Every year, my parents keep a garden, and every year, they are nearly overrun by zucchini plants. It’s a common gardening dilemma – zucchini grow so quickly and so easily that too large of a crop is usually a more common issue than too small. Sure enough, when I visited my parents this past weekend, the mountains of zucchini adorning the countertops assured me that this year had ascribed to similar patterns. Since the holiday Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor's Porch has already passed, I turned to my kitchen.
I think every gardener has a go-to recipe to handle this inevitable overabundance of zucchini – my mother’s is a heavenly chocolate cake that my brothers and I could inhale in a single sitting as kids. The Chopping Block provides tasty recipe ideas in classes like “You Don’t Know Squash.” However, my current favorite zucchini recipe is stuffed zucchini, a delicious treat I only recently came to enjoy while travelling through the Middle East last spring. The recipe I loosely follow has a lot of flexibility and is based on what I remember from my travels and the suggestions of a few recipes I checked out online (most notably The Edible Mosaic’s recipe here).
I start by cutting off the zucchini ends to get rid of the stem and to create flat surfaces to stand the segments on and then cut them into 3” segments, using enough zucchini for about 15 segments. I core the segments using a zucchini corer, which is similar to the Jalapeno corer we sell at The Chopping Block, but just on a slightly larger scale. If you don’t have such a corer, a paring knife and spoon work well too. I try to maintain about a finger’s width of flesh remaining on all sides of the zucchini while I core to prevent the zucchini from getting slimy after they cook. The extra zucchini parts can be frozen and used later for bread or any other recipe requiring shredded zucchini.
I also make a tomato sauce to cook the zucchini in, which adds nice flavor and also offers a lot of flexibility. I sauté onion and add garlic, along with either several fresh tomatoes or water and tomato paste. Then I add a bay leaf, salt, pepper, parsley, and vegetable bouillon paste if I think it needs a little more flavor.
While the tomato mixture is coming to a boil, I make the stuffing for the hollowed zucchini, which is similar to a stuffed pepper filling:
- 1 lb raw lean ground beef or lamb
- 1.5 cups of uncooked long grain rice
- salt & pepper
- chili powder
There is no utensil better than your hands for stuffing, so get down and dirty with this. The zucchinis should be packed tightly, because they probably won’t all stand face up in the pot.
Bring the tomato sauce down to a simmer and put the zucchini in it. I don’t worry about whether or not the zucchini are standing upright in the pot, especially if the stuffing is packed tight. After covering and cooking for 45 minutes to an hour, check for doneness. Serve with some of the tomatoes spooned over top. Hopefully this recipe helps you wade through your own mountains of zucchini or inspires you to try something new with this vegetable.
What's your favorite way to use up an abundance of zucchini?