Broiled: No-bake stuffed zucchini

I started this post almost a year ago, and it’s been languishing in my “Drafts” folder.  I recreated this dish a week ago for one of Gabriel’s birthday dinners, and my father-in-law requested the recipe.

I should note here that my FIL is a very good cook — we’re usually asking him for recipes, so it’s fun when the roles are reversed.  It’s also a bit easier when we ask him for recipes, since he actually, ahem, uses recipes, as opposed to just making stuff up.

Stuffed zucchini is a great use for somewhat overgrown zucchini and other summer squash, but most recipes call for a long baking time.  This recipe is not oven-free, as it requires a few minutes under the broiler, but it still probably uses less energy and heats the house up less than having the oven on for an hour.  If you’re making a small batch, and have a toaster oven, you can really be efficient!

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This is one of those “use what you have/what you like” recipes.  In the above photo, from last fall, I used quinoa as the grain, and we had tomatoes and peppers from the garden.  Last week, I used brown rice, along with some tempeh to up the protein and flavor (lentils are another good vegetarian protein addition).  We didn’t have tomatoes or peppers last week, so I used fennel, kale, and corn, plus some eggplant puree and fresh herbs, for the vegetables.

There is a decent bit of prep work, but a lot of it can be done ahead of time, so it works well when you’re having guests for dinner, or if you just have time earlier in the day, but not in those last frantic minutes right before dinner.

No-bake Stuffed Zucchini

Recipe by Melissa
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

2-3 large zucchini or other summer squash (ideally at least 8-10″ long and ≥9″ diameter)
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1.5 c. uncooked grain (brown rice, quinoa, millet, farro)
1 c. cooked lentils or 1 8oz package of tempeh (optional)
4-8 c. vegetables of choice (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale or spinach, fennel)fresh or dried herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley)
1-2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil and/or butter
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Prep the squash: cut in half length-wise, and scoop out the seeds and goop in the middle.  Sprinkle salt on the insides, and drain in a colander for 30 minutes.  While the squash is draining, bring a large pot of water to a boil (large enough to fit the squash halves).  After 30 minutes, parboil the squash for 5-7 minutes, until slightly tender.  Drain well.  Reserve water for next step (optional).

2. Prep the grain.  To up the flavor, add a bit of salt, plus some onion powder and a pinch of tumeric to this step.  If you want to conserve water and energy, use some of the already-heated water from step 1 to cook the grain.

3. Prep the veggies: Since we’re not baking the stuffed zucc, you want everything fairly tender and ready to eat.  Chop everything into bite-sized pieces.  Sauté onions, then add other veggies to sauté.  I used a mix of butter and olive oil, plus about 1/2 t. of salt.  If you’re using tomatoes, you can just throw the chopped, uncooked tomatoes into the filling, or cook them down into more of a sauce.

4. Prep the tempeh, if using: I basically followed the method I use to prep tempeh for vegetarian reubens, except I crumbled it up first, instead of leaving it in a slab.

5. Combine it all: In one large pan or bowl (one of the ones that’s already dirty is fine, if it’s big enough), combine everything from steps 1-4.  Toss in any herbs.  Taste for overall salt and flavor level, and adjust as needed.

6. Stuff it and broil it: arrange squash halves on a broiler pan or in a large cast iron pan.  Sprinkle halves with salt and garlic powder.  Add the stuffing.  Preheat the broiler for a couple of minutes, then broil for 5 minutes.  Remove, add cheese, and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes.

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Notes

  • Don’t worry if you have extra stuffing.  Serve it on the side, or save it for leftovers.
  • If you don’t want to heat the house up at all, I imagine you could do the “broil” step on the grill to good effect.
  • While not required, adding something a little “saucy” can be nice.  For my most recent batch, the eggplant puree (frozen from last summer) filled that role.  Tomatoes or tomato sauce work similarly well.
  • To prep ahead, complete steps 1-5.  You could stuff the squash ahead of time, also, but it’s best done shortly before broiling.  If your filling and squash are starting at refrigerator temperature, either get them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before dinner, or microwave the filling to warm it before completing step 6.

 

Recent eats and recipe: Lentil Fennel Soup

The garden is bountiful these days: loads of red and black raspberries, bunches of greens, big bulbs of fennel, and sweet, crunchy sugar snap peas.

I love eating the sugar snap peas as-is (and so does Sir), but we have enough that I felt like experimenting, so I tried this sugar snap salad recipe.  Fortunately, I had grabbed some mint from my MIL’s yard, so I was good to go (I didn’t have shallots, so I just substituted some onion).  It was a snap to make and tasty, too!

Next up, marinated fennel.  I started this on the same afternoon that I made the pea salad, planning to give the fennel a nice long marinade before using it for the next day’s dinner.  It just so happened that the fennel marinade in the recipe I wanted to try was almost identical to the dressing for the pea salad, so I just made extra and tossed it on the fennel.

