Even though the fragile fruits and vegetables of summer are gone, the fall farmers' markets offerings tempt with their vibrant colors and hardy flavors. Squash are available in all shapes and sizes, a wide variety of apples fill baskets and barrels, eggplant, cauliflower, carrots and turnips inspire cool weather recipes.
One of my favorite fall recipes is "petits farcis," small squash, peppers, onions or tomatoes filled with a savory stuffing and baked. Petits farcis ( literally "little stuffed") is a typical Provencal dish of humble origins. Peasants and farmers filled their petits with leftovers to create a new main course.The petits can be stuffed with meat or vegetables, with or without rice and can be served hot or at room temperature. This is a very forgiving and easy to prepare dish.
6 small round zucchini squash (or 3 medium long zucchini, tailed, topped & halved)
1 lb good-quality sweet Italian sausage (or Italian-style turkey sausage)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/3 cup milk
3 TBS chopped parsley
1 TBS chopped thyme
1 TBS olive oil, more for drizzling
3 yellow or red peppers, halved (quarter if very large)
3 fresh tomatoes, ripe but not soft, halved (in season)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Carefully remove the tops of the zucchini cutting about 2” from the top. Reserve tops. Gently scoop out the flesh from the inside of the zucchini, leaving 1/2”- 3/4” of flesh on the sides, depending on the size of the zucchini. Reserve flesh for another use.(If you are using the long zucchini, scoop out the seeds and flesh leaving 1/2” to 3/4” on the sides). Salt the inside of the zucchini, turn over and drain on paper towels. Tear the bread into small pieces, cover with milk and allow to soak while you prepare the filling. In a sturdy fry pan (cast iron is best), sauté the onion and minced garlic until soft but not browned. Add the sausage and break into small pieces, continue to cook until cooked through and no pink remains. Allow to cool several minutes. Remove the bread from the milk and gently squeeze the bread to remove excess liquid. In a large bowl, add the sausage mixture, bread, parsley, thyme. Add the pepper and salt and mix to incorporate the ingredients with your hands. (The amount of salt will depend upon the sausage, start with 1/2 tsp and correct as needed). Fill each zucchini “shell” with the sausage mixture. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and replace the caps. Place the zucchini on a well oiled sheet pan, scatter pepper and tomato halves around the zucchini and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes until the zucchini are soft but not falling apart.
Petits farcis may be served warm or at room temperature. Petits farcis, served with the roasted vegetable, a green salad, crusty bread and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône make an excellent lunch or add some roasted chicken and call it dinner.