Zucchini season, and the bounty keeps rolling in. We do not have any squash plants in our garden patch, but there is an abundance at the farmers market and from our neighbors. It is a common situation. Many folks this time of year are experiencing zucchini burn-out. Squash blossoms are delicious, but they require immediate attention to maintain their freshness. Sautéed squash begins to get a bit boring, and so the search of the web and a shelf of cookbooks begins. Deborah Madison, the Santa Fe-based vegetarian cookbook author has numerous suggestions in her collections. I especially recommend her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, New York) and The Savory Way (Broadway Books, New York) for all sorts of suggestions.
One of my favorite ways to cook zucchini is to grate it with a box grater, sauté it along with some scallions and sliced mushrooms in olive oil, drain any excess oil, stir in some sour cream and fresh lemon juice, and serve. So simple that no recipe is needed
Today, though, I am going to write about stuffed zucchini. The first time I ever had a stuffed squash was years ago at the home of a colleague from Greece who stuffed the tender fruits with feta, Cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. This version is a little more complicated but still not difficult.
Zucchini with flesh and seeds removed
Zucchini stuffed with sausage mixture
Sausage stuffing topped with tomato slices
Stuffed zucchini topped with grated Swiss cheese and dotted with butter
Out of the oven
Ready to eat
- 3 firm, medium zucchini (make certain they are not too big)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- 4 medium crimini mushrooms, washed and chopped
- ½ pound bulk breakfast sausage (mild or hot, your preference)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup almond flour (use all-purpose flour if you prefer)
- 1 egg, beaten slightly
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly (or enough to cover the zucchini)
- ½ pound Swiss cheese, grated
- cooking spray
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon or sharp paring knife, hollow out the squash with about ¼ inch of a rim remaining. Try not to pierce the skin of the squash.
- In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent but not browned. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, and cook until they give up their liquid and the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the sausage, breaking it up with a cooking spoon so that it is completely crumbled.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the cream cheese so it is completely incorporated. Stir in the almond flour and egg. Set aside until you are ready to stuff the zucchini.
- Choose a baking pan that is large enough to hold all of the squash, or use two dishes, and spray generously with baking spray.
- Arrange the zucchini in the pan, and spray them lightly with baking spray.
- Fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the sausage mixture.
- Top with tomato slices seasoned with more salt and pepper, and cover with the grated Swiss cheese.
- Dot with butter, and bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350° F for 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the zucchini is tender.
- Serve immediately.
Tomatoes and basil. An abundance of both this time of year, so it is time to make that simple classic, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, basil leaves torn to release their fragrant oils, and a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil – nothing more. Even though the salad is apparently popular in homes all over Italy, it has been claimed that the combination was first served on Capri, and hence the name, Insalata Caprese or the shorthand Caprese. I suspect that that account is apocryphal, but what is not apocryphal is the wonderful combination. Over the years, there has been a lot of messing around with the recipe – adding balsamic vinegar, using vinaigrette, etc., etc.
So why am I messing around even more? Because pesto and burrata are so delicious.
I found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market. They are dark purple and pear shaped. They are called Japanese black trifele tomatoes and just beg to be eaten. I have also been taken by burrata lately. It raises the game from fresh mozzarella, with creamy ricotta wrapped in a morsel of freshly-pulled mozzarella. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the hen’s egg size gems that I have seen before, and the only burrata I could find locally was at least ostrich-egg sized. So I had to modify my plans, but I think it turned out ok.
Japanese black trifele tomatoes
Tomatoes ready to be hollowed out
Insalata Caprese (Not Quite)
Insalata Caprese (Not Quite)
- 2 Japanese black trifele tomatoes
- pesto (see previous post)
- basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- Slice tomatoes lengthwise and remove seeds and the flesh with a grapefruit spoon
- Place a tablespoon or so of fresh pesto in each tomato half
- Place a ball of burrata in each tomato half. If you cannot find small cheeses, cut a larger cheese in quarters.
- Top with a few fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil
It is basil season. We have harvested the plants in our back yard, and many stalls at the farmers market have big, beautiful bunches of basil picked just that morning. That means it is time for pesto.
Pesto is really one of those things that you can make without a recipe and adjust it to your personal preferences
Pesto is also something that you can keep for a while. For years we made fresh pesto and ate it all, believing that if you didn’t do that it would immediately turn an unappetizing brown. We didn’t even think about freezing it. The truth is, you can do both.
If you want to keep it for a day or two, put it in a container with an air-tight lid, cover it completely with olive oil, seal the lid, and pop it in the refrigerator. If you are going to freeze it, divide it into amounts that fit into the cups of a muffin pan, freeze pan overnight, pop out the pesto “muffins”, and double bag them in zippered freezer bags so you can use the amount you need without having to thaw the whole batch.
- large bunch of freshly-cut basil, enough that the leaves will fit into the beaker of a food processor
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, more if needed to make a sauce-like mixture
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces Parmesan, grated
- ½ cup pine nuts
- salt and pepper
- Wash the fresh basil, cut or pull off the leaves, and dry them in a clean kitchen towel.
- Transfer the leaves to the beaker of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade.
- Add the olive oil and process until the basil has been chopped very finely.
- Add the garlic and Parmesan. Continue to process for 30 seconds or until thoroughly combined.
- Add the pine nuts and pulse until the nuts are well-chopped but not puréed. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Adjust consistency with additional olive oil, if needed.
- Serve over cooked pasta with additional grated Parmesan and dry-roasted pine nuts. If desired, store for a day or two in an air-tight container topped with olive oil and refrigerated or freeze and double bag individual portions for later use.
Fresh basil from the garden
Pesto stored under olive oil in an air-tight container, refrigerated
Fettuccine topped with Parmesan and toasted pine nuts
PS: Here’s a little lagniappe from our garden:
Desert four o’clock