This summer is the first time I’ve really had success growing vegetables, in particular zucchinis, tomatoes and peppers. I also tried beets but they didn’t thrive, and arugula, which was delicious, but I couldn’t keep up with its rapid growth. In part, my success is due to the fact that I finally have the right set-up: a dedicated planting box, in a sunny, sunny spot, filled to the brim with fresh compost made from Sonoma’s table scraps.
I learned a few things along the way: you really don’t need four heirloom tomato plants if there are just two of you eating them, and they will ripen all at once, no matter how hard you pray to the tomato gods to deliver you one perfectly ripe tom per day. Same goes for zucchini. I thought it would be fun to grow the round ones – they look like little melons, but if you leave them too long they can become the size of a basketball overnight. I ended up with three plants, which is probably one too many, so I’ve had to challenge myself as a cook.
My go-to recipes are some version of zucchini and mint soup, made with homemade chicken broth, and stuffed zucchinis. Stuffing vegetables just makes you think of the 70s doesn’t it? We grew up on things like stuffed marrow (which is what we call an overgrown courgette/zucchini); stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, I think everything was stuffed at one point or another.
If you want to try the soup, follow the exact same method for this spinach soup I wrote about earlier in the year. I’d use about 3-4 zucchinis, depending on their size, and add dried or fresh mint just before blending. You can also throw in any number of additional vegetables: a carrot, a couple of sticks of celery, fennel, whatever’s in your fridge will do. Err on the side of less stock until you have blended everything, and then you can adjust consistency later.
But now to the stuffed zucchinis.
– Raw, large zucchinis – either round ones or overgrown regular ones (1/2 zucchini per person)
– 1-2 cups of cooked meat sauce – I made mine with ground chicken, onions, diced bacon, salsa and a few other veggies thrown in for good measure, but you could easily use ground turkey or ground pastured beef
– Up to a cup of cooked rice (white, brown, your choice)
– Parmesan is optional – it’s just as good without
– Olive oil
– Salt and pepper
- Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- It’s easier to stuff the zucchinis if they are a little bigger. Start by hollowing out the pulpy seed area so you have a cavity to fill. (I used my trusty grapefruit knife to do the job.) Also slice a little piece of the bottom so they can sit nice and flat in your roasting pan. Place in said pan which you will have oiled with some good olive oil.
- Combine your cooked meat sauce and rice. You don’t want too much rice, so add it a tablespoon at a time; just enough to give the stuffing some body so it can hold itself up in pile. (Too much will suck the juiciness out of your meat sauce, and make the stuffing dry).
- Season to taste and grate in some Parmesan if you are a dairy-lover.
- Pile your stuffing into the hollowed-out zucchini to create a nice heaping effect and drizzle with olive oil. (see photograph at the top of the post)
- Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pan – the steam will help cook the zucchinis.
- Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 20-25 mins.
- After that, check the zucchinis for doneness with a knife (it should go in easily but you don’t want them to collapse) and finish cooking for another five minutes, uncovered, to get a little browning effect.
- This is a nice comfort meal in itself, but you could easily serve with a salad or other summer veggies.