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the return of zucchini
When we first moved to Portland, we bought a post-WWII house with a double-lot. It was the first house I’d ever owned or lived in and I decided that I wanted a vegetable garden. I ignored all my previous attempts at having plants: my past, in fact, was littered with dead plants.
Although I was a complete novice at gardening, that didn’t stop me. In spite of my lack of knowledge, I went to a nursery and bought a bunch of starts. I planted the starts and before I knew it the radish came up and looked great. Then the six (!) zucchini plants I put in my yard started to grow and produce more (and ever larger) zucchini than I could ever use. We had steamed zucchini, stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini every which way I could think of. I tried giving it away, but no one wanted it. I made more stuffed zucchini and froze it, then more zucchini bread and froze that. It seemed like everything I cooked had to have zucchini in it! Let me be honest here, I really like zucchini—just not so much of it.
I never planted zucchini again and then we moved to a house with no viable space for a vegetable garden. Thank goodness.
The Return of the Zucchini: My market basket last week had two zucchini and the one this week has two more, even larger than last week. So, I thought it was time to dust off my old zucchini recipes. Stuffed Zucchini was a dish that was popular in the ‘60s and one that, in my opinion, needs to return. I thought I’d give it a good kick-off by making stuffed zucchini this week (recipe follows).
My market basket this week also has berries: one pint of blackberries and one of blueberries. As a result, I’m going to make a Berry Crumble (recipe follows).
I think there are as many stuffed zucchini recipes as there are zucchini (that’s a lot!). You can stuff zucchini with just about anything. I used pancetta because I love bacon; you can also use any kind of ground meat. You can also use small zucchini and serve as an appetizer.
2 large or 4 medium zucchini, rinsed, sliced in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ pound pancetta, chopped
½ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup mushrooms, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, chopped (optional)
1-2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon butter, softened
¼ cup plain bread crumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Scoop out the insides of the zucchini halves, using a spoon or melon baller. Reserve the cored halves and the insides.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add the pancetta and sauté under crisp. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms, celery, garlic, dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Cook a few minutes until soft, then add the reserved insides of the zucchini and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the wine evaporates, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the basil and rosemary and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat, place the mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool.
When the mixture is cool, mix in the egg, cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Add breadcrumbs to help bind the mixture.
Fill the cored zucchini with the mixture. Fill a baking pan with ¼ inch of water. Place the zucchini halves in the pan and bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove the zucchini halves from the pan to a warm platter, spooning the pan juices over them. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Everyone has their favorite crumble recipe. This is mine. I’m not an oat fan so I top mine with just butter, flour and brown sugar. I used blackberries and blueberries, but you can use any combination.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter (softened)
1 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon rind, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the topping, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a food processer, and process until crumbly. (You can also combine by hand.)
In a bowl, combine berries with the granulated sugar. Add the grated lemon rind and mix gently. Pile the berries into six ramekins and mound the topping over the fruit.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned. Cool before serving, or serve at room temperature.