Meats can be stuffed, but they can be used in stuffings as well. Anything with a natural hollow has been stuffed by somebody at some time, and you can make a hollow in almost anything - from cherry tomato to a watermelon - that does not have one. A meat stuffing is probably not appropriate for watermelon, but all members of the tomato family are excellent stuffed with meat. So are green peppers, eggplant, squashes of all kinds, mushrooms, onions and potatoes.
A delicious Hungarian dish is prepared by stuffing halves of large cucumber pickles with ground pork and veal; after stuffing, the pickle halves are tied together and braised. Stuffed hard cooked eggs are the most popular picnic fare. Pineapple halves, apples, figs, and other fruits can have meat or poultry stuffings. A new favorite is stuffed grape leaves. Pasta, both the tubular kind and the flat pieces that are rolled around a filling, and pancakes and bread cases and pastry turnovers - all these can be stuffed.
As for what meats and poultry to use, almost anything will do. A basic all meat stuffing could be similar to a meat loaf mixture - half beef, a quarter veal, a quarter pork. For those who do not eat pork, substitute one quarter lamb. Have the meats ground together to mix them well. Fresh sausage meat is another flavorful choice, alone or mixed with other ingredients. Ground beef and ground lamb can be used alone too.
For stuffings with a different texture, chicken livers, calf's brains and sweetbreads can be used, and veal kidneys, which are odorless in themselves and also odorless in cooking, are also good in stuffings.
Various cured meats and sausages are excellent for flavor, including salami, liverwurst, knackwurst, frankfurters, bacon, and corned beef. Potatoes, both white and sweet, can be mixed with meats to achieve a soft texture or to give a particular color to a stuffing.
All stuffings should be well flavored, since they will need to flavor their containers too, so spices and herbs can be added to the usual salt and cracked peppercorns used for other preparations.
To proceed with vegetables, prepare the hollow, either by removing the seeds and strings from natural hollows or scooping out the interior portions with a melon ball scoop. With peppers, it is important to trim out the little membranes and shake or rinse out all the seeds, because these parts are very peppery in flavor.
Onions and potatoes are usually cooked before stuffing - onions parboiled and potatoes most often fully baked. To make a hollow in a mushroom, you need only break out the stem. Do not peel vegetables for stuffing, because the skin helps hold them together. Be sure when scooping to leave enough of the vegetable all around to make a reasonably stable container, and do not cut slices from the bases or stuffing will leak out.
Very wet vegetables like tomatoes are usually improved by being drained upside down on a rack, so that excessive moisture will not make the stuffing mushy. Peppers to be stuffed and baked can be parboiled briefly - they can be tough skinned - if you like. The portions removed from the centers of most vegetables can be used for part of the stuffing. Chop or mince these bits, and drain them if they are very wet. Try to discard most of the tomato seeds, which can be bitter when cooked.
Stuff the cases, rounding the filling, and finish off in whatever way best suit's the recipe. Sprinkle with crumbs, crumbs and cheese, paprika or minced nuts, or dot with butter or oil, or cover with the top cut off the make the hollow. Sometimes it is a good idea to cover the vegetables with foil until they are partly cooked, then uncover to let the topping brown. Since these are flexible dishes and can cook for a short time in a hot oven or a longer time in a low oven, it is easy to accommodate them to other dishes that must be baked at a specific temperature.
When preparing a stuffing for vegetables, adjust your method to the vegetable you are working with. Tender, quickly cooked tomatoes should have stuffing that is nearly all cooked; the necessary baking time is so short that it serves only to blend flavors and heat everything.
With larger pieces, such as halves of eggplants, which might bake for 40 to 50 minutes, the stuffing will have longer to cook, but even with these it is best to cook the meat halfway or even three quarters done before mixing it into the other stuffing ingredients. Flavoring vegetables should usually be sauted briefly, not to be sure they are cooked, but to help release their special flavors at the outset so that everything will be tasty.
Not all stuffed vegetables must be baked. Some are excellent with cold stuffings. Chicken or veal salad in tomatoes is delicious. Other vegetables can be pouched until tender but still firm, chilled and stuffed with minced tongue, ham or steak tartar. Hard cooked eggs stuffed with minced poultry, chicken livers, pate, dried beef, deviled ham, all served cold, make good appetizer or luncheon dishes. Pineapple halves or quarters can be filled with cold mixtures of various meats, and they seem well suited to Oriental combinations of pork and shellfish, chicken and pork.
When stuffing vegetables, there is no right or wrong. Just use your imagination and mix food combinations that are pleasing to you.
A great over looked vegetable is the pumpkin. Find out how to stuff a small pumpkin for a delicious meal at Making Pumpkin Pot Pies.