We have been bombarded with information about the virtues of eating vegetables every day. So we dice it and slice it, grate and mash it, stir-fry it, and often transform vegetables into soups and salads or curries.

My favorite way of enjoying any veggie is by stuffing it. There is an unmistakable charm about stuffed vegetables. After all, who can resist the surprise-inside factor of dipping a fork into the center of a stuffed vegetable? Stuffing a vegetable elevates it to the status of main entrée. The following recipes can be assembled ahead of time and popped into the oven just before you are ready to eat.

There seems to be a deep-rooted human love of food stuffed into other food; every culture has some variant. Perhaps it’s the idea of food getting extra flavor from its edible “pot.” Perhaps it’s just a fascination with layers. Stuffed vegetables are a beautiful way to showcase an array of vegetables and prepare them for special occasions.

Stuffed vegetables appeal to us on an additional level. They speak to our love of individual servings, where each diner gets her own little package rather than pulling it from a common trough.

There is also something immensely satisfying about choosing the perfect vegetable, filling it gently with some spicy goodness and cooking it to perfection. Here are my three favorite recipes for stuffing vegetables.

Stuffed Tomatoes

My friend Meenakshi Gokhale, who is a gourmet cook, shared this recipe with me. She remembers eating it at a very fancy restaurant in Mumbai for breakfast.

6 tomatoes

Stuffing:6900c3edaea29560af16beff19a88d6a-3

1 onion, chopped finely
1 cup cauliflower, chopped finely
½ cup peas
½ cup corn
1 teaspoon chilies chopped finely (optional)
1 tablespoon basil leaves
½ cup cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs
olive oil
lime juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
salt and sugar
½ cup cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut tops of tomato and remove the pulp with a spoon.

Keep aside.

Dice all vegetables very small.

Mix in all ingredients well and stuff into the tomato.

Top with cheese and bake it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread.

Hema’s Hints:

 

Stuffed Tomato can be served for brunch or elegant dinner parties

This recipe can be watched on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy2oi0j-jRU

Stuffed Bell Peppers

A wonderful combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture, bell peppers are the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world with their beautifully shaped glossy exterior that comes in a wide array of vivid colors ranging from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, and black. Although peppers are available throughout the year, they are most abundant and tasty during the months of August and September. This entrée is a meal in itself with proteins, complex carbohydrates, calcium, and vegetables.
6900c3edaea29560af16beff19a88d6a-24 bell peppers

Filling:

1 cup mashed potato
1 cup canned garbanzo beans
1 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves (diced)
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (or as per taste)
1 tablespoon cilantro
bread crumbs and cheese to garnish

In a bowl, mix mashed potato, garbanzo beans and yogurt.

In a small fry pan, heat oil. Add garlic and sauté it until it turns golden brown. Add cumin seeds and let it sizzle. Remove from heat and add black pepper to hot oil.

Add this spice infused oil to potato garbanzo mix.

Stir in salt and cilantro.

Garnish with bread crumbs and cheese.

Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees C

Hema’s Hints:

 

Serve with a bowl of soup to make a light dinner.

Yengai (Stuffed Eggplant)

Yengai calls for mini eggplants that are stuffed with nuts and spices and cooked on low heat. Mini bell peppers and red potatoes are an excellent addition for this recipe. My mother would serve this vegetable with Jowar roti or Bajri roti called Bhakri along with sliced white onions.

6 mini eggplants
6 red potatoes (semi baked)
6 mini sweet bell peppers
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion
4-5 garlic cloves
15 almonds or ¼ cup peanuts
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup yogurt
¼ cup cilantro
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or as per taste)

In a blender, make a coarse powder with almonds, sesame seeds, garlic, red chili powder, turmeric and salt. Keep aside in a bowl. Add chopped onions, cilantro, yogurt, brown sugar and garam masala. Mix well.

Make an X cut in eggplant, potato and bell pepper. Add stuffing into the slits. Drizzle oil into the bottom of a pan. Lay down all the stuffed vegetables. Add the leftover filling with ½ cup water and cover pan. Simmer for 25 minutes until vegetables are well cooked.

Hema’s Hints:

 

Pita bread works well with this recipe.

 

 

Hema Alur-Kundargi is the producer, editor, and host of the television show Indian Vegetarian Gourmet (DVDs now available at the Sunnyvale and Cupertino libraries in Northern California). Visit her website at www.massala.com 
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