On the Balkans they LOVE stuffed veggies – from eggplants , tomatoes and onions, to vine leaves in the summer and fermented cabbage leaves in the winter.
Although there are some variations in the different parts of the region, the basic idea is the same – if you can carve it or roll it and put something in it – just do it. And it’s delicious every time – each veggie gives it’s distinctive flavour to the rice based filling and the filling itself can vary according to the product availability for the season. Such a richness in taste and substance!
For this vegan culinary endeavor to the Balkans, I have created a zucchini in basil tomato sauce recipe and replaced the traditional rice with quinoa, to make the meal gluten-free.
What you need for 2 people is:
2 large zucchini, they should be about 5 cm (2 inch) in diameter at the widest part
200 grams of white mushrooms, cut into slices
150 grams of quinoa (I have used red quinoa here, but white will be fine as well)
300 ml water
3-4 pieces of spring onions, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
a pinch of black pepper, paprika, cumin seeds and turmeric
For the basil tomato sauce
4 average tomatoes, peeled. If there aren’t any nice ones available, tomato passata is fine, just make sure it’s made of tomatoes, not corn flour
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
a handful of fresh basil leaves + some for decoration
ground black pepper to taste
Cut the zucchini into 5-7 cm (2-3 inches) cylinders. Use a teaspoon to carve them and make them like little cups and put aside for now. The sides should be 2-3 mm thick, but try not to crack them. I’ll call these”the zucchini cups”.
Put some olive oil (or other vegetable oil that you prefer) into a frying pan to heat it. Add the black pepper, the paprika, the turmeric and the cumin seeds into the cold oil and wait until tiny bubbles start to appear – now it is hot enough and the spices have released their magical flavours.
Add the mushrooms and mix well. Once they start to soften, in about 4-5 minutes, put the garlic and the spring onions in, cook for another minute and then add the quinoa. Mix well and pour the water in. Cover it and lower the heat – cook for approximately 20 minutes until the quinoa is tender.
In the meantime, you can prepare the basil tomato sauce – put all the ingredients into a large bowl and make it into a puree with a food processor. And that’s it.
Once your quinoa is ready, use the teaspoon to fill the zucchini, try to stuff them tightly. Put the zucchini cups in a baking tray and pour the basil tomato sauce around. Cover with aluminium foil and bake in a preheated oven (180 C/360 F) for 30 minutes.
Serve decorated with some basil leaves. Bon Appetit!
Vegan Is Good!