Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Celebrating Summer Veggies - Stuffed Zucchini

Bushels of summer vegetables are stocking the local farmers’ markets and produce stands, and it makes me glad to live in a state like Michigan where we grow an abundant variety of fruits and vegetables. This has been a tough summer – very hot temperatures and little rain – but even under these conditions one kind find all kinds of wonderful seasonal bounty. 

Zucchini is a vegetable that does very well here, and many grow this mild squash in their yards and you almost always see it at the markets. Zucchini can grow quite large, but I prefer the medium sized as the seeds are smaller and they require less work. For this recipe, you can use three medium sized zucchini or even yellow summer squash if you prefer. 

This is a great dish that can serve as a main course if you want to take a break from meat but still feel like you are eating something substantial. It also makes a wonderful side dish to accompany burgers, chicken or pork. It’s a great mix of some of summer’s best fresh vegetables – enjoy!

Stuffed Zucchini
3 medium zucchini – ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise with the inner seed core scooped out
4 TBSP butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 small hot cherry peppers, finely chopped (or you can use a half of a sweet red bell pepper)
8 oz. fresh mushrooms – coarsely chopped
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
8-10 Ritz crackers (or ½ cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim ends of zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and using a tablespoon, scoop out center section of squash removing the seeds. This will create zucchini “boats” and provide room to put in the stuffing. Transfer squash to a 9x13 baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray and put aside.

In a large skillet, melt butter under medium high heat and add chopped onion and pepper. SautĂ© in butter until onions become tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms to skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, fragrant and reduced in size. Add diced tomatoes to skillet and cook until most of their natural liquid has rendered, about four minutes or so. Turn off heat to skillet and stir in the cracker crumbs. 

Using a large spoon, transfer stuffing to zucchini, dividing it evenly between the six halves. Once the zucchini are filled, top with Parmesan cheese and put into oven for 45 minutes. Zucchini should be fork tender but still hold their shape. Remove from baking dish using a long spatula and enjoy!

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