Transforming vegetables into majestic vessels for holding flavorful fillings is nothing new. Any vegetable that keeps its shape while cooking is a good candidate for stuffing.
The leek is a winter vegetable, inexpensive, sturdy and resistant. It will keep for several months, thus its association with ‘rustic’ food.
It has been said that the leek has a dual personality. Although, an unsung hero of the onion family, it has long been prized for its aromatic properties and considered an essential addition to stocks, soups and stews.
Stuffed vegetables appear as first courses, as main course accompaniments and as the main course itself.
In this recipe, the outer layers of the leeks form the ‘pasta’ here, whereas in the classic ‘cannelloni’ dish, pasta tubes are stuffed with various fillings and baked in a bechamel sauce. This recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish meal which leek tubes are filled with a beef mixture and baked in a cream sauce.
Leek 'Cannelloni' w/ Ground Beef & Cheese in Herb Sauce
Peel, wash & remove root end & unwanted green parts of leek. Cut crosswise into 10 cm - 4-inch long pieces. Simmer in salted water for about 5 minutes or until tender but NOT real soft. Remove from pan, reserving liquid; drain. Push center parts of leek out with fingers, making leek shells open on both ends. Set aside.
Add rice to reserved liquid from leeks & cook until just barely done, then pour it into a strainer & cool it down to room temperature. In a saucepan, fry chopped bacon; add ground beef, onions & garlic. Cook ONLY until meat is no longer pink. Remove from saucepan & drain on paper towels.
In a bowl, combine bacon, ground beef & onions, cooked rice, egg, parsley, paprika, salt, pepper & grated cheese. Spoon the mixture into the leek 'noodles'. Place the stuffed leeks standing upright in a casserole dish.
Herb Cream Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, heat butter; add chopped leeks & herbs & saute for a few minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute or until smooth & bubbly. Add milk, chicken broth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes or until sauce thickens. Season with salt & pepper. Pour over the leek noodles, sprinkle shredded cheese on top & bake for 30-40 minutes.
This meal is so nice served with mashed potatoes or bread sticks.
It seems the cauliflower craze has managed to last longer than just about any other that’s come before it. A total superstar when it comes to all the popular diets currently on everyone’s radar, including keto, paleo & whole 30. All signs point to cauliflower becoming the longest lasting food trend of all time.
Cauliflower ….. a naturally gluten-free food that just requires heavy seasoning, is healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Its an entirely blank canvas for all your cooking needs because you can make it taste like ‘anything’ you want.
Last summer, Brion & I stopped for lunch at a popular take-out restaurant. He decided to try their much advertised ‘plant-based burger’. He was not impressed. Let’s say … it was not as advertised!!
In a previous blog, a while back, I had made cauliflower pizza crust and we had really enjoyed it. So today I am making meatballs stuffed with cauliflower in a cauliflower cheese sauce. I guess, this is my version of a ‘plant-based meatball’. Hopefully that works out better.
Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs
In a large pot, cook head of cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the stem & cut off florets. Set STEM aside.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, with eggs, onion, garlic, mustard & spices. Mix well. Divide meat mixture into 7 equal amounts & flatten each piece in your hand (one at a time). Place a cauliflower floret in the middle of each, then seal the meat around it forming a meatball.
Wrap a slice of bacon around each cauliflower meatball. In a saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat & cook the meatballs on all sides.
Chop the reserved cauliflower stem. Shred cheese & place in a food processor with milk, seasonings & chopped cauliflower stem. Puree mixture until smooth.
Pour the cauliflower cheese sauce over the meatballs in the pan & allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted & smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.
Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.
Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.
Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.
Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.
This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.
In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.
I think sometimes there’s a slight misconception that the main focus of the meal can’t be made using vegetables. A humble vegetable can turn into a gourmet meal with just a little stuffing.
Onions are the ‘workhorses’ of the kitchen and the foundation of so many dishes across the globe. Sometimes its easy to forget how delicious they really are. We tend to under value anything we have perennial access to. As far as red, white and yellow onions, they are generally interchangeable.
Yellow are the driest, good for long cooking. Red onions are faintly sweeter, good for caramelization and when you need a boost in color. White onions are highest in water content and the mildest, good choice for a raw garnish. When it comes to stuffing onions, all three will work.
Because of their layered structure, onions are really easy to hollow out with a spoon. Just keep spooning until you have a good sized cavity. To make use of the onion pulp, I chopped it and then froze it for uses later on. I preferred to bake these stuffed onions but they can also be cooked on the BBQ as well. Great little sweet/savory summer meal!
