Tuesday, November 9, 2010

of horses and young men

Two very special guests came to my house last evening, their combined age under five. These two adorable toddler boys entertained us with their joyous curiosity and impeccable table manners.

The evening was partially devoted to watching the Breeders' Cup Classic horse race, where the superstar mare Zenyatta was to run her final race (against all male horses) as a retiring six year old after 19 starts undefeated. You go girl! (For an eloquent description of the race and its ramifications check out my husband's blog post)

The race was exhilarating and the finish an unbealiveable loss by a nose for our horsey princess. Oh well, back to visiting with friends and family and let's eat dinner already.
Having fed plenty of kids over the years, I was not stressed about making any special concessions to young palates other than a big batch of fresh applesauce to appease the picky and cranky (I'm talking about the adults now.) Fortunately there were big smiles all around!
In addition to wine, cheese and a bouquet of flowers, my house gifts included this magnificent cauliflower. What color!
Our theme for the evening, other than horses, was a continuation of my month-long fasination with France. We had some French wine (Les Amies Chanteuses, Cotes Du Rhone) and some French cheese  (Epoisses Berthaut) and I made a big batch of stuffed vegetables, a dish I first learned to make when I lived in the South of France many years ago. Our two young eaters set the example for the rest of us cleaning their plates so they could have ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.
 Zucchini is a classic vegetable for stuffing. It is easy to carve out the boat shape with a spoon.
 Fennel bulbs and onions cut into slabs with a well cut out of the center make a great vehicle for the stuffing.

Stuffed Vegetables
4 zucchinis- cut in half length wise
4 medium small onions ends trimmed and cut in half
1 large fennel bulb cut into 2 inch slabs
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic finely minced
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup grated parmasean cheese
1 egg beaten
3 Tbs. fresh herbs, chopped
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Heat oven to 400 degrees
Scoop out the center of the zucchinis and set the removed flesh aside. Arrange zucchini shells in a baking dish. With a sharp knife carve out a small well or depression into the onion halves and the fennel slabs, reserving the removed flesh and arranging the vegetables in the baking dish with the zucchini. Drizzle a Tbs. of the olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, until vegetables start to become tender.

Chop up the reserved vegetable flesh with the minced garlic till it is more or less a small dice. Add the brown rice and the egg and grated cheese and stir well to combine. Remove vegetables from oven and carefully spoon about 1 large tablespoon of filling into each vegetable shell (divide all the filling up between the vegetables, the zucchinis will hold more.) Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over everything and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Continue to bake vegetables for another 35-40 minutes till the onions and fennel are tender when piereced with a knife.
Serve immediately or at room temperature as part of a buffet.
serves 6-8

First, I am so impressed that the kids ate stuffed vegetables! Makes me wonder where I have gone wrong?! Possibly my son would try it - but definitely not my 5 year old daughter. That's wonderful that the boys are so "adventurous".

Deb - do the onions and fennel get stuffed as well, or do they get placed inside of the zucchini? The recipe sounds great! I like the idea of pairing a red with this dish. Especially to go with the parmesan flavors. I'm thinking of Sangiovese, the Italian grape variety most known for its contribution to Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, and super-Tuscan wines, to name a few.

A young, fresh Sangiovese will typically have fruity flavors reminscent of strawberries; but when aged in oak barrels will take on  spicy, oaky characteristics. Sangiovese can produce light wines, so often other varietals will be employed to give the wine more body and structure. In other instances, extensive oak treatment will be used to achieve the same results.

For Deb's dish, a Rosso di Montalcino would work well. Hailing from Tuscany, this "baby Brunello" is made from 100% Sangiovese, and is typically lighter and fresher than a Brunello. And a lot more affordable.  It is grown in the same delineated area as Brunello di Montalcino, but the wine does not have to be aged as long as Brunello. A good Rosso can be found in the $15-$20 price range.


  1. Yes, absolutely stuff the onions and fennel. That is why you carve out a small well in each one, to hold the stuffing. I see that was not clear in the recipe, thanks for pointing it out.
    If we were to continue the French theme from dinner to the wine, which French wine would you recommend Amanda?

  2. I think a fresh, fruity Cotes du Rhone would be delicious with this dish! Either way, I would stick with a wine that is not too big or powerful, as that would be too overwhelming. I have been cooking on Sundays lately. I cook something that I can eat all week. I think this just might be this Sunday's project. And who knows - with any luck I might get the kids to try it!

  3. what will you do with the purple cauliflower?

  4. I am trying to think of something dramatic to do with the cauliflower. I can't believe how it holds its color when cooked! Next post is all about it!

  5. Deb, the Époisses with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was an unexpectedly amazing pairing. Forgot to mention it at the time (too excited watching the horseys), but this seems like a good forum to say it now. Do drink pale ale with stinky cheese!

  6. As for Epoisses - the ale sounds delicious. Epoisses happens to be on my top 5 list of best things I've ever tasted. Unbelievable. I did a wine and cheese pairing and paired the Epoisses with Gewurztraminer - outrageously delicious. Couldn't be a more perfect match.


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