Friday, June 29, 2007

Stuffed zucchini

I've harvested the first few tomatoes from my garden -- four smallish, lovely, red fruits from the Early Girl plant I planted in April. It's always wonderful to pick my own vegetables, but this is especially true with tomatoes. No store-bought tomato can approach the taste and freshness of one plucked from your backyard. Fresh tomatoes scream "SUMMER!" Besides the Southern staple of a tomato sandwich -- white bread, mayonnaise and a sprinkle of pepper -- my favorite way to enjoy my harvest is with a caprese salad. Mix some tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese (none of that sliced or grated stuff) and fresh basil (preferably from my herb garden), top with red-wine vinegar and olive oil, then sprinkle with pepper. Delicious!

The rest of the vegetable garden is lagging quite a ways behind. But I will hopefully have some zucchini in the harvest before long, so I thought I'd share my favorite summer recipe using several items I usually grow or that are easily found at farmers markets. This is adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons. It can easily be made vegan by leaving out the cheese.

Stuffed Zucchini
2 medium zucchini
1-1/2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/3 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1/4 c. parmesan or feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the zucchini in half length-wise and trim the ends. With a teaspoon, carve out the center of each half, leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell and reserving the spooned-out flesh. Put the zucchini shells into a small casserole dish and add 1/2 cup water. Cover the dish with foil. Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

2. Make the stuffing: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about five minutes. Chop the reserved zucchini flesh and add it to the pan with the garlic and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes more. Take the skillet off the heat and add the bread crumbs, basil and cheese. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

3. Drain the water from the casserole dish and fill the zucchini halves with the stuffing. Bake the stuffed zucchini for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: You may have to adjust the amount of bread crumbs to get the right consistency, depending on the juicyness of your tomato.

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