By Ellise Pierce, Cowgirl Chef
One of the things I love about cooking in France is the enormous variety of cute little dishes to bake, roast, and serve things in. Luckily, there’s another traditional way of serving things here that’s much easier on the wallet. I’m talking about legumes farcis, or stuffed veggies. They’re not only as cute as a little Staub cocotte, but you can also eat what they’re served in, which you certainly wouldn’t want to do with cast-iron. My neighborhood butcher proudly displays already-stuffed red bell peppers and sells the stuffing for DIYers— veal, pork, or a mixture of the two—but I prefer to make up my own concoction. I love the idea of stuffing veggies with veggies. I particularly like them stuffed with this meatless, cheesy mushroom mixture full of fresh herbs. They look great on a plate, and if there are leftovers, they’re already in their own edible containers.
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 pound of mushrooms, diced (stems included)
Sea salt and pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 round (or regular) zucchini
About 2 tablespoons of diced red bell pepper
¾ cup of fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the top
About 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
About 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh basil
About 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh chives
About 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Put 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter into your largest skillet and turn the heat to medium. Once this melts and the skillet is hot, add as many mushrooms as you can without crowding them (leaving space around the mushrooms allows them to brown; otherwise they’ll knock into each other, sweat too much, and become watery)—you’ll probably need to do this in batches. Be sure to add a pinch of salt and pepper as you go. Once the mushrooms are cooked, put them in bowl to cool off, then wipe out your skillet with a paper towel.
If you’re using round zucchini, simply slice off the tops; if you’re using a regular, long zucchini, carefully slice off the top third (the long way), leaving the stem intact. Scoop out the flesh, and roughly chop this up. Put your hollowed-out zucchinis on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil into your skillet, add the shallots, and turn the heat to medium-low. Let this cook until the shallots are translucent, just a few minutes, then add the chopped zucchini and red bell pepper. Stir until this is cooked through—the zucchini will be your guide, turning opaque—then put this in a separate bowl to cool.
Mix up your breadcrumbs, Parmesan, fresh herbs and a big pinch of salt and pepper; then add the cooled mushrooms, zucchini and red bell pepper. Stuff your zucchini, add a bit more grated Parmesan, and slide into the oven for 45 minutes or until the tops are brown and crispy. Serve right away.
Advance Planning: Assemble the stuffed zucchini in the morning, and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake them for dinner.
Swap It: Don’t stop at zucchini. Stuff your tomatoes, red bell peppers, eggplant, and anything else you can think of.
Recipe reprinted with permission from COWFIRL CHEF: TEXAS COOKING WITH A FRENCH ACCENT © 2013 Ellise Pierce, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group