Well, it’s that time of year again. There are more zucchini around than we can possibly eat or, apparently, harvest in a timely fashion. The last two weeks we have not only had a very large zucchini in our CSA box, but they are overflowing the stands at the farmer’s market as well.
Zucchini and summer squash can’t be canned the way other vegetables can; they simply become too soft and turn to mush. Freezing them is also problematic for the same reasons. In the old days, before I gave up all Evil Refined Things, I’d shred the stuff and bake it into loaves of zucchini bread and zucchini muffins, which I’d then freeze or give away. (As a side note, I’ve been considering a grain-free zucchini bread made with almond flour; I know it can be done, but I don’t want to eat too many things containing almond flour for reasons I’ll go into later. Let’s just suffice to say that before the zucchini is gone I’ll most likely bake some, but not in the volume I have in the past.)
Zucchini is delicious shredded or grated together with yellow summer squash and carrots, then lightly sauteed in butter or olive oil – it’s not only a quick and easy side dish, it makes a great substitute for rice when you need a base for something “saucy.” It can be fried, much like the green tomatoes I posted earlier this week, and of course stir-fried and sauteed and incorporated into quiches and frittatas and casseroles and all manner interesting dishes until you’re so sick of zucchini you don’t care if you see another one until next summer.
Not that I’ve ever had that experience, you understand.
Of course, all of those methods of preparation are best with young, tender, reasonably-sized zucchini. But what to do when you get one that is approaching the size of a baseball bat? Well, you make this.
I’ve prepared this twice in the last couple of weeks, the first time glazing it with the Peach Barbecue Sauce and the second with the Maple Barbecue Sauce, and it is just delicious – I ate it for 3 days straight for both lunch and dinner the first time and didn’t mind a bit. And the really nice thing about it is that it is versatile – want Italian? Stuff it with hot Italian sausage and cover it with marinara. Feel like something with an Asian flair? Fill it with ground chicken or pork and chopped water chestnuts, and glaze it with teriyaki sauce. How about Mediterranean – use ground lamb, mixed with chopped olives, pimento and oregano, brush it with a high quality extra-virgin olive oil at the end and sprinkle it with feta cheese.
You know…that all sounds really, really good.
You can, of course, season this version any way you like – I’m still on my Mrs. Dash kick, and am particularly fond of the Extra Spicy Blend (which, frankly, it isn’t – but it still tastes good).
serves 6 to 8
2 pounds lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy seasoning blend
1 large zucchini, 10″ to 12″ in length
1/3 cup Maple or Peach Barbecue Sauce
Preheat the over to 350 F.
In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground beef, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and seasoning blend until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
Trim the ends, and slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a small, sharp knife and spoon, scoop the seeds out of the center of the zucchini halves, leaving about 1/4-inch of the shell intact. Divide the meat mixture in half and fill the interior of each zucchini half, mounding and patting it in place for the entire length of the vegetable.
Place the stuffed zucchini in a glass baking dish large enough to comfortably accommodate both halves. Carefully pour water around the zucchini to a depth of about half an inch. Place in the oven and bake for half an hour.
Remove the pan from the oven and carefully brush the barbecue sauce over the meat mixture. Add more water to the pan, if necessary, and return to the oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat mixture reads 160 F, or is no longer pink in the center.
Remove the pan from the oven; loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully move the zucchini to a platter, slice and serve.