19 September 2008
Stuffed Mini-Peppers and Pattypan Squash
I have a confession to make. There are times when I can be quite shallow. Especially when it comes to food, there are times when I am totally swayed by appearance.
That thing with me and the heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market was all about the way their colorful skin lit up in shades of transcluscent pink, dappled green, magenta and gold in the sunshine. Sure they tasted great but the first thing I thought of was how great they would look sitting on my kitchen counter, or how beautifully they might pose for a photo.
It’s the same with these precious little patty pan squash. Just looking at the smooth yellow curve of their skin, the ripple around their middle, makes me smile. They are just cute, cute, cute - so cute, in fact, that when I saw them I just had to pick them up... even though I had little idea of what to do with them.
A couple of years ago I was the same way with mini sweet peppers, the ones that come in an array of gorgeous pepper shapes and in colors from golden yellow to rich orange-red to bright green. They looked so fine that when I saw them at the market I couldn't help but take them home. It was only after we got there that I began to wonder how to cook them.
Luckily I found a recipe in an old issue of Sunset magazine that helped me solve that problem. It suggesting stuffing the little jeweled peppers with a delicious mixture of rice and pine nuts. It was really good. I made it several times and ate it with delight. But then, as the season changed and new beauties showed up at the market, the recipe got pushed aside and buried in my kitchen files.
This week, a recipe for stuffed patty pan squash at Fat Free Vegan got me thinking. I had complete confidence in Susan’s recipe for an herbed bean stuffing, but while I could have used the borlotto beans I bought at the farmers market for the stuffing I really had other plans for them.
Then I remembered the stuffing used in those little peppers and began to dig through my files. It took some time but I found that recipe. I adapted the seasoning slightly to more closely match Susan’s suggestions for a full fall flavor that would hint at sausage. I also chopped the contents scooped out of the cute little patty pans and added it back to the rice mixture for the stuffing. The result was very appealing.
What’s more, I found a little box of these sweet mini-peppers on the grocery shelf near the salad section so I bought them and cooked them alongside, for old time’s sake.
Both the stuffed mini-peppers and the stuffed patty pan squash were a hit with the family. Favorable comments were made and the dish was empty in no time.
I also thought they were wonderfully delicious. And of course they were pretty too! Still, while I am admittedly a pushover for the colorful yellow, orange and red of late summer and the bronzed and golden tints of fall, I have to say the bright seasonal flavors are something I look forward to savoring too.
Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
(adapted from a recipe for Stuffed Sweet Mini-Peppers in the November 2001 issue of Sunset magazine)
8 small patty pan squash (you might use more or less according to size)
1 cup finely chopped Walla Walla sweet onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup vegetable broth
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of salt
a pinch of ground red pepper
Several sprigs of fresh thyme (enough to provide about 1 teaspoon of leaves)
Wash squash and place flat side down in a large pot filled with one inch of water. Bring water to a boil, cover and turn heat down to low. Cook for approximately 5 to 8 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the squash.
Drain the squash. When cool enough to handle cut off the stem end of the squash and scoop out the center, reserving the flesh. Leave at least 1/4 inch on all sides of the shell for stability.
To prepare the filling:
In a frying pan, cook the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat, until lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes.
Add the rice and pine nuts. Cook and stir until the rice is opaque and the nuts begin to brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the vegetable broth, sage, salt, and ground peppers. Stir, then drop the thyme sprigs on top and cover. Turn the heat to low and simmer until rice is tender, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When cool enough to handle, pick the thyme sprigs from the top of the rice mixture and pull off the leaves discarding the stems. (The leaves should fall off easily.)
Coarsely chop the flesh scooped from the squash and stir it, along with the thyme leaves, into the rice mixture.
Fill the pattypan squash shells with the rice mixture, pressing it in and mounding it on the top. Place the filled squash shells in a rectangular baking dish. Scoop any remaining rice mixture in between the squash shells. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until the rice mixture begins to brown.
Remove from the oven and serve.
Note: I originally baked the stuffed squash for 30 minutes, as I would the peppers, but I think the squash, being precooked, were baked a little too long. They tasted great but had an overly wrinkly appearance. Or maybe its just that shallow thing speaking again. Judge for yourself.
To make Stuffed Mini-Peppers: When using mini-peppers the shell does not need to be precooked. Simply wash 12 to 15 mini-peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Fill each half with the cooked rice mixture or fill only half with the rice mixture and match up the other pepper halves on top, drizzling with a little olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
For another version of stuffed squash check out Alanna's feta cheese filling at A Veggie Venture. It sounds delicious made with pattypan or zucchini squash.