A common denominator to all people who live around the Eastern Mediterranean: They love to stuff their veggies!
In Lebanese cuisine, they are stuffed in two major ways: One includes meat and is served hot; the other is meatless and is served at room temperature.
The vegan variety of stuffed veggies is used a lot for fasting days, but also for mezzes, when folks will congregate over fifties or so little plates of titbits, drink some arak, and discuss all topics under the sun for hours on end.
I was checking Peter‘s recipe to see how the Greeks differ in stuffing ingredients; well, it is fairly similar except we like to add lemon juice in our cooking broth. The veggies come out tasting lemony and silky smooth (from the olive oil).
Here is yet another opportunity to add a dash of pomegranate molasses in the broth if you have some.
Keep in mind that this dish is mild-tasting and can easily become bland, so if you like a certain spice, go for it! I tried using cilantro and dill this time instead of the usual parsley and I loved it. Pine nuts are de rigueur, but any other nut will do, even pistachios, why not!
- 1 pound of assorted veggies (could be baby eggplants, calabasa squash, yellow squash, small peppers, onions or carrots)
- 3/4 cup of rice (sushi or Egyptian or Turkish or arborio)
- 1 small onion (about 6 ounces)
- 1 cup of finely chopped herbs (I used dill and cilantro)
- 2 cups of finely diced tomatoes
- 1 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of lemon juice
- 3 large tomatoes or potatoes to line the pot
- 1 Tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (optional)
- salt, to taste, 1/2 tablespoon of seven-spice or allspice and cinnamon combined
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts
- The best veggies for this dish are the tiny, baby ones: Baby eggplants and small calabasa squash are sold at Middle-Eastern groceries, but if not, just use regular ones and cut them up to fit, using the extra for an omelette or fritters. Core the veggies with a corer or a grapefruit spoon. Reserve the flesh inside to cook later and use for fritters or just eat on the side with a pat of butter or olive oil.
- Mix in a bowl: Rice, herbs, tomatoes,pine nuts, onion (chopped fine), spices, and lemon juice and olive oil. Add the molasses at this point too. Stuff the veggies leaving a little space on top for the rice to expand. Set aside all the leftover juice to use later.
- Line a pot large enough to hold all veggies in one layer with thick slices of potatoes or tomatoes. Dispose the veggies on the potatoes or tomatoes. Take a small plate and place it directly on top of the veggies. This is to hold them in place while they are cooking. Now gently pour the remaining lemon and olive oil juice on the veggies, adding extra water to come almost to the top.
- Cover the pot and place over medium heat. When the broth starts boiling, reduce the heat and let the pot simmers very slowly for one hour. Remove the cover and test by tasting some rice; turn off the heat when ready and let the veggies cool.
- To serve, place the veggies on a platter and spoon the sauce all around if desired.
NOTE: Traditionally, the flesh of the veggies is used for fritters either served at the same meal or the next meal as an appetizer. To get a recipe for fritters click here.
If using carrots, it is a good idea to parboil them to soften them so that coring is a doable job.