At this point in the summer season there is an abundance of zucchini, with many gardeners looking for ways to prepare it, or friends and neighbors to share with. I am fortunate in being a neighbor to a gardener, and he is kind in sharing his over-flow with us. Soooo, zucchini is on the menu! I spent some time on a recent afternoon browsing through cookbooks looking for some different ways to prepare it. I had a secondary reason to look at recipes; my husband and I are starting a low-carbohydrate eating plan, and so low-carb. recipes was the second objective. Zucchini fits the bill on this count: low calorie and low carbohydrate. I reasoned that by stuffing it with a meat mixture, I could maintain that low carbohydrate profile.
My search turned up a recipe for meatballs using Italian sausage and ground pork. Since I did not have any ground pork readily available, I substituted ground turkey instead and paired it with hot Italian sausage. I mixed up the whole recipe which was more than what was needed to stuff my zucchini, so I formed the remainder into meatballs and froze them, ready for another dish in the future. Once I had the zucchini stuffed, I put them into a baking dish, poured some of my fresh tomato marinara sauce over them and baked till the squash was tender. The final step was to sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, let it melt in the hot oven, and serve this dish with a salad.
On a more personal note, my motivation for starting a low-carbohydrate diet is obviously to loose a few pounds. I’m clearly not overweight, but there are a few extra bulges here and there, and since I am planning on competing in November in a Ballroom Dance Competition, the time to begin a weight loss program is now when there are so many vegetables available. I have followed a low carbohydrate plan in the past and it has proven to be a good one for me, because once I go a few days without carbs, I no longer have a desire for them and I am perfectly satisfied with all the other foods I can have. After about two weeks of eating like this you can start to add carbs back into your diet slowly, in small amounts so you do not feel totally deprived. My goal is to lose 5 pounds. I’ll keep you posted on how I do.
ITALIAN STYLE STUFFED ZUCCHINI
- 2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise. (If you use large zucchini, you will need to pre bake them a little in advance of stuffing them.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 large shallots, finely diced
- 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (This helps keep the meat mixture moist)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces lean ground pork, or ground turkey
- 2 ( 4 oz. ) links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large egg
- 1 large jar prepared spaghetti sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Prepare a shallow baking dish by spraying with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce in the baking dish as a base for the zucchini.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until shallots are softened, stirring frequently .
3. Combine shallot mixture, ricotta, and next 8 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl.
4. Prepare zucchini for filling by creating a “boat”; i.e., scoop out seeds and some of the flesh. I used a melon-baller, and it was easy to do. Leave enough flesh, so zucchini will support itself, and maintain its shape.
5. Fill each zucchini half with a generous portion of the meat filling. Arrange in baking dish, and pour marinara sauce over the top. If you have extra meat filling, either make more zucchini, or freeze for later use.
6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Pierce zucchini for doneness: they should pierce easily and be tender.
7. Remove foil, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Return to hot oven just to melt the cheese.
I found that the juices from the zucchini and meat added to the volume of sauce, so I think this dish would go well with some pasta to put all that sauce over. If I were eating carbohydrates now, that’s what I would do. 😦 Instead we had this dish with a spinach salad, and it was very satisfying.
SOURCE: adapted from a recipe from Cooking Light Annual, 2008