This was an experiment that turned out to be tasty but fairly unattractive on the plate. It all came about from another attempt to clear out the refrigerator and use up leftovers.
The zucchini came from the farmers market, again from one of my favorite vendors. We both look forward to having a little conversation in Spanish before my purchases. The conversation is short because of my very limited vocabulary, but we both enjoy it.
Why, you ask, would I ever buy zucchini at the farmers market when the neighbors will soon start bringing over an endless stream of gargantuan specimens from their garden. Therein lies the answer to your question. The vendor’s zucchini were lined up in rows, uniform in size, perfect size for cooking, and all the same shining green with perfect skin.
I bought enough zucchini to go into a ratatouille with some beautiful eggplants that I got from my other favorite vendor. And, there was enough to stuff a couple for another meal.
Then to the refrigerator and leftovers: pesto from a couple of nights ago, cooked rice, a few leftover crimini mushrooms, a white onion, a sliver of cheddar cheese. I was set. I split the zucchini in half, hollowed them out with a spoon, stuffed them with a mixture of mushrooms, rice, pesto, egg, and some seasonings., topped them with a béchamel enriched with the cheddar cheese, and baked them for a half hour. I should have worked harder to get the water out of the zucchini I added to the stuffing, but otherwise it turned out ok.
Mushroom Pesto Stuffed Zucchini
- 2 medium zucchini, split in half lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ small white onion, chopped finely
- 2 medium crimini mushrooms, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon Pernod
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup pesto
- ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ounce cheddar cheese, grated
- salt and pepper
- With a spoon or small paring knife, remove the flesh from the zucchini, leaving about a ¼ inch rim and being careful not to pierce the skin.
- Chop the zucchini flesh finely. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can using your hands or a fine sieve and spoon. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté lightly until the onions are translucent but not browned. Stir in the mushrooms and chopped zucchini flesh. Stir frequently until the mushrooms are lightly browned and the mixture has given up its liquid and nearly completely evaporated. Add the Pernod and stir for just a few seconds until it has evaporated.
- Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the pesto, rice, and egg until well combined.
- Fill the hollowed zucchini with the mixture and arrange in a well-greased ovenproof dish.
- Meanwhile prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute or so to remove raw flavor. Stir in the milk and continue to heat until the mixture comes to a slow boil and has thickened. Stir frequently to prevent burning on the bottom. Sit in the grated cheese. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the zucchini and bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 30 minutes or until the zucchini are tender and the sauce is melted and lightly browned. Serve while still warm.