Stuffed vegetables from Provence
There are many variations on this recipe from southern France. Although the classic version uses pork in the form of sausage meat, or a combination of pork and beef, I usually simply use ground beef, which is more readily available.
In this version, I recommend using the small tomatoes known in France as cocktail tomatoes. Larger than cherry tomatoes, they are about 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) diameter — and work well in a dish that describes the stuffed veggies as small (petits). But if these are not available, use 2 regular tomatoes instead of 5 smaller ones.
As for the flavorings, go for the dried herbs sold in France as herbes de Provence if you can find them. This is a mixture of rosemary, thyme and a variety of other herbs such as marjoram, savory or basil. Or you can simply use fresh or dried thyme. Another common way of preparing this dish is to mix 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley into the meat. Or you can improvise with other fresh herbs, like cilantro, mint or basil, or add a dash of ground cumin or coriander for a more exotic flavor.
5 small tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 small eggplant
1/2 pound (250 g.) ground beef or pork
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp. herbes de Provence or thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
First, prepare the vegetables.
Slice off the ends of the zucchini and eggplant. Cut them in half vertically, then crosswise into pieces about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds to form a hollow in each piece. The idea is to create little ‘boats’ that will hold the stuffing.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (375 F, 190 C).
In a medium-size bowl, combine the ground meat with the minced garlic and shallot. Add the herbs, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together. Crack in the raw egg and mix again until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
Coat the bottom of a baking pan with about 1 tsp. of the olive oil. Arrange the stuffed vegetables in the pan. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for about 1 hour, or until the meat is browned and the veggies are tender. It’s tricky to get this balance right — you want the vegetables to be tender without overcooking the meat. So check occasionally while your farcis are cooking.
This dish is often served with rice on the side and accompanied by a chilled dry rosé. Serves 2-3.