Zucchini stuffed with lentils, tomatoes
This hearty dish is perfect for serving your family on a busy night. Once the vegetables are chopped, much of the preparation time is unattended. For presentation, serve on beds of wilted spinach seasoned with fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
1/3 cup brown lentils
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup water
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
6 medium (1 ½-inch diameter) zucchini
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon snipped fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon or ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper plus extra for zucchini and topping Salt to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup plain dried bread crumbs
Combine the lentils, wine, water, carrot, celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaf in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer over medium-high heat until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly oil an 8-by-10-inch baking pan. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add the zucchini and cook for 15 minutes, until just tender. Drain and cool slightly.
Trim the ends and slice each zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out about half of the inside of the zucchini, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell. Arrange the zucchini shells in the prepared pan and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
When the lentils are cooked, remove the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the Parmesan and bread crumbs.
Stir together the Parmesan, bread crumbs, and a dash of pepper in a small bowl.
Spread about 2 tablespoons of the lentil mixture into each zucchini half. Sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the zucchini are completely tender and the cheese is melted.
Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.