Bacon Meatball Stuffed Onions
Cut off the tops & bottoms of the onions & remove the exterior skin. With a spoon, hollow out onions to within about 2-3 outer layers. Set aside. Chop onion pulp & freeze for other uses later.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, parsley, mushrooms, bread crumbs & all of the spices. Mix well with your hands. Preheat oven to 425 F. Stuff onions with meat mixture; wrap the onion meatballs with 3 strips of bacon each. Secure bacon with toothpicks to keep it from unraveling during cooking.
Place in a baking dish & bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven & serve with BBQ sauce. Onions can be cut in half to make 4 servings if you wish after baking them.
CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!
Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. More importantly this date celebrates the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.
On July 1st, from coast to coast, the country’s birthday is highlighted with colorful parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays.
Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event as summer entertaining is all about laid-back get together’s. Easy food prep is the name of the game!
For our Canada Day barbecue, it had to be special so here’s what developed—
Beef Burgers with Apricot/ Pistachio Chutney
In a skillet, saute shallots without browning. Add apricots, honey & apricot nectar. Simmer until liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool at room temperature, then stir in the pistachios & a dash of vinegar. Refrigerate.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers. Shape into 4 patties & refrigerate.
Preheat the barbecue to high & when the grill is hot, place patties on the grill & sear on both sides, making sure not to turn them too soon. When burgers are well marked & can be lifted off the grill easily, remove them to another part of the barbecue where the heat has been reduced & let them finish cooking undisturbed.
While burgers are finishing, brush mushroom caps with oil & grill on both sides until done. Set them aside. Turn off one of the burners, place the burgers on that part of the grill & top each with a slice of cheese. Close the lid for a few minutes & cook over indirect heat until cheese is melted.
Serve on warmed or toasted ciabatta buns. Top each burger with a mushroom cap, a generous spoonful of chutney & some cucumber slices.
You know the saying, ‘what’s old is new again‘ is one that seems to fit cauliflower. What used to be considered a boring vegetable, less colorful and less delicious than its cousin broccoli, is now an ‘it’ vegetable. I mean, its everywhere — cauliflower rice, pizza crust, roasted, in sandwiches, main entrees, etc. etc. The versatility of this humble veggie has boosted its popularity to become big business for growers and grocers.
Whole roasted cauliflower is an unusual presentation. Cauliflower’s inherent earthy sweetness becomes more pronounced as the moisture inside is drawn out.
January is always a good month to get creative with oven meals. I love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower with cheese sauce drizzled over it. Although, stuffing it with meat is not a new concept, I, myself have not made it this way. So today’s meal is a nicely seasoned ground beef filling baked inside of a whole cauliflower and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce. The result is real good!
Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower with Beef
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, tomato, egg, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sage, pepper & salt until well incorporated. Set aside.
Remove the whole stem from the cauliflower making sure to leave the head fully intact. In a large pot, boil cauliflower for 8-10 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the boiling water & place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes then carefully remove any remaining stem to make space for the filling.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill the head of cauliflower with ground beef mixture making sure to press the filling into the head. Place inverted head of cauliflower on a buttered, foil lined baking sheet; cover with another sheet of foil & bake about 30 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
In a saucepan, melt butter add flour, stirring until light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk & allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper & mix until fully incorporated & thickened.
Adjust heat to broil. Remove foil from stuffed cauliflower & cover with cheese sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Creating interesting, flavorful meals with the smallest number of ingredients and the least fuss, lets you explore new avenues. Using roasted red pepper puree can do just that. To give an example, spoon some puree on a plate, lay a piece of grilled chicken or fish on top. Next sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and you’ve got it — stunning and delicious!
Roasting red peppers not only makes them easy to peel but incredibly sweet and flavorful. When pureed, they give an amazing boost of flavor to whatever you choose to use them in.
I’ve always loved stuffed pasta shells, Brion probably not so much, but once in a while it works. Instead of using a pasta sauce in this version, I decided to go with the puree. Since a jar of roasted red peppers is a staple in my pantry, I’m doing a short cut idea. It actually worked out quite well.
Pasta Shells with Beef, Artichokes & Roasted Red Pepper
In a large stockpot, boil jumbo shells in salted water for about 15 minutes; drain & rinse under under cold water. While pasta is cooking, stir-fry ground beef & drain on a paper towels; set aside. Add oil & butter to saucepan & saute garlic, onions, mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped red peppers & sun-dried tomatoes; cook another 2-3 minutes.
Cool slightly, transfer to a food processor & process mixture ( you should still have some texture in the peppers when finished). Pour puree back into the skillet; add broth, spices & Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce, combine well. Add a small amount of sauce to ground beef; mix well.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread some sauce mixture over bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Inside of each pasta shell place a piece of drained artichoke; divide beef mixture between the shells.
Stand filled pasta shells, single file on top of sauce. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated parmigano-reggiano cheese. Cover with foil & bake about 35-40 minutes.