. You can add protein, too, like ground beef or lentils. Yes, you have to eyeball the amounts, but unused filling will taste great on its own, too. (I'd use the starch to fudge your way to the right amount.)
- Once that's cooked, fill the vegetable boats and put them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until warmed through and a tiny bit browned.
You can even prepare the vessels and filling up to three days ahead of time — just refrigerate, and then give a bit longer in the oven together to warm up.
Food52 offers these ideas to get you started:
- Poblano peppers with black beans, brown rice, chorizo, and queso fresco, topped with lime crema
- Sweet Vidalia onions with farro, anchovies, kale, and caramelised onions, topped with a quick tomato sauce
- Zucchini or summer squash with quinoa, Parmesan, basil, and breadcrumbs
- Portobello mushrooms with pearled barley and preserved lemon or root vegetable risotto
- Eggplant with bulgar, ground lamb, tomatoes, and lots of spices