Take This Veg and STUFF IT!
If you have even the smallest of backyard gardens, you’ve probably had this happen to you. Friday afternoon you go out to check on your veggies and you see a zucchini that has grown to a decent size, but would be just perfect if it were a little bigger. You will pick it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and goes and you have spent the day running errands and taking kids to ballgames and birthday parties, maybe getting together with friends at a local patio hangout, forgetting all about your perfect zucchini. When you go back to the garden on Sunday, you are greeted with a zucchini the size of a canoe! Surely this can’t be the zucchini that only needed another inch of growth! But alas, the strange and logic-defying mysteries of the garden have caused a monster veggie to be created. What to do with this freak of squash-dom? Stuff it!
Just hollow out that bad boy and fill it with delicious ingredients. Add cheese to bring it all together, pop it in the oven until tender and voilá! You have saved a delicious vegetable from the compost heap. You don’t have to wait for your garden’s goodies to turn into giants. You can stuff them when they are the perfect size just as easily. Here are 2 great recipes to try. One for zucchini, MEXICAN STUFFED ZUCCHINI BURRITO BOATS, and one for a lovely stuffed garden tomato GREEK-STYLE QUINOA STUFFED TOMATOES.
So don’t fret if your garden gets a little out of hand. Make the most of things and stuff it!
MEXICAN STUFFED ZUCCHINI BURRITO BOATS
Serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side dish
2 zucchini (or summer squash), about 1 pound each
3 cups cooked brown rice
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, diced
1-2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeños, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from the cob)
2 cups diced tomato
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups black beans (rinsed if from a can)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 cups cheese (cheddar or Monterey jack), shredded
Preheat oven to 375°
To prepare zucchini: Find the most stable edge of your zucchini. This will be the “bottom”. Cut a lengthwise slice from the “top” of the zucchini, about ¼ inch thick. If zucchini is extra large (more than 1.5 pounds), cut in half lengthwise. Using a grapefruit (serrated) spoon, hollow out the zucchini leaving walls ¼ inch thick on all sides. Discard any large seeds. The remaining flesh can be added to the dish.
Add olive oil to a medium high skillet and sauté garlic, onion, carrot, poblano pepper, jalapeños, corn and scooped out zucchini flesh if using. Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, cumin and chili powder, then add diced tomato and cook 3 minutes more. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine cooked brown rice, black beans, the sautéed vegetable mixture, 1 cup of the shredded cheese and half of the chopped cilantro, if using. Mix well and spoon the mixture into the hollowed out zucchini boats. Place boats in a casserole dish or on a sheet pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 375° for 25 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. After baking, sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve.
GREEK-STYLE QUINOA STUFFED TOMATOES
Serves 44 large tomatoes, ripe but not soft
1 cup uncooked quinoa
¼ cup celery, thinly sliced
¼-1/2 cup fennel, very thinly sliced
¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) red onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pine nuts (chopped walnuts or almonds may be substituted)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
For the Dressing:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons fennel seed, chopped or crushed
Salt and pepper
First, cook the quinoa. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add a good pinch of salt. Stir in 1 cup of rinsed quinoa. Return to boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook 13-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove cooked quinoa from pan and cool to at least room temperature. (Quinoa may be prepared ahead)
Once you have cooled quinoa, make the dressing. In a small lidded jar, combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, oregano, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Secure lid tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Shake every so often while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Cut across the stem end of each tomato at the shoulders to make a removable “lid”. Using a grapefruit (serrated) spoon, gently hollow out the inside flesh, juice and seeds of the tomato, being careful not to pierce the skin. Save the tomato flesh for another use, if desired. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a folded paper towel to drain some of the excess moisture. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, combine sliced celery and fennel, minced red onion, diced green bell pepper, feta cheese and nuts with the cooked and cooled quinoa. Add half of the dressing and mix well. More of the dressing can be added if necessary. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Spoon the quinoa mixture into each tomato, dividing the filling as evenly as possible. Top each tomato with one quarter of the parmesan cheese and garnish with the chiffonade of basil. Serve immediately or chill until serving.