The earliest documentary evidence notes that stuffing in cooking referred to stuffing animals like chicken, dormouse, hare, and pig. Nowadays, being more preoccupied with eating healthy and reducing the meat consumption, we turn to stuffed vegetables as well. And fortunately, fall offers us so many vegetables good for stuffing.
Fall smells like chrysanthemums, cool air, and sometimes like rimed leaves. But in the kitchen, fall smells like homemade plum jam and stuffed vegetables.
I can’t forget the huge baskets with red bell peppers, eggplant, and squash my family harvested every fall. We used some of the vegetables for making supplies, eighter canning or freezing them for the winter ahead. But, since we had fresh vegetables good for stuffing right in our garden, we also used them often with different types of fillings.
If you want to take advantage of the freshness of the fall vegetables, stuffing is one of your smartest choice this season. Not only that you'll have hearty and nutritious meals on the table, but they will be pretty easy to prepare too, since the oven will do much of the job. You just have to decide on what kind of filling to choose from! Ready to heat up your oven?
8 vegetables good for stuffing
When you think of fall vegetables good for stuffing, I think the most representative one is the squash - either butternut squash, pattypan squash, or golden nugget squash or any squash you find at the market. It’s preferable to use the smaller ones. Squash has a firm outer shell with a scoop-friendly inside, which makes it perfect for stuffing. Unlike other vegetables good for stuffing, the squash shell acts as an actual serving bowl.
Just halve the squash, stuff each half with a meat or vegetarian mixture, roast them according to your recipe, then serve straight from the shell, scooping out the stuffing and butternut squash flesh.
As a stuffing, you can choose from any ground meat. Combine it with any chopped vegetables, like onion, carrots, bell peppers, mashed potatoes, but also with mushrooms, legumes, or cereals: rice, quinoa, couscous, or even hemp seeds.
2. Cabbage and grape leaves
Cabbage and grape leaves are perfect for making rolls. Stuff the cabbage leaves with a mixture made with minced meat, rice, and diced veggies or just tomato sauce and spices. If you want a vegetarian dish, you can replace the meat with mushrooms or walnuts. You can add to the same cooking pot some chopped cabbage. The rolls will be the ‘main’, and the cooked chopped cabbage, the “side”.
In the same way, you can stuff grape leaves. Meat and rice mixture wrapped in rolled grape leaves are a favorite dish in Greece. If you can, use fresh grape leaves, because they are more tender and flavorful than the jarred types. If you can’t find, use jarred leaves, which are preserved in a salty liquid.
Green bell pepper, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, jalapeno, poblanos - any pepper that has a hollow inside seem to ask for a good stuffing. Bell peppers are the most frequently used in stuffing because they ‘stand’ when placed into the cooking pot.
Stuff them with turkey or chicken meat, for a lighter dish. But you can also use pork or beef. You can also make a vegetarian stuffing, by cooking anything from onions, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower garlic, rice, quinoa, and herbs, to eggs and cheese.
Depending on your recipe, you can cook the stuffing mixture before adding it to your peppers or you can cook everything together from the beginning. In both cases, you should slice off the tops of each bell pepper, cleaning them out, and then adding the stuffing. You can follow a recipe or improvise. It’s up to you!
Even if there is a long talk either mushrooms are or not vegetables, we’ll skip this part today. Just think about them as vegetables good for stuffing. Choose white button mushroom, crimini, portobello, or shiitake, because their caps hold well the stuffing. You can try a mixture made of anything you choose from spinach, pesto, fried bacon, feta cheese, chopped nuts, onion, tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, fresh herbs, and top them with parmesan and breadcrumbs. If you choose large portobello mushrooms, you can crack an egg into the mushroom and cook it that way. Stuffed mushrooms can be cooked in the oven or on the grill and they make a delicious appetizer.
5. Potatoes and sweet potatoes
There is not much that potatoes can’t do well. Stuffing is just another magic you can do with them. Wash and pat dry the potatoes, prick them with a fork a couple of times and bake them skin-on. When ready, they should be tender in the middle. Then, cut them in halves, scoop out some of their flesh, and stuff them with your favorite toppings. You can try tuna, cooked chicken breast, avocado, cooked beans or veggies, cheese, spinach, and bacon. And any other ingredient that you like.
Use the same method for sweet potatoes, with the mention that they bake faster than the regular potatoes. You can also cut them in halves before placing them into the oven. Choose ingredients with a savory or mild flavor for stuffing your sweet potatoes, because their taste is really strong. Then, opt for a refreshing sauce when serving.
Stuffed eggplants are a dish typical to many Arab countries - in Iran, they’re called Karni Yarikh and in Turkey: Patlıcan dolması. The Italians have them too and they are called: Melanzane ripiene. Usually, halved eggplants are stuffed with a mixture of meat and rice or bulgur, onion, tomato paste, and different spices.
But you can totally stuff them with vegetarian ingredients (legumes, veggies, grains), and top them with cheese. In fact, the vegetarian Turkish variety is called Imam Bayildi.
Make sure you scoop out some of their flesh – before or after baking them – to make room for the stuffing.
There are tomato types developed specifically for stuffing. They’re called stuffer tomatoes, but you can also use globe tomatoes. Fill them with cooked grains, vegetables, cooked meat, and make them a ‘crust’ by melting mozzarella or a mixture of parmesan and panko on their top. Tomatoes cook quickly so you should cook the stuffing mixture before adding it to the tomatoes, then cook everything into the oven or on the stove.
You can stuff zucchini two ways. Either cut boats out of them (by slicing it half lengthwise), or remove the very top of the zucchini, then cut each zucchini in half to make shorter zucchini for stuffing. Any option you choose, you have to hollow out the zucchini halves to make room for the stuffing.
As for the stuffing mixture, choose from any of the above. If you want, you can cook stuffed zucchini in the same pot with stuffed tomatoes, as they cook in about the same time.
Stuffing is a simple way to turn a humble vegetable into a complete, filling meal. The best thing about this method of cooking is that you can easily adapt your recipe to the ingredients you have on hand. Then, the only thing you’ll need to set up an amazing dinner is an appropriate sauce.