Stuffed vegetables: A beloved Jewish tradition


Naomi Ross

It speaks of overflowing bounty in the holiday season.

The Jewish year and lifecycle, especially Shabbat and yom tov, are a huge part of what keeps us busy in the kitchen as Jewish home cooks. We also strive to reach out to those in need to make them feel cared for, and there is no better way to do that than through home-cooked dishes. Whether we are supporting new mothers, comforting mourners or visiting the infirm, food cooked with love has the potential to nourish both body and soul.

In my husband’s family, holopches (aka stuffed cabbage) has been dutifully prepared for five generations. An iconic Ashkenazi dish served on Sukkot representing God’s overflowing bounty at harvest time, the love for serving stuffed foods runs deep throughout the Jewish diaspora, transcending dishes and countries. From Syrian mehshi — stuffing everything from eggplant to onions — to Greek dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), these dishes are the work of loving, patient hands. The fillings stretch ingredients to feed more, to give more … and maybe that invites blessings, too.

Quinoa-Stuffed Roasted
Tomatoes (Pareve)
Serves 8

I’ve tried this recipe with many different types of tomatoes, but Campari tomatoes were the best choice by far. Known for their superior texture, and distinct acid and sugar balance, their size is also perfect for stuffing. They’re larger than cherry tomatoes, but smaller and rounder than plum tomatoes.

16 to 20 small Campari tomatoes
3 Tbsps. olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 large onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
1½ tsps. kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ tsp. turmeric
1 cup raw quinoa (pre-rinsed)
¼ to 1/3 cup dried currants
¼ cup chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnishing
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnishing

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Slice off the tops of tomatoes; set tops aside. Scoop out the insides of the tomatoes; be careful to leave shells intact for stuffing (a melon-baller does a good job of this without breaking the tomato).

Coarsely chop the “guts,” reserving 3 cups’ worth, including juices; set aside (you may need to supplement with extra chopped tomatoes if reserved amount is insufficient). Invert tomatoes over a rack or in a colander; set aside to allow tomatoes to drain excess liquid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add onion; sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, salt, pepper and turmeric. Sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add quinoa and stir to blend, toasting for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add reserved chopped tomatoes and currants; mix to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low; simmer for about 20 to 22 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa’s outside germ ring is visible.

Remove from heat. Gently stir in chopped herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Spoon mixture into reserved tomato “shells.” Place each stuffed tomato in the prepared casserole dish. Cover each tomato with a reserved tomato top.

Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes. Do not overcook or tomatoes will split open.

Salmon-Stuffed Avocados (Pareve)
6-8 servings, 25-30 hors d’oeuvres

Chock full of protein, this versatile salad can be served as an elegant appetizer stuffed in an avocado shell or as a bold hors d’oeuvre for entertaining. Best made the same day but can be made a day ahead. (I call leftovers as fixings on toast!)

If stuffing, you’ll need additional avocado shells (from another 1 to 2 avocados) for your plating needs. If so, factor this into your general menu planning and include another avocado-based dish on your menu.

2 ripe avocados
1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini white beans, drained and rinsed
2 plum tomatoes, diced
8 ounces cooked fresh salmon, flaked
⅓ cup red onion, minced (about ½ medium red onion)
juice of 1 large lemon or more to taste
juice of 1 large lime or more to taste
¾ tsp. kosher salt or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
mixed greens, for serving (if using for stuffed avocado)
jicama, peeled, sliced and cut into cracker-sized slices (if using for hors d’oeuvres)toasted sesame seeds, parsley or cilantro sprigs, for garnishing

Cut avocados in half lengthwise and remove pit. Using a large metal spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh from each avocado half, being careful not to rip the shell. Dice the scooped avocado flesh (and reserve shells for later if using for stuffing).

Combine avocados and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, mixing until well-combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and additional lemon or lime juice, if necessary. (If not serving immediately, refrigerate in tightly covered container with reserved avocado pits to preserve the bright-green color.)

For stuffed avocados: Fill each empty avocado shell with avocado mixture served on a bed of mixed greens. To make hors d’oeuvres: top jicama slices with a tablespoon of the mixture.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds or with a sprig of parsley or cilantro.

From “The Giving Kitchen: Healing the World One Meal at a Time,” by Naomi Ross, culinary director of Apron Masters Kitchen. It is expected out in time for Chanukah.


Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here