Cooking from the Garden: Get Stuffed
July 14, 2014 § 4 Comments
Recently, while I was sitting in my home office putting together a post for this blog, I heard my elderly neighbor — the one with the tomatoes — yelling my name as he came across my driveway to the back door. He’d come over to give me a “zucchini” from his garden. Now that both of our gardens are blooming, we’ve started trading. (I’d just traded his daughter a bunch of sage and an over-sized jalapeño pepper for a handful of fresh tomatoes. Talk about “shop local!”)
This zucchini was like none I’d seen before: it was the size of a cantaloupe and about two pounds in weight. Thanks to my cucurbit education at CUESA’s Summer Celebration, I figured out that what he’d given me was a Ronde de Nice, or globe squash (still… it’s a big, round zucchini). I don’t eat much summer squash, so what to do with it was an immediate headscratcher. I thanked him, turned it over a few times feeling the weight, and then put it in my refrigerator until I could figure it out.
When his daughter stopped by a few days later, she was excitedly curious about “the zucchini” — had I cooked it yet?! I had to admit — reluctantly — that I hadn’t, and that I was a little stymied as to how to prepare it. Truthfully, I still had no idea what to do with this thing, so I was, well, avoiding it. Stuffing and baking it seemed like the obvious choice (and she agreed), but the ground beef and cheese version she’d recently made for dinner with her father just didn’t fit my more plant-based diet, which meant that I’d have to come up with a recipe. Cue the interweb searches.
So, the big, round zucchini sat in my refrigerator — at eye level — for almost two weeks. I moved it from the top shelf to the middle, and then back again as I cooked my way through the rest of the produce. (Ugh. I know!) It was a thoughtful gift, and I was running the risk of letting it go the way of so many lost zucchini before it. Sad but true: every once in a while I forget about my hit-or-miss relationship with zucchini, buy some, and then struggle to use it all before it goes slimy. (Yep, eww.)
Finally, as I was contemplating dinner this past weekend, I decided it was time to deal with the big, round zucchini. What was the right way to stuff and cook this thing? I’d have to experiment. Then it hit me: what a great opportunity to use up some leftovers! I had roasted vegetables, brown rice, half an heirloom tomato, some feta — I could come up with something tasty and do it without much prep work. Suddenly this thing I’d been fretting over became a fun dinner project! Cue the aperitif.
I cut the top from the Ronde de Nice and scooped out the interior flesh and seeds. Eek. This thing could feed a family of four. Hmm, the filling I’d planned wouldn’t be quite enough for this cavernous cucurbit. Crap. I’d have to come up with more ingredients for the filling, so I started scavenging the refrigerator.
Fortunately, I’d had a new CSA box delivery two days beforehand, not to mention a few lingering items from the previous CSA box. (Still working on reducing food waste at home!) The beet greens from the previous CSA box were still good, as was the last of the green garlic. Problem solved: sautéed beet greens with garlic and spicy red pepper would round out the filling. I could also finely chop the Ronde de Nice’s cap and add some squash to my er, squash.
For additional texture I threw in some pepitas, and for a bit of creaminess and flavor, I added some olive oil and locally made feta. In the end, I needed about three cups of filling to pack out this baby! When all was said and done, most of the work was chopping and mixing. The only “cooking” I did was sautéing the greens with garlic and red pepper, and that took about seven minutes. The whole thing couldn’t have been easier. Yeah, who knew?
Here’s my version of Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash — a nod to Bastille Day and #MeatlessMonday. Feel free to substitute your own leftover grains, vegetables, and cheeses.
Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash
Yield: Serves 2 as a main course; serves 4 as a side dish
Filling for Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash (below)
2-pound Ronde de Nice squash (or two 1-pound squashes)
- Preheat oven to 375ºF and lightly oil a deep baking dish or roasting pan.
- Cut the top from the squash.
- Using a dessert spoon, scrape the flesh and seeds from inside the squash, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick “shell.”
Discard the seeds and reserve any remaining flesh for future use.
- Cut some of the cap into 1/4″ pieces for the filling (about 1/3 cup total).
- Make the filling (recipe below).
- Use a towel or paper towel to blot any moisture from inside the squash.
- Stuff squash with filling, slightly mounding the filling at the opening.
If using two smaller squashes, divide filling evenly between the two.
Save any leftover filling for other uses (side dish, salad, topping for vegetarian nachos).
- Place stuffed squash in the prepared baking dish and cover with foil.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking about 15 minutes longer until squash is al dente or slightly soft, depending on your preference.
Filling for Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash
If using a 2-pound squash, you’ll need about 3 cups of filling. Feel free to increase or decrease amounts or substitute ingredients, depending on your taste.
2/3 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup chopped roasted carrots and onions (¼” pieces)
1/2 cup chopped tomato (¼” pieces)
3/4 cup cooked corn
1/3 cup chopped squash from the cap or flesh
1/2 bunch greens (kale, beet, radish), sautéed with garlic and crushed red pepper
1½ tablespoons toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped or snipped into ¼” pieces
½ – 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
- Add to prepared squash as described above.