Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini the way mom used to make

When I was a child, our neighbor had a vegetable garden, and he generously shared its bounty with our family.  We had our own garden, too, but zucchini was not one of our crops.  But I remember my neighbor's long green squashes piled on our kitchen table, destined to become either dinner, or many, many loaves of yummy zucchini bread. 

I'm pretty sure I turned my nose up back then at any concoction containing the vegetable, but somehow I remember the taste of the beef and tomato stuffed veggies as vividly as I remember that the zucchinis themselves were as big as my arm.  Aren't memories funny that way? 

This recipe is a lot like my memories, and even more reflective of the way my family cooks... a pinch of this, a heap of that... you get the idea.  I tried to write down actual amounts, but make it to suit your tastes and you'll be creating some great summer veggie memories for your family, too!

Baked Stuffed Zucchini

4 (grocery-store-sized) zucchini
1 lb ground meat (I used turkey, but you can sub beef or chicken)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained.
shredded mozzerella (optional)
dried oregano, parsley and basil
salt and pepper
preferred cooking oil

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Slice zucchini lengthwise then scoop out insides leaving a 1/4 inch zucchini "boat."  Place the zucchini boats in a large baking dish in a single layer and drizzle with preferred oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in oven (while it's heating is fine) and allow to bake while you prepare the filling.
3.  Heat preferred cooking oil in skillet on stovetop.  Add onions and garlic and stir for about a minute until the ingredients are fragrant.  Add ground meat and dried spice (approximately 3/4 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp parsley, 1 tsp basil, salt and pepper to taste).  Stir until meat is completely browned and drain if needed, returning to pan when finished.
4.  Add tomato paste to skillet and stir. (Note:  I used turkey, so I added 3 tablespoons of paste for richness.  If I'd used ground beef, I'd probably reduce the amount of tomato paste.)  Cook for 2 minutes, then add canned diced tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate and add salt and other herbs as needed.
5.  Remove zucchinis from oven and heap filling into them.  Scatter any remaining filling around zucchinis in bottom of pan.  If there is no leftover filling add just enough water to cover bottom of pan.  Cover tightly with foil and return to oven.  Bake until zucchinis are soft and filling is heated through (about 20 minutes).
6.  If using cheese, remove pan from oven at the 15 minute mark, uncover and sprinkle cheese over top.  Return pan to oven uncovered for remaining baking time.


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