September 4, 2011
I like to say that I grew up “summering” in eastern Iowa. Forget the Cape or some lakeside retreat, my memories of summer involve loads of cousins, green lawns and hills to run around on, sprinklers, pools, tractors, and family. I have such great memories that, to this day, the smell of manure and pork farms is somewhat comforting. (From a distance). Somehow, I’m brought right back to those summer days and nights.
Fast forward to a summer at some point in my college years. My aunt Joan made, what I like to call, zucchini boats. A huge zucchini, halved lengthwise, and stuffed with cheesy deliciousness. They were so good, I got the recipe from her and even made them in my college house kitchen – the one that slanted so much you could feel yourself walking downhill as you went from the front of the house to the back. Alas, somewhere between 1995 and 12 moves and lots more kitchen challenges, I lost the recipe. But, I never forgot.
Fast forward to 2008, my husband and I had just bought a house that luckily came with five amazing vegetable beds. And, since it was early September, the plants were rocking. One of the treasures in our inherited garden was a GIANT zucchini. Aunt Joan’s zuke boats immediately came to mind. I had to wing it, since the recipe was lost but I remembered the principles. Halve the zucchini lengthwise, fill it with a mixture of sautéed vegetables, fresh herbs, sausage and cheese. Bake.
I’ve more recently learned that those giant zucchini are really just overgrown and can have a bitter taste. So, save the smaller ones for more delicate tasting recipes. This recipe is perfect for those huge zucchini in your own garden or in bins begging to be purchased at farm stands. And, it's one of those kitchen sink/use what you’ve got kind of recipes. Substitute veggies, add more veggies, substitute cheeses, use ground beef or turkey instead of sausage. It’s so versatile, I’m sure it will save dinner for you one of these nights!
Aunt Joan's Zuke Boats
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
2 giant zucchini
1 T olive oil
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t dried oregano (or about 1 T fresh)
5 or so basil leaves, chopped
1/2 fennel seeds (optional)
1 pound Italian sausage (turkey sausage works great here), casing removed
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (or more cheddar cheese)
- Preheat oven to 350. Halve zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving about 3/4 inch around.
- Chop the zucchini flesh and reserve. You will probably only need the flesh from one of the zucchinis.
- Add sausage to a skillet and saute until brown, about 10 minutes, breaking up the meat as you cook. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
- Wipe down pan, add olive oil and sauté zucchini flesh, peppers and onion until brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and spices, sauté another minute.
- Remove from heat, add sausage, cheddar cheese and ricotta to the vegetable mixture so that its creamy and wet.
- Stuff each zucchini half with mixture. Top with parmesan cheese.
- Bake zucchini boats in a baking pan for about 20 minutes, or until bubbling.