Thursday, August 18, 2011

Andrea's Amazing Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini


I've made this dish a variety of ways over the past few years and just got a request for the recipe from a friend who just moved across the country, so I figured I'd share it with everyone. Practically everyone I've made it for has asked for the recipe, so here it is! The main ingredients are at peak season now, so you should be able to make this tasty dinner after a quick trip to the farmers market.
Home Grown Stuffed Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
It's healthy, vegetarian, absolutely delicious and extremely easy to make. Vegan?  Just leave out the cheese! If you haven't discovered quinoa yet, this is the perfect recipe to try it in, but just about any grain can be substituted for the quinoa in this recipe. Just follow the cooking instructions for the grain (usually 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid in a rice cooker will do the trick).

Preheat the oven to 350.

Start off with the largest zucchini you can find!  You can use other veggies if you want (peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, etc).
Cut zucchini in half length-wise and use a spoon to hollow out the seeds and the "meat."  Be sure to leave a decent shell in place so that the zucchini will support the stuffing later.  Throw the seeds away, set the substance aside.
Season the zucchini with a spray of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Place zucchini in a baking dish and stick it in that pre-heated oven while preparing the stuffing (timesaver!). 

Cook 1 cup of quinoa in veggie stock.  You can follow the stove top cooking directions on the box or use a rice-cooker and 2 cups of veggie stock.  Feel free to flavor the stock with some garlic, basil, etc.  I like to throw in a few sun-dried tomatoes.
A note about quinoaQuinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is amazing.  It's a whole grain that comes from South America and has more protein and fiber than brown rice.  It can be found at most grocery stores in the 'alternative' or 'organic' aisles or near the rice and other grains. If you don't have quinoa, you can substitute any grain. 

While the quinoa is cooking, saute the following ingredients until soft in a little olive oil in a large pan over medium heat:
medium yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
The substance from the zucchini that you set aside before, chopped
Any other veggies you want to throw in there... chopped (mushrooms, perhaps?)

Mix 1 can of petite diced tomatoes (fresh tomatoes work, too) and 3 cloves of minced garlic with the cooked quinoa.  Add lots of herbs of your choice (I like lots of chopped oregano, basil, and parsley and a pinch of thyme... fresh when possible) and 1 cup of grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano).  While the quinoa and cheese provides plenty of protein, feel free to add a can of white kidney beans for a more substantial main course. Chopped olives can also be added if you like. This is the "Italian" version. For the "Mexican" version, use oregano, cilantro, cayenne, and chili powder for your spices (no basil or parsley), shredded cheddar or jack and black beans. 

Note:  It's OK to go ahead and eat a few spoonfuls of this delicious stuffing base!  In fact, it's encouraged, so that you can go ahead and season more if you want... I promise that it doesn't need egg, breadcrumbs, or meat (but go ahead and add some if you insist).Now, remove the veggies from the stove and mix into the quinoa stuffing. Pull the zucchini out of the oven (should be about 1/2 cooked).  Stuff the zucchini, top with some more cheese (pecorino tuscano is the choice cheese here, but use whatever you like), and put in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 min.  Broil for the last few minutes to crisp the top.... and VIOLA!  

Dinner is served!   

Need something else to put on the plate?  Try a tomato-cucumber salad.  Yum!


This post has been shared on The Healthy Home Economist, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Day2DayJoys, Whole New Mom, and Real Food Forager