Stuffed Zucchini

日常的な食物(nichijôtekina shokumotsu): commonly eaten food

I grew up in southern Ohio, and like most Midwesterners, summer was a time of ridiculous amounts of zucchini. By the end of season, everyone had so much zucchini that you would practically pay people to take it off your hands (or just give it out for free at work). My father grew zucchini until I was in high school, and my mother would make zucchini bread and chocolate zucchini bread out of it, but we never really ventured into non-bread territory. (Except for that one time when I tried to make some kind of tomato-zucchini stir-fry that ended up not being so great.)

In Japan, zucchini is a truly seasonal vegetable, and there’s not a lot of it. I suspect it’s because it’s neither a native vegetable nor is it used in Japanese cooking, but I’ve learned how to make all sorts of zucchini dishes here even though—or perhaps because—it’s so hard to get. Ratatouille is a new favorite dish, and I’ve done variations on Smitten Kitchen’s “Quick Zucchini Saute.”

I regrettably left a baguette out in my kitchen in March, but because it was still snowing in Hokuriku, the bread went stale and didn’t mold. I never have stale artisan bread on hand because I freeze my good bread if I can’t eat it fast enough. This recipe is thanks to the convergence of my bread failure with my finding the first zucchini of the season at a co-op in the middle of the prefecture. This stuffed zucchini dish, which I adapted from Cooking Light‘s “Eight-Ball Zucchini Parmesan,” is an impressive-looking but simple side dish that brought a bit of home to a dinner. I recommend serving it with salmon and spinach.

 Stuffed Zucchini

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Time: 45 min.

Prep: 15 min.

Stovetop Cooking: 10 min.

Baking: 20 min.

Ingredients

1 zucchini, sliced in half with the skin on (zukkîni, ズッキーニ)

10g stale crusty bread, e.g., a baguette (bagetto, バゲット)

1/6 cup spinach (horensô, ほうれん草)
2-3 fresh basil leaves (bajiru, バジル)
1 small clove garlic (ninniku, ニンニク)
50 grams onion (~1/4 of an onion) (tamanegi, 玉ねぎ)

¼ teaspoon olive oil(orîbu oiru, オリーブオイル)
1/3 plum tomato, diced(mini tomato, ミニトマト)

cheese for garnish: Parmesan(parumezan, パルメザン)or mozzerella or “natural cheese” (nachuraru chîzu, ナチュラル・チーズ)

Equipment

Large pot with steamer basket

Large frying pan

Blender or food processor (mikisaâ, ミキサー;fûdo purosessâ, フード・プロセッサー)

Oven range (ôbun renji, オーブンレンジ)

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven or oven range to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Wash the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh with a  small spoon, leaving ½ cm (1/4 in.) of the shell.
  3. Steam zucchini shells for 5 minutes in steamer basket or until tender. Carefully remove with tongs and set onto paper towels to drain.
  4. Chop stale bread into coarse crumbs and place in a small bowl; set aside. (This can be done with the blender, too.)
  5. Place zucchini flesh with spinach, garlic, and onion in blender and process until finely chopped.
  6. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over a low to medium flame. Add the zucchini mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato and salt and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in breadcrumbs and basil.
  8. Spoon zucchini mixture back into zucchini (half in each piece). Top with cheese.
  9. Place zucchini halves into oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese melts.
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