Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini Bats

By Gail Foley

Well it’s that time of year again. The zucchini are coming on like gangbusters and there’s always a couple that get away and turn into what we fondly call “baseball bats”. If you've ever grown zucchini, I’m sure you’re familiar with this phenomenon.

A freshly picked “bat” should still have tender skin for this recipe. Poke it with a fingernail to test it. I didn't feel like doing the usual  treatment for very large zucchini – shredding. My other favorite treatment is to cut them into pickle size spears and make dill pickles. I’m not quite ready for pickling yet.

I researched some stuffed zucchini recipes on the internet for something new and different. This recipe from Rachel Ray for Cheesy Zucchini Boats offered two new techniques. She baked the zucchini first, using the same technique I use for winter squash: Cut the squash in half and bake it cut side down. And the more interesting technique was to put the cheese on the bottom, under the stuffing rather than as the usual topping.

1 very large zucchini, 14 inches

¾ lb ground beef (ground sirloin)
½ onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
¼ large orange bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 can (10.5 oz) tomato soup (1 pint homemade tomato soup)
8 slices bread, white balloon (2 Kroger onion rolls + 3 slices white bread)

6 ounces (1 ½ cups) shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Trim the ends from the zucchini, enough to fit in your baking dish. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the spongy center with seeds and discard, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Place the zucchini shells cut side down in prepared baking dish and bake for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat, while chopping vegetables.

Add the beef, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and seasonings to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring to break up meat, until no longer pink and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato soup and bread.

Using tongs, turn over the zucchini shells and line the bottoms with the mozzarella. Pack on the filling. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Cut each half crosswise into four pieces.

Serve with a side salad or another vegetable such as corn on the cob or steamed broccoli.

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