Summer Squash Stuffed with Cherries, Rice and Pecans

Adding fruit to savory dishes is one of my favourite ways to use them; they add a pleasant sweetness, which plays well with the neutral taste of summer squash. The stuffing mixture also works well in peppers and eggplants, or on its own as a salad (sautéing the leeks first).

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Summer Squash Stuffed with Cherries, Rice, and Pecans

1 cup brown/wild rice mix
2 large summer squash or zucchini (about 1 foot long)
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1 cup pitted cherries, chopped
2/3 cup chopped leek greens
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
Fine sea or Himalayan salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Make rice according to package directions. You can do this step in advance.

Meanwhile, using a melon baller, hollow out summer squash or zucchini. Reserve innards for another use (like the Fruit-Infused Ratatouille). Place squash or zucchini on a baking sheet.

When rice is finished, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the pecans, cherries, leeks, and thyme with the rice, adding salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the mixture into the squash and zucchini.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash and zucchini are soft, leeks are tender, and the cherries begin to omit juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Jalapeños Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

The roasted garlic in the hummus creates a sultry, mellow flavour, rich in taste without the pungent kick of raw garlic, and can be made a few days in advance to make day-of assembly a breeze.

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JALAPENOS STUFFED WITH ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS

Roasted Garlic Hummus
1 large head of garlic
1 (14 oz./398 mL) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons roasted tahini
1/4 cup warm water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

To Assemble
About 20 jalapenos, cut in half, length-wise and seeded
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

To make the hummus, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Cut off the very top of the garlic bulb so just the tops of most of the cloves are exposed. Wrap securely in aluminum foil and place in oven to roast for one hour. Remove and let cool.

Using your fingers, squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except for cilantro and jalapenos. If not completely smooth, add a dash or two of water until smooth consistency is reached. Test for seasoning. Refrigerate overnight if desired.

When ready to stuff the jalapenos, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spoon hummus in each jalapeno half, filling the crevasses, and transfer on a baking sheet. Depending on the size of the jalapenos, you might have some left over (eat it within a few days).

Bake the stuffed jalapenos  for 17 to 20 minutes, until jalapenos are tender but still slightly firm. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Stuffed Shells with Roasted Vegetables and Creamy Dill Sauce

Roasting the vegetables adds a smoky flavour to whole grain stuffed shells with a new twist. The creamy sauce is deceptively rich, infused with garlic and fresh dill.

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Stuffed Shells with Roasted Vegetables and Creamy Dill Sauce

1 (227g/8 oz) package of jumbo pasta shells (I recommend Tinkyada)

For the roasted vegetables:
2 leeks, washed thoroughly and chopped into 1-cm cubes (just the whites)
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1-cm cubes
3 medium carrots, chopped into 1-cm cubes
1 large red bell pepper, chopped into 1-cm cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, minced (just the whites)
3 tablespoons arrowroot flour
2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain well.

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C).Toss all chopped vegetables, except for peas, with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Lower temperature to 375°F (190°C).

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and scallions, stirring for about one minute, until fragrant. Add the arrowroot, whisking quickly, adding nondairy milk, a little at a time, to keep it smooth. After a few splashes, it should be a thick paste. Add the rest of the milk, continuing to whisk. Bring to medium heat, whisking frequently, allowing to cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in dill.

Once vegetables are finished, spread a bit of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Arrange noodles, stuffing each with about two tablespoons (30 ml) of filling. Top with additional sauce.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before serving.