A vegetarian stuffed zucchini dish that's quick and easy for summer weeknight cooking.
Let’s face it, most travel plans for the near future are not happening. Instead, we are spending more time closer to home. Sadly, we are missing out on all kinds of experiences in the process. Take my honeymoon plans to the Mediterranean, for instance. Americans are currently not welcome in Europe, so it’s not looking too promising for our October getaway.
you can get to know the world through cooking
But just because we can’t travel to the places we’d like to visit, doesn’t mean we can’t get to know them from home. By cooking its food in our own kitchens, we can learn and experience the world, to some small degree. It’s not nearly the same as visiting somewhere in person and no, our home-cooked versions won’t taste quite the same. Yet we need to find ways to make the best of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year however we can.
With all that is going on, I haven’t had much motivation to cook in weeks. But I’m realizing that I can sit around, engulf myself in the daily news and feel depressed, or I can continue to learn and grow, even if that is done through food. Now more than ever, we need to take the time to better understand each other and I’ve always considered food to be a means of doing so.
That’s why I’m focusing on sharing recipes inspired by destinations and cultures I’d like to visit and get to know better. (And probably a few I’ve already visited, as well.) In the process, I’ll incorporate fresh ingredients from my garden and foods from our wonderful local farms here in Vermont.
there's always something you can make with zucchini
That said, I had to consider zucchini no matter where in the world I looked for inspiration this week. It’s the time of year when we pick a zucchini or two out of the garden each day. I know, zucchini sounds kind of boring. And where, exactly does zucchini even come from? It’s prevalence in our home gardens and farmers markets might make you think it’s a purely American vegetable. But that’s not the whole story.
Zucchini, like other varieties in the squash family, traces back to the Americas from hundreds of years ago. Though the zucchini that we know today originated in Italy in the 19th century. It was later brought to the United States in the 1920s by Italian immigrants. The word “zucchini” is the plural of the Italian word “zucchino,” which means “pumpkin” or “squash.”
There are many ways to cook zucchini and many cultures that consider it a staple. From its inclusion in the French summer vegetable dish ratatouille, to Mexican zucchini quesadillas, to fried zucchini flowers that enjoyed in various areas of the world. The prolific nature of the vegetable encourages creative uses across the globe. Otherwise, it would be pretty boring.
When I can, I like to look for ways to make vegetables, especially those we grow ourselves, into the star of our meals and not just a side dish or hidden component. One of the best ways to make zucchini the highlight of a meal is to stuff it. Stuffing vegetables is common practice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and potatoes are all fair game. Even leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, chard, and grape leaves are prone to stuffing.
why this zucchini recipe is so simple
I appreciate this vegetarian stuffed zucchini recipe, because not only is the zucchini the star, it is a simple recipe and that’s not always the case when it comes to stuffed vegetables. This is probably why Yotam Ottolenghi and his collaborators chose to include it in their book, Ottolenghi Simple. I have made just a few small changes.
Here, the zucchini is more than just a vessel to transfer meat and carbs to your stomach. Part of the reason why is because the meat and usual carbs are not included. The stuffing is made of zucchini, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs. Yet, I still found it to be surprisingly filling for such a minimal dish.
Other reasons why this recipe is simple:
1) You don't have to precook the filling. Many stuffed zucchini recipes feature rice and meat that are cooked before stuffing and baking.
2) As long as you use reasonably sized zucchini, they won't take long to cook.
3) If you find that it is too hot to heat up your oven, I don’t blame you. The good news is that you can cook this meal on the grill. Just put your cast iron pan, baking sheet, stone dish, or another vessel that can withstand direct heat onto the grill grates. Keep an eye on your grill’s thermometer to maintain the heat to around 400 degrees as the zucchini cooks.Print