Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zucchini Explosion!

Zucchini has taken over my garden.  We've had a bounty of zucchini over the past few weeks.  Several days ago, I checked on my garden before I left for work.  I eyed several young zucchini, and decided they needed another day to grow and planned to harvest them the following morning.  The following day came along with torrential rain, so I never made it out to the garden.  The day after that was hot and steamy.  I was running late that morning and didn't get a chance to check on the zucchini until I got home from work later that evening. To my zucchini turned into 10 inch monsters that resembled stubby baseball bats.  I'm guessing the rain and the intense heat accelerated their growth and left me with these monsters.  I know some people intentionally let their zucchini grow like watermelons, I'm just not one of those people.  Bloated zucchini tend to become seedy and flavorless.  It was depressing.  Never-the-less, I made the best of it.  I picked about a dozen of  the oversized beasts.  As I picked, I thought about all the things I would not be able to do with them.  One thing for sure, I could stuff them.  The other thing I could do, was give some away along with this recipe!

Don't be afraid to use what you have on hand.  You can add mushrooms or diced summer squash.  Make them meatless and add some cooked rice or quinoa.  The possibilities are endless.
Serves 4

2 large zucchini
2 tomatoes, diced or a 14 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
1 pound italian sausage removed from casing (you can use turkey). I used a combo of hot and sweet
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko or Italian bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle or two of extra virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Cut the zucchini lengthwise.  Hollow out and remove the pulpy, seedy center of each half (a grapefruit spoon works beautifully for this) being careful to not dig too deep into the "flesh" of the zucchini.
  4. Remove casings from sausage. In a medium frying pan over medium heat, brown the sausage, breaking it up, until fat is rendered and sausage is slightly undercooked. 
  5. Drain fat and remove sausage from pan, set aside.
  6. Add a scant drizzle of olive oil to the pan.  Add the peppers and onions and sauté over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes until they just begin to soften.  
  7. Add the garlic.  Sauté for another minute.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes along with any juices and cook another minute.  Return the cooked sausage to the pan, along with the panko, broth, and basil.  Mix well and remove from heat.
  9. Loosely, fill each zucchini half with the stuffing mixture.  
  10. Top with the grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
  11. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  12. Bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  13. After 30 minutes, stick a fork into the side of the zucchini to check for tenderness.  The fork should pierce the zucchini easily, but the zucchini should still hold its shape.  (If you are using smaller zucchini you would have to reduce the baking time)  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is brown.
Serve with a green salad and a glass of red wine.  Check back soon for more zucchini recipes!

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