Eek! I made this new recipe months ago, but somehow forgot to write it up. Now I’m afraid I don’t remember much of the experience, except that it was good enough for me to keep the recipe around. But then, how could it not be? I’m a great fan of foods stuffed into other foods, particularly when one of those foods is cheese. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing not to like here, and while the recipe requires some multitasking—cook zucchini, sauté onions, mix cheeses, fill, bake—it’s nothing too challenging. The recipe is from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook; he lists it as a main course, but mine, at least, turned out somewhat small, so we would have had to eat two each if that was all I served. Instead, we had it as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts. Jack suggests serving it with a tomato salad, which would be nice in the summer… Hmm, now that I’ve rediscovered this recipe, I’m going to have to make it again soon!
Postscript, December 2009: I'm not sure if that ever happened, but regardless, this didn't stand the test of time--I never make it nowadays, so it's moving to "Not Favorites."
4 medium-large zucchini (about 2 pounds total), scrubbed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or oregano
1 large egg, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan for cooking the zucchini. When the water boils, add the zucchini and salt to taste and simmer until the zucchini “offers just a little resistance when pierced with a skewer, about 6 minutes.” Drain the zucchini and let them cool to room temperature.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove this from the heat and set it aside.
4. When the zucchini are room-temperature (or cool enough to handle without burning your fingers, anyway), trim off the ends and slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh, taking care not to puncture the skin, leaving a hollowed-out shell about ½ inch thick.
5. Beat the egg in a large bowl and then add the ricotta and Parmesan or Romano-Pecorino (for the record, Jack “prefer[s] the sharper taste of the Pecorino with the mild ricotta,” but since I always have Parmesan in my friedge, I just use that), the herbs (I use oregano instead of thyme, because I think fresh oregano is one of the great unsung heroes of the herb world—though thyme’s fine, too), and pepper to taste. Stir in the onion mixture. Use a spoon to scoop the filling into the zucchini shells, dividing it evenly among the four of them.
6. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to lightly grease a baking dish large enough to hold the zucchini in a single layer. Arrange the zucchini in the dish, sprinkle the bread crumbs over them, and bake until the filling is golden, 45-50 minutes.
Time: 1½ hours (mostly baking time)