Saturday, September 10, 2011

Frankenstein Vegetables

Song Pairing:
Frankenstein by Edgar Winter
It's a long song but it's brilliant how it manages to be both driving and playful at the same time.  You can definitely pretend you're creating a masterpiece from "scratch."  Nuts and bolts, or, in this case, bits and pieces of remnant veggies and herbs, cast off as excess from other recipes now have a home and new life here.  Get your funky on and have fun trying this for dinner!

Farmer's markets hold the special appeal of never knowing exactly what you're going to find.  It may be the same vendors week to week, but I'm always wondering what they've brought from their gardens this particular day.  I wait to make up my weekly menu so I can best utilize my discoveries.  And this week I hit the jackpot!  Not only did I find tonight's dinner, but my next post as well!

I'm talking about that big guy in the back.  Yep.  The monster zucchini.

As soon as my eyes set upon these gargantuan zucchinis I smiled.  A BIG smile.  I was a young teen again, back on Keenan Street, tending to our family's vegetable garden.  My parents always planned  a big garden and then my brothers and sisters and I spent most of our summer vacation maintaining it.  I'm pretty sure their thought process was the precursor to today's notion that, if you keep your children insanely busy in worthwhile activities such as sports, dance, music, etc, they won't have enough time to get into trouble.  With nine children, that's a lot of time to fill.  Thus, the size of the garden grew to accommodate my parents' "needs."  Side note - it didn't work.  We still found trouble just fine.  But that's another blog.

With children of various ages manning the crops, it was inevitable that a stray zucchini would get lost here and there in the foliage.  That is until they became these dark, lurking, behemoths.  

Now, the first thing people do when they see these giants is run and get out their graters, roll up their sleeves, and set about making a mountain of shredded squash flesh destined for breads, brownies, cookies, marinara, etc.  It's one of the most popular veggies to disguise - probably because it's one of the most proliferate veggies grown and one of the least favorite to eat!  I suggest having a neighborhood survey each spring to see just which items each gardener is planting and devise some sort of policing of the zucchini.  This would solve that oddity come fall of people leaving little mounds of zucchini on neighbors' doorsteps - only to return home to find their own threshold burgeoning with somebody else's abundance.  

But, relax.  Put away the shredder.  I have another idea.  It's what my mother had me do for dinner when we found our errant zukes.  We stuffed them!

I'd chop off both ends, cut them in half lengthwise, take a large spoon, and scrape out the seeds.  Mom would put out which veggies were to be cut up and added to the ground meat.  Beyond this I can't remember exactly what else was added - only that when it was assembled I poured spaghetti sauce over it and sprinkled bread crumbs and shaky cheese (Parmesan) on top before baking it.  But having learned a bit about stuffing things since then, I can surmise that we added some bread crumbs and eggs to the mix to help it all stick together.  

Today I decided to be a little fancy.  I pulled out this gadget that came with my knife kit in culinary school but had yet to use.  

I pulled it down the outside of the squash and it easily slid along, creating an appealing striped design. 

When they are halved and scooped you've created troughs like these.

A look through my veggie bin helped me decide what could be added to the stuffing and I started chopping and dicing.  A trip to my herb garden yielded some thyme and oregano.  In addition to the standard salt and pepper, I chose some garlic powder and cumin.  

I couldn't remember if I cooked the meat before filling the squash cavity or made it like a meatloaf, using the squash as the "pan."  Since I had two halves I decided on a trial - one stuffed with a pre-cooked meat mixture and the other with the raw meat in the meatloaf fashion.  The pre-cooked version won hands down.  When you bake it raw, the meat releases a sort of scum.  Let's just say it wasn't attractive and leave it at that.  

After about an hour, that which went in to the oven as ugliness and horror, came out delicious and rather attractive.

And, now, . . . I must eat because I just took a bite "off camera" and it's even more delicious than I remembered!  So, instead of doing an "eat and run" stunt, I'll "run and eat!"

Stuffed Zucchini
Printable Recipe Card
1 large, over-sized zucchini
1 lb. ground meat (beef, pork, sausage, turkey, or a mixture)
1 t. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. fresh oregano
1 T. fresh thyme
1 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 cups marinara, divided

3/4 c. panko
1/4 c. grated parmesan
2 T. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.
1.   Halve the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp, leaving about a 1/2" outer rim. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
2.   Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil.  When the olive oil is warm, add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the peppers and carrots and sauté another 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the herbs and stir, cooking another minute or so.
3.   Add the ground meat and stir and break it up, cooking until it is no longer pink.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder.  Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs.  Let cool.
4.   Add the eggs and 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese.  Stir in 1 cup of the marinara.
5.   Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the zucchini and arrange the halves in the pan, trough side up.
6.   Divide the mixture between the two halves.  Pour the remaining marinara over the halves.
7.   Combine the panko, the 1/4 c. grated parmesan, and the melted butter  - then sprinkle over each squash half.
8.   Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, making sure the top gets nice and golden.
9.   Grate some more parmesan over the top after it's plated.


  1. Testing...testing... 1,2,3 testing.

  2. Hey! It's working now- - - This blog brought so many memories! Good to know about cooking first; we didn't growing up. Love this recipe!- I always like to youtube the music and listen to it while reading your brings great life to it! Wonder if theres a way to have the youtube song on or download a song on the side? Just a thought.... Outstanding!

  3. @Anonymous - Those are the questions I'll be asking at the conference next week. Bear with me! I can link - I just need to know the legalities.

  4. I'm so excited about your blog! I want to hear more about your conference!

  5. Tonight we had this for dinner and it was past delicious. I could not stop eating it; good thing we had lots of zucchini (who doesn't? lol). In the stuffing I used mushrooms and a few baby eggplant that I found hiding in the garden. Good additions.