Stuffed Summer Vegetables with Rice, Farro and Pine Nuts

The stuffing is simply a mixture of chopped vegetables, the bits and pieces removed to make room for the stuffing – this dish wastes nothing. Together they create an unexpectedly tasty combination. Eggplants, peppers, onions and tomatoes, with herbs, grains, pine nuts and raisins cook slowly in the oven inside the vegetables for an hour or more. Once cooled completely their flavors meld together and make the perfect summer lunch.

 

 

Some people think that the idea of stuffed vegetables came to Continental Europe from Sicily, where it was introduced by Arab Moors. But I have my doubts. Italian stuffed tomatoes and zucchini are quite different from those of the Near East. They are usually rich with parmesan and other cheeses, as well as with prosciutto.  In the Eastern Mediterranean cooks had to be frugal, making the most with the scraps from their hallowed and hollowed vegetables and rice or other grains.

 

 

 

Start by choosing a pan and that will hold, somewhat snugly, the vegetables you plan to stuff. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon rice for each vegetable you stuff, plus 3-4 tablespoons ‘for the pan’. But don’t worry; if you have leftover stuffing transfer to a saucepan, add some water and simmer, stirring every now and then, to make a delicious risotto.

 

 

This dish is time-consuming but worthwhile, and you can prepare it in stages. We often cook it together with our guest at Kea Artisanal. Tomatoes take longer to hollow than peppers or eggplant, so you can start them a day in advance. Once emptied, keep the tomatoes upside down over kitchen paper in the refrigerator and complete the preparation the next day.

 

Serves 6       (more…)

Share

Read More

Roasted Summer Vegetables with Garlic and Herbs

I bake all or some of the vegetables on the ingredient list, depending on what my garden produces. For example, I omit the eggplants and increase the amount of zucchini in June, when I harvest more zucchini than I could otherwise cook. Needless to mention, again, that simple dishes like this one depend on the quality of the vegetables. 

 

Choose the freshest vegetables from your local farmer’s market and your summer roast will always be spectacular, no matter what vegetables you choose. Sometimes we bake the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and, of course they are even more delicious!

Leftovers are great as a topping for polenta or grain pilaf.  You can also spoon them on toasted pita or bread to make a bruschetta, topping them with crumbled feta; They also make a great base for omelet or frittata.

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

Share

Read More

The Seedy Grapes from our old Vines

Most of the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Until this year, come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

Early this August, as we finished harvesting the almonds, we noticed quite a few nice bunches of grapes hanging from the old, robust vines that engulf the southern fence of our property, behind the lemon trees.  From these vines we mainly gather the tender grape leaves early in May, to stuff and make our trademark dolmades.

 

Usually the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

These vines are probably a remnant of the old vineyards our little valley was famous for; the dark grapes used to produce quite good wine in the old days, as I discovered researching the paper I wrote for the 2017 Oxford Symposium: (more…)

Share

Read More

Moustalevria: Grape Must Jelly

The two baskets of ripe grapes we gathered from our old vines were too few for wine and too seedy to eat; so Costas and I decided to press them and take the juice to drink, freeze some to make granita, and certainly make moustalevria, the traditional grape must jelly our mothers used to make each year. 

 

The old recipes ask for a lengthy process of simmering and clarifying the grape must with wood ash, which I always skip. I much prefer a fruity-tasting moustalevria, so I briefly boil the juice with the cornstarch, just until it thickens, much like I do when I make my orange ‘cream’ in the winter. You can use any nice grapes you like to make the juice, but I wouldn’t use the canned concord grape juice available everywhere in the US as I am not fond of its taste and aroma.

 

Serves 8-10 (more…)

Share

Read More

Oven-cooked Eggplants and Peppers in Tomato Sauce

A kind of Greek, rustic ratatouille that can be made with any combination of summer vegetables. I particularly like it with just eggplants and green bell peppers plus plenty of onions and garlic, all baked slowly in my fragrant tomato sauce.

 

 

We can find all kinds of delicious eggplants here and choose whichever we want for our summer dishes. For this I prefer the long ones –which are similar to the Chinese and Japanese– because they better retain their shape. But any kind of eggplant is fine, and I strongly suggest you use the fresher you find in your farmer’s market —Molly Stevens explains beautifully the flavor variations between the various eggplants, which make little difference for this particular dish.

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

Share

Read More