Far, far away and a long time ago (before I knew about Weekend Herb Blogging) ….we used to party, ….a lot! I was at the farmer's market one autumn, planning a dinner party and looking at all the beautiful vegetables, thinking what fun it would be to stuff them all (and what a lot of work). My thoughts went to the usual routine: women in the kitchen gossiping and watching me cook; men in the game room gossiping and playing. I decided on a different approach: Why not let the guests cook? All of them? The annual Stuffed Vegetable Party was born. It was a simple idea. We invited 10 people, paired everyone, and gave each pair a vegetable to stuff. I organized the evening, laid out a timetable for people to follow, (color-coding the recipes to the schedule) and bought all of the ingredients. The guests each contributed a bottle of wine. Each vegetable was a separate course, consumed at 45 minute intervals. Over the years we stuffed bell peppers and chili peppers, acorn, butternut and patty pan squashes, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage – both whole and leaves only and, for dessert, apples and pears. We tried to have one competent cook in each pair, but even the people that didn't know a butcher knife from a butter knife rolled up their sleeves and had fun. The least knowledgeable cooks always prepared the first course which never varied: Stuffed Mushrooms. These have absolutely no redeeming health qualities whatsoever, but make great finger food and are utterly delicious. No quantities given.
Ingredients: Mushroom caps, bacon, cream cheese, garlic, butter
Method: Mince garlic and sauté in butter. Add mushroom caps and sauté until golden. Remove.
Fry bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and mix into cream cheese. Stuff mushroom caps. Bake about 10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
In looking back at those recipes it's interesting to see how my tastes and techniques have changed. Olive oil in place of butter, milk in place of cream, anything in place of canned soups. But I still like to stuff vegetables in the fall. Here is a current favorite:
Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash
1/3 cup Basmati rice
2/3 cup beef stock
5 – 6 oz ground beef or sausage
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red pepper
1 stalk celery
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs fresh thyme
1 1/2 – 2 tbs cornstarch (corn flour, maizena) dissolved in 2 tbs beef stock
Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Either place face down on a tray and microwave for 10 – 12 minutes or put into a baking dish, cover with foil and bake in 400F (200C) oven for 40 minutes. While squash cooks: Cook the rice in the beef stock 15 – 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and it's done. (Check your package directions for correct quantity of stock and cooking times.) Chop the onion, pepper and celery; mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, pepper and celery 5 minutes then add the garlic. Sauté 5 more minutes or until vegetables are tender and starting to brown. Add beef or sausage and sauté, breaking it up as it browns. Add mustard, thyme and beef stock and stir well to combine. Dissolve cornstarch in stock. When beef mixture is simmering stir cornstarch in, a little at a time. (You may not need it all). You want it quite thick but not paste. When done add rice and stir to combine. When squash are ready (they should be almost done) remove from wherever they cooked and fill with the rice/beef mixture. Bake uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes, until stuffing starts to brown and squash is done.
Note: If the stuffing doesn't all fit (depending on size of squash – mine fit) keep it warm and serve on the side.
Enjoy fall – and get stuffed!
This is my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging. To get the week's recap check out Once Upon a Feast.