Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stuffed Zuccchini

During the era prior to the 'boomer' generation, most American families grew up with a garden in their backyards. Following WWI, however, when young job-seekers moved to the cities or one of the newly created, small-lot suburban spaces, gardens were deemed old-fashioned or not possible. It also seemed as if everyone wanted to distance themselves from the less modern past and they turned to corner grocery stores for their supply of fresh produce; it was a lot less work and the public was led to believe that all food was created equal!

When the move back to home gardening in the USA began in earnest following the Viet Nam War era, we were reintroduced to wonderful concepts of home gardening - freshness, vitamins, economy and variety. The gardening resurgence also produced an influx of more fruits and vegetables than most of us had ever seen or heard of. That 'boomer' gardening fashion-trend is still going strong some forty years later and, not surprisingly, it was and is 'big business'.

Leading the crusade to entice people to enjoy their own crops then and now, is the zucchini.

Zucchini is not only easy to grow, it will grow and produce all summer. Amazed first-time gardeners who tend to overplant, will push off their abundance to anyone and everyone and will find that their little club-sized fingers of goodness will have turned into giant bats overnight and then the question became, "What do I do with all this zucchini?"

Having been in this position myself, I developed a wonderful, easy way to use those giant zucchini bats...stuffed zucchini. It can be assembled ahead of time and even cooked in the microwave.

 
 
Stuffed Zucchini
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 Large zucchini
Olive oil
Cooked rice
Spaghetti sauce, with or without meat (Classico Spicy Tomato with Basil)
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Microwave directions are given below).
 
Wash and dry zucchini. Split in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the center, seedy pulp. With a paring knife, score the flesh and baste with olive oil. (Do not cut through the skin).
 
 

 

 
The size or quantity of the zucchini(s) will determine how much of the next ingredients to use.
 
Place rice in a bowl and add enough spaghetti sauce to make a flavorful, but not overly runny mixture. (If you do not have time to make your own sauce, the Classico brand listed above is wonderful and is available at Walmart).  Add real grated Parmesan cheese (to taste). I do not recommend the grated cheese powder from those green cans!  Mix evenly.
 
Using a spoon, fill the center cavity of each zucchini half, mounding the rice an inch or so above the actual zucchini. Place filled halves in a baking dish. (The dish may be covered and refrigerated at this point for use later in the day or even the next day). Add water to come halfway up the sides of the zucchini.
 

 
 

Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, bake 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle top of rice mixture with mozzarella cheese and put dish back in hot oven to allow cheese to melt.
 
Remove pan from oven and, using two forks, carefully lift each half to a cutting board. Allow the zucchini to sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Slice large sections and plate. This dish is wonderful with a lovely salad.
 
(I do not eat the skin, but scoop out soft layers of squash with each flavorful bite of savory rice).
 
Microwave: zucchini boats might have to be  cut in half crosswise to accommodate a smaller baking dish which will fit in a microwave.
 
The water is still added to the pan, but should not touch the exposed rice mixture ends if they were cut in half crosswise.
 
 Cover dish and microwave on high for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle each half with mozzarella cheese, recover dish and allow zucchini to sit while cheese melts. Uncover and lift out carefully to a cutting board. Zucchini will be very hot, allow to cool for 5 min. prior to serving.
 
More ideas: additions to the rice mixture - chopped pepper, sliced black olives, sliced green olives, slice mushrooms, chopped spinach, chopped Swiss chard, chopped sweet onion.