When my children were young they took delight in watching the zucchini grow like weeds-gone-wild in our vegetable garden; yet their moods turned sullen and faces were long when I served it for dinner.
Those days are behind us now because I’ve transformed what my kids used to call “yucky old zuc” into Stuffed Zucchini Boats. I’ve filled the historically bland zucchini with flavorful Italian sausage, mushrooms, herbs, spicy marinara, and melted cheeses. This created an impressive presentation with a mouthwatering bundle of flavors that are too tempting to resist – even for zucchini skeptics.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
3 small (8″ to 9″) yellow or green organic zucchinis
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pound turkey sausage, broken into small pieces
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh mushroom, finely diced
1 1/2 cups zucchini seeds and flesh, chopped
12 ounces marinara sauce (I like Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese, separated
Place a large pot of water on high flame to boil. Scrub zucchinis; trim off unsightly stem ends but don’t cut into the areas that will be hollowed out. When water comes to a full boil, gently drop whole zucchinis into the water. Blanch them in the water for 5 minutes, turning for even exposure to water. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl 3/4 full of water and add enough ice cubes that water and ice completely fill the bowl. Remove zucchinis from boiling water and place in ice bath; chill for 5 minutes. Remove the zucchinis to drip dry on paper towels.
Strip away part of the skin creating a striped affect by using a vegetable peeler. This isn’t necessary, but sometimes the skin can be tough and/or bitter.
Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out the seeds using a melon baller tool or a small metal spoon. Be careful not to cut or crack the sides; set seeds and flesh aside to use later.
Place a Dutch oven over medium heat; add olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms and sausage in hot oil; cook until sausage is brown and then add chopped zucchini seeds and flesh. When zucchini becomes limp, reduce heat to medium low; add marinara sauce, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese and Italian herbs. Simmer without a lid until mixture is thick and most the liquid has evaporated; stir often to prevent scorching.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9″x12″ baking pan with foil or parchment paper and thoroughly grease the bottom of pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese into bottom of pan; place zucchini boats on the bed of Parmesan cheese. Spoon marinara mixture into boats and top with remaining 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese. Excess stuffing can be baked in same pan alongside zucchinis and served on the side at the table.
Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Zucchini cooks fast and should be removed from the oven before it’s fully cooked. Undercook rather than overcook the boats, and remember they’re partially cooked when stuffed and they’ll cook somewhat after they’re removed from the oven. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings/1 boat each as a side dish or 3 serving/2 boats each as a light main dish