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The next night, the marinated fennel paired with fresh mozzarella and grilled bread for a satisfying, summery sandwich (recipe here), shown above in a deconstructed, bread salad version that I tossed together for a picnic dinner later in the week.

We’re awash in fennel right now, so I created a lentil soup recipe to make use of the fennel, as well as some greens.

LENTIL FENNEL SOUP WITH WILD RICE
Recipe by Melissa

Ingredients

One large bulb of fennel
1-2 T. butter1-2 T. olive oil
Chopped garlic scapes or minced garlic
Oregano (dried or fresh)
1/4 t. tumeric
1/2 t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1 c. dry lentils
1/2 c. wild rice
3-4 c. loosely packed fresh spinach, washed and chopped

Directions

Cover wild rice with 2 c. water.  Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 60 minutes.

Cook lentils in 4-5 cups water.  The extra cooking water will become part of the broth for the soup.  Once at a boil, simmer for about 15 minutes until tender, but not mushy.

Meanwhile, quarter fennel (discarding tough core, if present), then chop into bite size pieces.  Sauté fennel in butter and olive oil, with a bit of salt, about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic or scapes and sauté an additional minutes, then turn off heat.

Puree about 1/3 of the cooked lentils and 1/3 of the cooked fennel with some of the extra lentil “broth.”  Combine puree and all remaining ingredients in a large pan.  Check salt and seasoning level, and adjust as desired.  Simmer 2-3 minutes to wilt spinach.

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This was good the first night, but, as is the way of soups and stews, it tasted even better for lunch two days later, after the flavors had time to meld.

 

Linguini with rhubarb and carmelized onions

I visited my family in Iowa over Memorial Day weekend, and, upon arrival, I discovered a treasure trove of magazines.  I’m a closet magazine junkie — I love reading books, but there’s just something about sitting and flipping through a magazine that feels fun and indulgent.

I don’t subscribe to any magazines myself, between the environmental and monetary costs.  I could get more magazines from the library, but I don’t.  Anyhow, I indulged in magazine fest while at home: Self, Health, Parents, and Better Homes and Gardens.  (My mom sent some back to StL with me, so the mag-fest continues!)

The May issue of BHG had a whole section of rhubarb recipes, including several savory dishes, and the rhubarb linguini caught my eye.  Once back in StL, I was on garden duty while my boys and MIL were in Florida, and, lo and behold, we had rhubarb to harvest.

I started out by more or less following the recipe as printed.  My garden harvest also included a ton of greens, so I made a side of sauteed spinach with carmelized onions to go with my pasta.  Turns out that was an good move, as the sweetness of the carmelized onions was just what this recipe needed to balance out the tart rhubarb!

It’s been for. ev. er. since I’ve posted a recipe.  Sorry about that, and here you go!

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LINGUINI WITH RHUBARB AND CARMELIZED ONIONS

Recipe by Melissa, adapted from BHG May 2014
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
12 oz. whole wheat linguini
2 c. thinly sliced onion
4 c. loosely packed spinach or kale
3 c. 1/4-inch thick slices rhubarb
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
4-6 oz. freshly grated Parmesean cheese
1 T. dried parsley
chopped fresh parsley

Directions
Carmelize the onions.  While the onions cook, start working on the other steps.

Wash and chop the spinach.  If you haven’t already chopped the rhubarb, chop the rhubarb.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, grate the cheese and chop the garlic.

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente noodles.  One minute before the pasta is finished, remove one cup of pasta cooking water and reserve.  Toss the chopped rhubarb in the pot with the pasta, cook one more minute, and drain.

Sauté the garlic in olive oil in the hot, now-empty pasta pan.  Add spinach and carmelized onions.  Add the pasta and rhubarb.

Lower the heat, and add the cheese, dried parsley, and reserved pasta water.  Mix until well combined.  Turn heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes.

Garnish with fresh parsley and freshly ground black pepper to serve.

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This was tasty the first night, but I think it tasted better the second time around, after the rhubarb mellowed a bit and the flavors had a chance to mingle.

 

 

Recent recipe round-up

It seems like it’s been quite awhile since I wrote about food here.  Here’s a look at the last four week’s worth of eats, along with some recipe links.  The table below chronicles what we had for dinner each night.  Lunch = dinner leftovers.

I don’t plan out the week’s dinners at the beginning of the week, but I do sketch out which leftovers we’ll have for lunch on which day.  (On a good week, I start the week with lunches covered through Wednesday).  Then, I base the dinner plans on what we had for lunch, i.e., if we didn’t have beans for lunch, I want to incorporate them into dinner, or, if we had a wheat-based lunch (e.g., bread or pasta), I want a different, non-wheat starch/grain (e.g., millet, rice, potatoes, corn, quinoa, etc.) for dinner.

