Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini with Spinach and Feta

Stuffed 8-ball Zucchini at Paprika Red

I love these little zucchinis. Have you seen them? I think they're called 8-ball zucchini, and they're about the size of an 8 ball or a softball, and they are just perfect for stuffing. I always get a little sad when I see the regular stuffed zucchini, because to me it's not really stuffed. More like shallowly carved out and then a bunch of toppings piled on top that could possibly tumble off. I understand that you can get more crunchy, browned cheesy goodness on those zucchini boats than these round ones, and so for that, I can understand why people do it. But I really love to truly stuff something and get a ton of goodies inside, which is why I really love these. Plus, they look so cool, and it might be my imagination, but I think these are milder and sweeter than your regular old regular zucchini. And if you've read my blog before, you know how obsessed I am with personal serving sized things, like mini cakes and tartlets, so you can imagine how much I like these when a single stuffed pepper is the perfect serving for one person. Not to mention totally cute.

Now, take a sweet, mild, uniquely shaped zucchini, and stuff it with herbs, veggies, and cheese, and you totally have my vote. The great thing about these is that they are open to using up leftovers and really very versatile. Want something hearty? Stuff it with cooked rice, crumbled italian sausage, the rest of the zucchini, and some parmesan or romano. Got some leftover chicken? Throw it in. Need to use up the end of some cheese? Use whatever you have on hand. For me, I had some fresh baby spinach that was a couple days past salad stage, a gigantic block of feta that I was still working through, and some leftover pistou that I had used on top of some salmon. For me, this was a great clean-out-the-fridge dish. Since it is warm and summery here, I made this vegetarian and just popped it in my toaster oven—no need to heat up the whole kitchen with the regular oven when it's nearing 80 degrees out. My hands on time was only a few minutes, and dinner was ready in under 45 minutes. Add a starch—in my case, some great ciabatta from the Mount Vernon farmer's market—and some fresh fruit for dessert, and you're done!

Zucchini at Paprika Red

Stuffed Zucchini with Spinach and Feta
Serves 2
2 large 8-ball zucchini
8 oz fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 TB chopped fresh basil or 3 TB pesto, pistou, or chimichurri
3-4 TB breadcrumbs (I used panko)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for cooking

Cut off the top and a very thin slice of the bottom of your zucchini. With a melon baller or grapefruit spoon, scoop out the zucchini flesh, leaving a 1/3" wall. Roughly chop your zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook in a little olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until reduced by half and very tender. Add the spinach and cook a few more minutes until wilted. Turn off heat and add the crumbled feta and fresh herbs or herb sauce, toss to combine well. Add the panko and combine again.

Stuff the mixture into your zucchini and top with a little extra feta, if desired. Bake in a 325°F oven until mixture until zucchini walls are tender, about 30-40 minutes; poke with your finger to test doneness. Serve with roasted potatoes or good bread with some olive oil.

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