Dining, Entertaining & Celebrations

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Indian cuisine with a little less kick

Indian cuisine is known the world over for its flavorful and often spicy dishes. But not every Indian dish is overwhelmingly spicy. For those who want the flavor but not necessarily the kick of Indian cuisine, this mildly spicy recipe for "Vegetables With a Minty Lamb and Rice Stuffing" from Ruta Kahate's "5 Spices, 50 Dishes" (Chronicle Books) is sure to please.

Vegetables With a Minty Lamb and Rice Stuffing

Serves 4 to 6

Stuffing

1/2    cup basmati rice, soaked in water for 1 hour

8    ounces lean ground lamb

2    tablespoons minced mint leaves

1    tablespoon minced cilantro leaves

1    tablespoon lime juice

1    teaspoon finely grated garlic (about 2 large cloves)

1    teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (about 2-inch piece)

11/2    teaspoons salt

1    teaspoon canola oil

1    teaspoon sugar

1/2    teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2    teaspoon cumin seeds, finely ground

Vegetables

1    large green zucchini

2    small, firm slightly unripe tomatoes

2    small red bell peppers

2    small Indian, Italian or Japanese eggplants

Dressing

1/2    cup water

2    tablespoons canola oil

2    tablespoons lime juice

1    teaspoon sugar

1/2    teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

To make the stuffing: Drain the rice and mix it with the lamb, mint, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, ginger, salt, oil, sugar, turmeric, and cumin. Use your fingers to break up the lamb and thoroughly mix everything together.

To prepare the vegetables: All the vegetables should be at room temperature. Slice off the ends of cut the zucchini horizontally into pieces about 3 inches long. With a thin, sharp paring knife, carefully core each piece all the way through, making a thin-walled, hollow pipe. Carefully take the tops off the tomatoes and bell peppers. Discard the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes. Cut out the seeds and white membrane from the peppers. Retain the stems of the eggplant and make an "X" on the bottom end of each by cutting two lengthwise intersecting lines without slicing all the way through to the stem end.

To make the dressing: Whisk together the water, oil, lime juice, sugar, and salt.

Carefully stuff each vegetable only 3/4 full with the stuffing, as the rice will expand when cooked. Place the vegetables in a single layer in a large, lightly oiled baking dish. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the vegetables, taking care to see that an inordinate amount does not fall into the tomatoes and bell peppers. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil and bake, covered, until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover the dish and place it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown just the edges of the vegetables. Serve warm.