Frozen green beans and canned pickled beets
Frozen green beans and canned pickled beets

I’m enjoying the fruits of our labor, using frozen and canned garden produce as a component in many meals, which makes meal prep a bit easier, as well as stored potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and winter squash.  This menu also includes our foray into eating sardines.

MenuTable

Recipe links and sources:

  • Black bean soup
  • Kugel (kind-of a shredded potato casserole-type thing): recipe modified from “Tante Malka’s Potato Kugel Deluxe” in Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook
  • Slaw
  • Fritatta (ours had potatoes and asparagus in it)
  • Snobby Joe’s
  • Spanakopita
Fritatta
Fritatta

Many of those dishes are just things I made up, with no official recipes, so if you’re curious about something, please ask, and I’ll be happy to reply with details and/or work on a recipe post.

Grain mill test run and cornbread recipe

Matthew grew two types of grain corn this year, one for polenta and one for flour.  He harvested a number of lovely ears and removed the kernels, at which point we were stuck.

I attempted to “mill” some of the polenta corn in our food processor, which laughed at my efforts as the kernels spun around making quite a clatter, but coming no closer to becoming corn meal.  Next up was the coffee/spice grinder, which kind-of worked, albeit in very small batches and producing a grain with uneven texture (some almost as fine as flour, but other grains still very coarse).  Due to the presence of the very large grains in the final product, the polenta took over three hours to cook!

Fortunately, a friend has an electric grain mill, and she was willing to let me take it for a test run.  I wasted no time milling all of our corn before returning the mill.

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I originally planned to try other [gluten-free] grains after finishing with the corn, but that never happened . . .

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. . . because it literally took hours to get a relatively small amount of corn kernels through the mill.*  The corn kernels (bigger than popcorn kernels) were at about the upper limit as far as size of whole grains that would work in the mill.  I suspected that smaller grains (e.g., rice, quinoa, millet, etc.) would flow through much more quickly, and my friend confirmed this.

Despite the rather ridiculous time input, this was my best option by far for turning the corn kernels into a form we could eat, so I stuck with it.

Even on the coarsest grind and slowest motor setting (which is also supposed to contribute to a coarser grind), the milled “polenta” corn was really too fine for making polenta.  We’ll use it in cornbread and other baking where we would use “fine” corn meal instead.

Similarly, the milled “flour” corn came out much finer than I expected.  Even “fine” corn meal has some grit to it, but this was really more like flour.  Matthew later explained that this was due, in part, to the variety of corn — a type that was a low “flint” level, which is what makes corn meal gritty.

Other thoughts:

  • This grain mill is a beast — it takes up some serious kitchen counter real estate.  Granted, it’s the kind of thing that you would use every now and then and store elsewhere, but still.
  • On a related note, this would be an ideal appliance for some kind of neighborhood (or co-housing) appliance share.  It would be easy to share among a number of households, and that would also help lower the cost.
  • Along with beastly size, this machine roars like a beast.  The noise wouldn’t have been a big deal for short periods of time (<15 minutes or so), but the whole having to run it for hours thing got old fast.
  • The hopped did not really work for my big corn kernels.  I did a good bit of manually stirring the kernels in the hopper to help keep things moving.  I don’t think this would be necessary with smaller grains.
  • The lid on the compartment that holds the milled flour has a rubber seal.  While I understand the necessity of the compartment being well-sealed, this thing was ridiculously hard to remove!

While the idea of being able to turn any whole grain into flour is appealing, an electric grain mill is not on my purchase-soon list, especially with a price tag near $300.

Now that all this corny talk has whetted your appetite, here’s cornbread recipe that I’ve been meaning to share, based on this recipe at Kitchen Parade.  I discovered and adapted this recipe about a year ago, and it quickly became a favorite.

SKILLET CORNBREAD

  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (I used soymilk and vinegar)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T. mix of sorghum and honey (or just honey)
  • 1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stoneground
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used half and half rye and rice flours to make a wheat-free, but NOT gluten-free, cornbread)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place a 9″-12″ cast iron skillet on the stove top over very low heat to warm gently.

Combine buttermilk, olive oil, honey, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix wet ingredients into dry.

Melt butter in the cast iron skillet to coat, then pour in batter and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Time will vary based on size of skillet.

Note: I most recently made this recipe using our corn “flour” in place of the corn meal.  While the resulting product was quite delicious, the lack of grit in the corn created a product with a texture more like a muffin or cake than traditional corn bread.  In the future, I will use our home-grown corn meal/flour for the 1/2 cup of flour in the recipe, and stick with store-bought, fine corn meal for the 1 1/4 cups of corn meal.

*I was 100% on-board with keeping the mill gluten-free, since my friend’s husband has a gluten sensitivity, and being able to mill their own GF flour was a big reason they bought the mill.  However, this meant that I wasn’t able to try making my own whole wheat Cream of Wheat-esque cereal, something that my oatmeal-shunning hubby wants to try.