Monday, 14 October 2013

Stuff (ing) and Nonsense

Verdure Miste al Vapore & Gratinate
Mixed Steamed & Baked Vegetables (Pattypan Squash, Peppers & Beans)

Oh, they always catch my eye, the pretty, little pattypan squashes- and I know that they just taste like yellow zucchini... but they are just so much more fun, aren't they? ;-) And basically, there is no benefit at all to buying these little things- if you chop them up, you never will have known what they were in the first place and if you don't, they are just a little... strange to have as a side dish as such. 

So I came up with the idea of giving them a little herb and bread crumb "stuffing", with amongst a few other herbs, a little sage, some onion and just a little cheese. Just enough to make them more satisfying to eat and complex in flavor and to turn them into a little vegetarian meal in themselves. Well- not quite, I will admit. But with a couple of other vegetables they were! And quite a treat at that!

The thing was, that I got home a little late this evening, that I was hungry and that I didn't want to spend ages in the kitchen or waiting for the vegetables to bake in the oven... so I decided to cut a corner or two and to improvise... my favorite thing in the world to do!

What I did was to steam the vegetables first for a few minutes- 5 minutes of steam will do a whole lot more when it comes to cooking vegetables that 20 minutes in the oven. So I cut a red, pointy pepper into quarters, removing the seeds and sinews inside, chopped up a handful of runner beans into bite-sized pieces and cut the tops off of the squash. I then scooped a little of the flesh out of the squash and set it to one side and then put all of the vegetables onto a steam rack, popped them into a saucepan with a little boiling water and let them steam whilst I prepared the stuffing.

To make the stuffing I chopped up the remaining insides of the squash, a small onion, 3-4 sage leaves, and a little parsley, rosemary and thyme. Oh, yes and of course I grated a little Parmesan cheese, both for the filling, but also to sprinkle on top. That was all that needed to be done in preparation... the rest would be very quick and easy!

After 5 minutes, I took the vegetables out of the steamer and incredibly enough, quite an amount of juices from the vegetables had dripped into the water I had at the bottom of the saucepan to steam them. Hmmm... not wanting to put that completely to waste, I save about a cupful of the broth into which I added the chopped onion. I little this bubble away for a minute or two and in the meantime turned on the oven to warm up- at full power!

After a couple of minutes, the onion was soft and I took it off the heat. I added a drizzle of olive oil, then all of the finely chopped spices and 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs. I stirred this all together and it soon blended and became a smooth paste, which I then allowed to cool for a couple of minutes, whilst I seasoned it with salt, pepper and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg.

As soon as the bread crumb had cooled off a little, I added half of the grated cheese, being careful not to add too much- I wanted the topping to be slightly crispy and not gooey! 

I then carefully spooned the mixture into the peppers and the squash and arranged them nicely on my baking dish... which is obviously not an absolute requirement- but you know... you only get out what you put in! Next came a light drizzle of olive oil over everything and a generous grind of pepper... and away it went into the hot, hot, hot oven for 5-10 minutes until the crumbs became golden brown on top, the cheese melted and began to crisp-up a little and the vegetables simply came back up to temperature... easy!

A nice, little vegetarian supper for me (or you!), but this would also make a nice side dish, appetizer or party snack... but whichever way you look at it, it is pretty quick, pretty pretty- and rather delicious! What's not to like?

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