In the Trenches

In the past few weeks, we have had fried zucchini (with sandwiches and IN sandwiches!), zucchini muffins, zucchini pasta and zucchini fritters, zucchini in salads and ON salads (as above, a zucchini-based dressing!), zucchini blossoms, and even plain old sauteed zucchini. I haven’t run out of tricks yet, and a good thing too, because we still have 15 pounds of squash on the counter and more growing inches by the hours.

I promised you at least one stuffed zucchini recipe, and here is this year’s varietal: a Mediterranean feast with ground turkey, wehani rice, and an irresistible creamy tomato sauce. (Last year’s stuffed zucchini, a Thai-inspired pork dish topped with a fried egg, is equally worthy of attention. Check it out!) This was my first time working with the wehani rice, an aromatic reddish-brown rice that added great flavor and crunch to the ground  turkey filling—so much more interesting than your plain old white or brown rice. Instead of microwaving the zucchini shells this year, I just gave them a liberal dose of salt and waited for it to draw out some of their moisture; before rinsing off the excess salt, I was able to pour off almost half a cup of liquid from my 3-pound zucchini. Also, since I was working with such a large specimen, I discarded its seedy core and used only the firm flesh for sauteing in my filling.

Thanks to this recipe, we polished off a huge zucchini in one evening, but the amount of stuffing I made would have sufficed for at least two of that size, maybe more! To give myself a little break from the squash, I decided to transform the leftover turkey mixture into sloppy joes—even though I had to make a second batch of sauce to do it! My parents both raved over the sauce, which is a simple scratch-made tomato sauce with a splash of cream, easy to make with relatively short notice and just a few ingredients.

Up next, zucchini desserts!

Mediterranean Turkey-Stuffed Zucchini

3/4 C wehani rice (or substitute brown rice)
1 1/2 C water
2 T olive oil
1.25 lb ground turkey
1/2 C red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C white wine
1 C fresh herbs, chopped (I used a blend of dill, mint, and parsley)
1/2 C feta cheese, crumbled
1 monster or 2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt

1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2″ piece of cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 T each of butter and olive oil
1/4 C heavy cream

Bring the wehani rice and water to a boil in a large pot, reduce to a slow simmer, cover, and cook until done, about 45-50 minutes.

Core the zucchini with a spoon or ice cream scoop, discarding any spongy or seedy portions and reserving any firm flesh; you want to reduce each half to a shell with walls of about 1/2″ thickness. Liberally salt the inner walls of the zucchini shells; chop the reserved zucchini flesh, transfer it to a small bowl, and salt it as well. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, until the zucchini starts releasing water, then rinse off the excess salt and drain thoroughly.

In the meantime, start the sauce: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant; add the tomato sauce, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper, and simmer slowly for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. I cook mine with a splatter screen on top of the pot, so that it can start reducing without making a mess of the stove. Once it has thickened and darkened slightly, stir in the cream and allow to heat through, then set aside.

When all the above components are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 375F and start the stuffing. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the red onion, garlic, and drained chopped zucchini until tender, then add the ground turkey and brown. Deglaze the pan with white wine (I think I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce to give the mixture a more appealing color) and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, and stir in the wehani rice, fresh herbs, and feta cheese. You might want to add a splash of olive oil if the mixture looks dry.

Place your rinsed and dried zucchini boats on a cookie sheet or in a casserole dish that has been lightly oiled. Stuff them as full as you can with the turkey mixture, drizzle with a little tomato sauce, and bake in the oven until the zucchini is fork-tender, 20-30 minutes. Serve with more tomato sauce, if desired.

Source: Loosely adapted from Cookin’ Canuck.

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