Stuffed Vegetables Genovese Style (Ripieni all'Antica)
Makes about 3 dozen stuffed vegetable pieces
For the stuffing:
- 4 cups 1- inch cubes of day- old or dry country bread, crusts removed (about
- 4 thick slices)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 2 cups warm water
- 1 cup finely chopped scallions
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the vegetable assortment:
- 2 or more medium zucchini (6 inches long)
- 2 or more red or other colorful bell peppers
- 12 or more large white stuffing mushrooms
- 3 or more ripe small tomatoes
- 2 or more large Vidalia or other sweet, flat onions
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Butter for the baking dishes
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano- Reggiano
Step 1: To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, and pour the milk over them; toss the cubes, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid. When softened, gather and press the cubes together, squeezing out any excess milk, and return the moistened bread to the bowl, tearing it into shreds.
Step 2: Lift the re-hydrated porcini pieces from the soaking liquid, squeeze firmly (saving all the liquid), and chop them into fine bits.
Step 3: Scatter the chopped porcini, scallions, basil, grated cheese, and salt on top of the torn bread; toss and mix together with your hands.
Step 4: Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands to form a well- blended, fairly dense stuffing.
Step 5: To prepare zucchini for stuffing: Trim off the ends, and slice the squashes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the central pulp and any seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller, so each half resembles a hollowed boat. Cut the long halves crosswise into serving- sized pieces, about 3 inches long (or shorter if you like). To prepare bell peppers for stuffing: slice them lengthwise in half, starting at the stem, or in thirds if very large; trim away the stem and all seeds and fibers, forming cup like pieces.
Step 6: Pull out the stems of white mushrooms, leaving the hollow caps for stuffing.
Step 7: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds to make concavities for stuffing.
Step 8: Peel the onions, and cut them crosswise into ¾ inch- thick slices.9.
Step 9: When all the vegetables are prepped and all but the onions are hollowed, put the pieces (except the onion slices) in a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Brush some of the oil on the onion slices, keeping them whole.
Step 10: To stuff and bake the vegetables: Butter the baking dishes, arrange a rack (or two, if necessary) in the oven, and heat to 425 degrees.
Step 11: Fill each vegetable piece with about a tablespoon of stuffing. For zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, fill the cavities with stuffing and arrange all the pieces in a baking dish, with a bit of space between the pieces. Lay flat onion slices right in the dish, and mound a spoonful of stuffing on top of each
Step 12: When the dishes are filled, sprinkle all the vegetable pieces evenly with the grated cheese and remaining teaspoon salt. To faciliate even cooking, it's important not to crowd the vegetables in the baking dish. Scrape any olive oil left in the vegetable bowl over the stuff ed pieces, and pour half of the reserved porcini- soaking liquid (leaving behind any gritty residue) into the bottom of each baking dish.
Step 13: Cover each dish with a tent of foil, pressing it against the dish sides and making sure it doesn't touch the stuffing or tops of the vegetables.
Step 14: Bake 30 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften and release juices, then remove the foil tents and bake until stuffing is crisped and brown, another 30 minutes or so. Switch the position of the dishes in the oven once or twice so all the pieces cook and color evenly.
Step 15: Serve hot from the oven, or let the vegetables cool and serve warm or at room temperature.