Here is a great main course, which everyone here remembers from their childhood dinner table, with versions from all around the Mediterranean. It's also scalable from four to 10 and more portions with just an extra few minutes of preparation time, which makes it perfect for dinner with guests.
Perfect Summer Stuffed Vegetables [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
For the Vegetables:
- 2 bell peppers with a wide bottom
- 2 firm tomatoes
- 2 medium zucchinis
For the Stuffing:
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 3 small heads of garlic
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 medium onion
- Leaves of 1 mint stem
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon Baharat (optional - see notes)
- Olive oil
For the Sauce:
- 1 3/4 cups tomato pulp
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- Hot pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- Olive oil
To Make the Vegetables:
- Cut the tops of the bell peppers, tomatoes and zucchinis, and gently scoop out their flesh and seeds.
To Prepare the Garlic:
- Put the heads of garlic in the oven and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 350°F.
- When the tops of the garlic heads get slightly brown take them out of the oven and put aside to cool.
- When they can be handled, cut the bottom of each head with a sharp knife.
- Now hold the top of each head in both hands and squeeze. The cloves will come out soft, sweet and with a wonderful aroma.
To Make the Stuffing:
- Chop the onion and fry it.
- Add the rice, salt and pepper, and stir until all the rice is covered with oil.
- Add 2 cups of boiling water, stir and bring to a boil.
- Cover, turn down the heat to lowest, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and keep cover on for 10 more minutes.
- Take the cover off and stir.
- Move the rice to a bowl and let it cool for a while.
- Chop an onion and add it to the cooked rice.
- Add the baked garlic, pepper, salt, paprika, cumin and Baharat.
- Chop the parsley, cilantro, and mint and add them to the bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir.
- The stuffing is ready, put it aside to rest.
To Make the Sauce:
- Chop the onion, garlic, and hot pepper.
- Fry the onion.
- When it starts to get brown at the edges add salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, hot pepper, and tomato paste.
- Stir and fry for 1 more minute.
- Add the tomato pulp and the brown sugar and stir.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for 25 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of boiling water and stir.
To Put Everything Together:
- Stuff the vegetables, remember that as it cooks the stuffing will grow, so if you stuff it like i do, it's going to overflow.
- Arrange them in the sauce facing up.
- Bring to a boil.
- Cover and turn heat down to lowest.
- Cook for 45 minutes.
- Open once or twice to pour sauce on top of stuffing.
- Serve with a generous portion of red sauce on top.
You can purchase Baharat at a Middle Eastern grocery store, make your own, or purchase it online.