Friday, August 13, 2010

Stuffed Zucchini / Summer Squash

I had my friend Kelsi over for dinner and a movie last week.  We watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (on instant Netflix) and I made these stuffed summer squash.  She brought some Prosecco and a delicious plate of fruit.

I had this recipe in mind and hoped that we'd get a bunch of zucchini in the CSA that week, since it calls for six 5-inch zucchini.  Instead we got a variety of interesting summer squash.  I decided that they would work just fine, since they were all about the right size and zucchini is really just the popular kid in the summer squash crowd anyway.  So if you find yourself with a mix of summer squash that you're not sure what to do with, make this recipe!  Just make sure they are all about the same size so they will cook at the same rate in the oven.  

Here is what I had: one zucchini, three yellow crooknecks, half of a cocozella (green striped), and two patty pan (one green, one yellow, resembles an alien spaceship).

This recipe was very easy.  I prepped the squash right when I got home from work, and started them roasting in the oven.

I was just starting to make the stuffing when Kelsi arrived, and we were able to carry on a conversation while finishing it.  The stuffing seemed pretty forgiving; I didn't bother to use a timer for all the little steps, and when it came time to add dry white wine I realized I didn't have any, so we used a little Prosecco and it worked just fine (I secretly wonder if it was the Prosecco that made it taste so good!).  

The finished product was really tasty!  We couldn't help commenting on how good it was as we ate it, even during that very intense movie.   I was actually a little surprised at how good it was, considering that it used such simple, basic ingredients.  I did not use the Italian bread crumbs it called for (i.e., the jar you buy at the store).  I cut up some day old sourdough bread and pulsed it into crumbs in the food processor on my lunch break that day, and it felt a little too moist so I laid the crumbs out on a baking sheet to dry out for the rest of the afternoon.  By the time I needed them that night they were perfect!  You could do that a day or two in advance too, I just didn't think of it.  I added some dried oregano to make them "Italian".

It calls for a jar of diced tomatoes, with the juice reserved to add to the stuffing.  I wonder if you could use fresh tomatoes?  It seemed like the juice was important to moisten the stuffing, so it might work only if you used very ripe, juicy tomatoes.  It is the season, after all.

If it seems like a lot of oil/butter is used in this recipe, remember that you can serve it with a light salad and just have one or two boats per person.  Also, you could be very careful about how much you drizzle on the squash before you roast them.  I wasn't that careful and noticed that it was very easy to overdo it.  You could probably also get away with just one tablespoon to toast the breadcrumbs instead of two.  

Mama Elsa's Stuffed Zucchini (or other summer squash)
adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine - November/December 2005 issue
makes 12 squash boats

Serve these with a salad for a light supper or cut them into small pieces for party snacks.

Six 5-inch zucchini or a combination of other small summer squash (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (see my comment above)
5 garlic cloves, 1 crushed and 4 finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (15 ounces) drained and juice reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (or make your own from day old bread, and add some dried oregano)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Halve each squash lengthwise and hollow them out with a small scoop or spoon, reserving the squash innards in a bowl for later on.  Arrange the boats on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil.  Roast them in the oven while you prepare the stuffing.  

Chop the squash innards.  Should I stop calling them innards?  Ok, chop the squash centers.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the crushed garlic clove, the red pepper flakes, the onion and the chopped squash bits.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the squash begins to caramelize.  Finely chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.  Stir and cook until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper, and deglaze with the wine.  Cook for a minute or two until the wine evaporates.  Stir in the reserved tomato juice.  Turn the heat down to medium low and let the tomato juice cook off slowly.  

While the stuffing cooks, heat the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic, cook for two to three minutes.  Add the breadcrumbs.  Let them lightly toast in the pan for about two minutes.  Add the cheese, parsley, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Remove from heat. 

After the liquid has almost cooked out the stuffing, stir in the bread crumb mixture and the basil, then remove from heat.  

Take the squash out the oven, but leave the oven on.  Fill each squash half with a mound of the stuffing, then put them back in the oven for about five minutes to crisp up the bread crumbs.  

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