Niçoise-Style Stuffed Vegetables
(Farcis à la Niçoise)
Though purists prefer a different stuffing for each vegetable, this one is good for all.
3 small eggplants
6 small green bell peppers
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 small onions, peeled
3 small zucchini
3 medium tomatoes
1⁄4 lb. chopped lean salt pork
1⁄2 lb. ground lamb
3⁄4 cup cooked rice
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1⁄2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh thyme
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise; cut tops from peppers and seed. Place on an oiled baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake 30 minutes. Cool. Scoop pulp from eggplants, leaving about 1⁄2" shell; set pepper and eggplant shells aside. Chop pulp finely; set aside in a large bowl.
2. Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat. Add onions and zucchini and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
3. Halve onions crosswise; remove centers, leaving a shell of about 3 layers. Halve zucchini lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1⁄2" shell. Halve tomatoes crosswise; squeeze out and discard juice and seeds. Scoop out pulp. Finely chop onion, zucchini, and tomato centers and add to eggplant pulp.
4. Raise oven to 375°. Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large pan over low heat. Stir in vegetable pulp, salt pork, lamb, rice, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool slightly, then stir in eggs.
5. Fill vegetable shells (don't pack too tightly), top with cheese and bread crumbs, drizzle with remaining olive oil, and bake 30 minutes on an oiled baking sheet. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.