One of my favorite memories from childhood was eating stuffed zucchini from my dad’s garden. He would wait until we had a VERY large vegetable, protected for just such a meal. We would eat it, just picked from the garden, and hot from the oven, with some good bread. What a feast!
Memories of the gardens of my grandfather and father heavily influenced my desire for a vegetable garden of my own. I wanted to give some of that feeling to my own daughter, and teach her the thrill of growing what you eat. So in went the zucchini plants, and the waiting began. It felt really good to finally go up and harvest some giant zucchini!
Recipes for stuffed zucchini abound, the common theme being, appropriately, Italian seasoning and the inclusion of tomatoes in the stuffing. I am NOT a fan of eating tomatoes, which you may find hysterical when photos of the mounds of tomatoes I am growing begin to appear later this summer. I love the smell of the plants, love the heft of the fruit in my hand, LOVE tending them to be consumed by my family. I just hate the taste and texture. So, I was not going to add them to my stuffed zucchini.
Really, you can put anything you want into the scooped boat of a seeded zucchini, and I decided to create my own recipe, something with lower calories in mind.
1 package Jennie-O extra lean turkey
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted and roughly chopped
Half a sweet onion, chopped
Low fat ricotta cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
Grated mozzarella cheese
Salt, pepper, cayenne, or seasoning of choice, to taste
First, slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. (Some recipes say to parboil the zucchini first, then seed it – if you have just harvested the squash and it is firm but not hard there is no need for that step). I then brushed the cut sides of the zucchini with olive oil and seasoned with an Italian blend grinder that I love to use on roasted vegetables.
For the filling I also cut in half and similarly brushed and seasoned a yellow and a red bell pepper. The seasoned squash and peppers then went on the grill until the zucchini were almost fork tender, but not quite, as they would go back out for a final cooking once stuffed with filling. The bell peppers should be roasted completely by this time.
For filling I sauteed one package of Jennie-O extra lean ground turkey in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Since the ground turkey doesn’t have a lot of flavor, you need to make sure you add more seasoning than you might otherwise think you need. To the pan of cooked ground meat I then added half a chopped onion and the grilled yellow and red bell peppers, roughly chopped.
Once all the veggies and ground turkey were cooked and the flavors had a chance to meld, I added about a cup and a half of low fat ricotta cheese to the mixture, as well as some cayenne pepper for an added kick. Taste to make sure that your filling is seasoned they way you like it, then get those zucchini and load them up!
I topped each zucchini half with some good grated parmesan and mozzarella cheese to make them nice and crusty, then sent them out to the grill until the squash was fork tender and ready to serve.
I have to admit to being more than a little nervous that the dish I created would not live up to the memories that my sister and I have of those fabulous childhood meals. I cooked the zucchini for family dinner, so all the kids would get to share it – what if it totally bombed!!!???
Turns out, the finished dish was more than a match for the memory. My sister and I agreed that my version was an improvement, and the whole family enjoyed the meal immensely. It was fun for the kids to see the squash go from the garden to the table too.