Let’s call this a compromise. Scott has a potent dislike for “mushy vegetables”. One minute past al-dente and he’s not interested. Which is why I usually serve them crunchy in salads, char-grilled, lightly saut?ed, or oven-roasted. Never boiled for more than 3-4 minutes – and preferably steamed. I agree with him for the most part, having had my share of limp-grayish green beans ? la the school cafeteria and a few less-than-experienced cooks. But these Stuffed Italian Zucchini Boats actually dabble in both realms. Tender zucchini stuffed with a savory, pillowy blend of veggies, pork and spice.
Best of all – they’re really simple to prep. Heck, most of the work is done in the food processor! I like that! Just scoop the flesh from the zucchini and chop it finely in the Cuisinart. Same thing for the onions.
Hand chop the tomatoes and the Canadian bacon and add them along with the spices to the vegetable mixture. Then heat up a skillet with a little olive oil and sweat the veg for a few minutes.
Add the soft breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Fill the hollowed out zucchini shells generously with stuffing. Here’s where it could get temperamental. If your zucchini don’t want to “sit upright” and instead roll to one side or another, prop them against the side of the baking sheet, or crowd them into a smaller baking dish where they can snuggle against one another without tipping over. Don’t forget the cheese and bake!
The zucchini maintains its structure and cooks without being mushy, while the filling is soft, with a beautiful balance of spices and a little smokiness compliments of Canadian bacon. So good! And pretty, too! Don’t you think? In fact, I think these would be great for a special Mother’s Day dinner!
- 4 smallish zucchini - about 4"-5" long
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup roughly chopped onions
- 1/2 cup finely minced canadian bacon or ham
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
- 1 slice bread (I used a dense piece of whole wheat)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons basil chiffonade + extra for serving
- 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella + extra for sprinkling
- sprinkle of parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Use a melon-baller to carefully scoop the flesh out of the zucchini and transfer to a mini prep food chopper. Pulse several times until the zucchini flesh is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the onions to the food processor and pulse until they are about the size consistency of the zucchini. Transfer to the same bowl as zucchini and add the minced canadian bacon.
- Crush the fennel seed either by using a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder, or place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board, add the fennel to the center and fold the plastic wrap over it. Use a rolling pin or mallet to crush the fennel seed. Add crushed fennel to the zucchini mixture, along with red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt.
- Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in the zucchini mixture and cook down until it's given up most of it's liquid, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and cook a few minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Tear the bread into small chunks and add them to the food processor along with the parsley. Pulse 3-5 times until coarsely chopped and transfer to the zucchini mixture. Add the mozzarella and basil, stir to combine.
- Lightly coat the interior of each zucchini half with a little olive oil. Spoon filling liberally into each zucchini and arrange on a baking sheet. Take a look at the tray and if you see a zucchini leaning in a particular direction -- instead of sitting straight up, prop the zucchini against one of the sides of the sheet pan to hold it erect and prevent it from spilling over in the oven. If most of your zucchini are persnickety - find a shallow casserole dish that will fit them snugly against one another and prevent them from toppling. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with a little mozzarella and parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.