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Orzo-Stuffed Zucchini

It’s time for “Flashback Friday” when I feature a favorite post from the past.  This week, the spotlight is on Orzo-Stuffed Zucchini, dating from July 2009. It was at a farmer’s market that summer when I discovered these adorable little round zucchini.  They were between the size of a tennis ball and a baseball and I couldn’t wait to get them home to stuff them.  I sliced off the tops and scooped out the insides, leaving about 1/4-inch shell all around.  I cooked the shells in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, just to soften them slightly.
I knew the stuffing would have to feature tomatoes because I love the zucchini-tomato combination.  I then got the idea to give it a puttanesca-inspired twist.  I sautéed minced garlic in olive oil along with the chopped insides from the zucchini.  I added chopped tomatoes, olives, and capers, seasoned with salt, pepper, and basil.  I combined this fragrant mixture with some cooked orzo (the rice-sized pasta proved to be perfect for the stuffing) and a little chopped cooked chard that I had on hand to add some greens.  I then stuffed the mixture inside each zucchini and baked them for about 20 minutes. I served these little beauties on a bed of the orzo-puttanesca mixture and they tasted as good as they looked. I haven’t seen these round zucchini since that one fateful encounter, but I keep looking — maybe I’ll find some next year.
While I was going through the posts from the summer of 2009, I found another favorite flashback from that time — this trio of delicious vegetables: roasted diced sweet potatoes and beets flanking some steamed spinach. 
I thought it would be fun to give the spinach a similar appearance to the other cubed vegetables, so I shaped it into a narrow rectangle and used my chef’s knife to “dice” it. The resulting plate of vegetables looked almost too good to eat — and would be even better drizzled with some Lemon-Cashew Cream Sauce from Quick-Fix Vegan!

Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes with Baby Kale

The summer veggies in our garden have given way to the wonderful fall crops that we’re already beginning to pick. Rows of kale, chard, and endive are still at the “baby” stage — making them all the more tender to enjoy. We also planted Buttercrunch lettuce and Butternut squash — the only “butters” you’ll find in this house!

That first touch of autumn in the air makes me want to make warming fall-weather food, so I paged through Vegan Fire & Spice and found lots of recipes ideal for the cooler weather. I decided on the Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes because its colors remind me of autumn, it’s easy to make, and the flavor is wonderful. Just before serving, I added some of that tender baby kale from the garden (lightly steamed) and served it over brown basmati rice. Below is the recipe as I adapted it.

Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes
Recipe adapted from Vegan Fire and Spice by Robin Robertson © 2008, Vegan Heritage Press. For a variation, add a teaspoon or two of curry powder.

2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon cold-pressed canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth, or more as needed
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby kale, lightly steamed

Steam the sweet potatoes until just tender, about 20 minutes.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the water, reserved sweet potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until the mixture thickens and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
To thicken the liquid, blend about 1 cup of the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth, then stir it back into the saucepan. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the kale and serve over rice.
Serves 4