Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stuffed Zucchini (Baseball Bats!)

We were away from our farm for a few days and, even though there was no rain while we were gone, the zucchini in our garden grew. And grew. Those that were 2-3” long when we left blew up to 10-12” within 5 days. Jack calls these creatures "baseball bats". Thus begins the Zucchini Season. I rarely buy this vegetable the rest of the year, when it’s $1.79+ per pound, because we certainly get our fill in July, August, and September!

An amusing side note. 23 summers ago we had just been in this house for 6 months or so and I wanted to plant a garden. I had never really planted a garden before, even though my parents and both sets of grandparents had lovely, big gardens. I wasn’t much for the outdoor life and, really, helping my Dad by pulling weeds wouldn’t have been much fun. I would probably sweat and have to wash my hair again, my hands would get dirty—nope, not for me! I’ll help Mom in the kitchen, instead, thank you. Then. Well, it seemed as though a garden was just something that had to be done, if we lived on this farm with all of this land. Our neighbor came over and tilled a 25’ x 50’ plot (yes, huge—but I didn’t know that!) and I planted. My darling new husband mentioned that he just loved zucchini so I did what I thought I should do, I planted zucchini. That summer, 27 (yes, that’s twenty-seven!) plants thrived. How was I to know what would happen when the zucchini plants started to produce? Or how fast the zucchini would grow?! I mentioned what I planted to my Mom and wondered why she laughed so hard. The Year of Zucchini had begun.

I did my best to keep up. I would go to work and find recipes that well-meaning friends left on my desk. I would take shopping bags full of zucchini and these nice people would buy them for 25¢ a pound then lug them to their homes on a bus. As summer wore on, I began to lose my enthusiasm. Jack insisted that we use it all, so I experimented. I made pickles, although neither of us even like pickles. I shredded and froze gallon-sized bags for winter. I baked zucchini cakes, muffins, breads, pancakes. I made pizza with a shredded-zucchini crust (bad move, I remember it even now). We had entire dinners of sautéed, broiled, stuffed zucchini and not for just a couple of days a week! Finally, I had enough. I began to wait until Jack was engrossed in a tv program, would go outside in the dark, fill a wheelbarrow with the vegetable monsters, and wheel them behind the barn where I dumped them over the side of the hill. I remember how afraid I was to go back there without a light, but I didn’t want my new hubby to notice what I was doing (wasting food!!!).

Needless to say, the following summer I planted 2 zucchini plants. Which was fine, enough for us and for a few friends who asked for some. Until one Saturday Jack was clearing brush behind the barn while I was working in the garden and at one point he came up to the house. Come with me, he said, you have to see this. I followed him, having no idea what I had to see (hoping it was a bunch of baby raccoons playing or whatever) and we got to the edge of the hill. My heart sank. There, growing up the hill, down the hill, and covering every square inch of probably a couple of hundred square feet, were zucchini plants. With huge zucchini, most of which had been nibbled by the resident wildlife. Jack looked at me and said “where do you think these came from?”. I took a deep breath, ready to admit to my wanton wastefulness of the previous August, and he continued. “The previous owners must have had another garden back here!”. Yep. That was it!

This year, I have 5 plants. I had planted 6 in pots from seed and was going to plant the best 3 in the garden but 5 looked equally good. But 5 are a long way from 27! I should be able to keep up. :)

I made zucchini pancakes as a side with dinner last night (still working on that recipe), but for lunch today I made a pretty good stuffed zucchini. Leave out the ground turkey and add more cheese for a vegetarian dish.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Stuffed Baseball Bats

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1/2 cup basmati rice -- (raw measure); cooked as directed

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 pound zucchini

6 ounces lean ground turkey

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 large garlic clove -- minced

3/4 cup chopped tomato

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper -- to taste, or more if desired

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1 1/2 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese -- shredded; divided

Prepare rice and keep warm.

Split zucchini in half lengthwise and place on cutting board cut side facing up. With a small paring knife, make a 1/4" deep guideline about 1/2" from the edge of the zucchini, going around the surface of the entire zucchini. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, making the walls of the zucchini no less than 1/4" thick. Slice the larger seeds from the pieces scooped out, dice the remainder, and set aside.

In a large covered casserole that will hold both halves, pour about 1/3 cup of water then add the zucchini, cut side up. Cover and microwave until just tender (about 4 minutes at 80% power). Carefully remove from the dish (set aside the dish and the water for cooking the stuffed zucchini). Place the zucchini, cut side down, on a few paper towels. Set aside.

In a skillet brown the ground turkey in olive oil until it's just begins to lose its pink color. Add the onion and reserved chopped zucchini and continue to cook until the onion is almost tender, then add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water, stir, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste, then add the oregano and fold in the rice. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the cheddar and mix the rest into the rice mixture.

Stuff each half with the rice mixture, pressing down into the zucchini and rounding the top, then flattening a bit. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Place back into the casserole, cover, and microwave for a couple of minutes, or until heated through.

Optional: after this step, the stuffed zucchini can be placed on a broiler-safe pan and set under a broiler for 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts and browns a bit.

Serve while warm.

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Per serving: 432 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat; (27% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 59mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 3 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : This makes 2 main dish or 4 side servings

I may forget to mention this in subsequent posts, but when you use shredded zucchini in a recipe it should be as dry as possible (especially for baked goods- the excess juice makes the batter very sticky). My favorite method of achieving this, which is unique but very effective, is to use the washing machine on its spin cycle. Seriously. Take a large kitchen towel (white cotton is best, I love a “flour sack” for this) and dump the shredded zucchini in the center. Fold the towel tightly around the zucchini and secure with at least one safety pin. You don’t want to have to clean small zucchini shreds out of the washing machine! Place the bundle in the machine against an outer wall (I don’t think that front-loading machines will be a good idea for this particular application), close the lid, and spin dry for a couple of minutes. Remove the towel carefully from the washer and voila! Dry zucchini shreds!

An additional note. I usually don’t take the spin cycle to the very end. After removing the zucchini I will add a half-bucket of water and allow it to spin the greenish zucchini juices totally out of the machine with the remainder of the cycle. I keep one towel especially for this use and don’t mind the green tint to it, but you may want to presoak the towel in a weak chlorine bleach/ hot water mixture to remove the green stains from the towel.

Enough for now-- Heloise out!!! :)