Tuesday, June 14, 2011

stuffed zucchini

Zucchini, like rhubarb, is another omnipresent summer produce item in New England. Zucchini grows so quickly and gets so huge that it's often impossible to use up all the zukes that one's garden produces in a summer. This leads to the time-honored small-town tradition of The Gifting Of The Squash. It starts with a co-worker or family member announcing that they have a zucchini surplus and would be happy to share. You might offer to take a couple but they'll give you half a dozen. It will eventually progress to the point where your friends and neighbors stop offering the surplus - you'll just find mysterious zucchini waiting for you on your porch when you come home at night or in your car at the end of the work day. And not one or two at a time, either. We're talking plastic shopping bags full. Ask any New Englander you know. I'm willing to bet they've experienced the Gifting Of The Squash phenomenon, or know someone who has!

At the risk of amassing a large pile of gifted squash this summer, I will publicly admit that I enjoy the hell out of zucchini. I like it boiled, steamed, mashed, stir-fried, au gratin'ed, incorporated into bread and cake, pickled, you name it. Stuffing it like this is one of my favorite preparations, and it's super simple to do.

For this batch, I took 4 smallish zukes, halved them lengthwise, and scraped the seeds out with a spoon to make "boats". The filling was comprised of 8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped fairly small, a couple teaspoons of white wine vinegar, 5-6 stems worth of fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stems, and 3 links of sweet Italian sausage that I browned beforehand. I spooned the stuffing into the zucchini boats and baked them at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, then removed the pan from the oven and turned the broiler on. I sliced some fresh mozzarella cheese and laid it on top of the baked zukes, then put the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese was nicely browned and bubbly. The finished product looked like this:

The bland squash makes a perfect vehicle for the combination of salty, creamy, cheesy, meaty and acidic stuffing. It was easily as good for lunch the next day as it was straight out of the oven. It would also be veg-friendly if you omitted the sausage...but I don't understand why anyone would want to do that, really. ;)