October 3, 2003
"Man, I'm stuffed!" said the zucchini.
Tonight, Laurence and Marie-Laure are coming for dinner, and as a main dish, I will serve them Quinoa Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini.
Those small round zucchinis had caught my eye in the sidewalk stall of our produce store and I immediately saw, in blinking letters : "stuffed zucchini!". I got nine of them as there would be three of us, three always being a good number of items to have on a plate.
I started out by cutting off each of their cute little hats neatly (reserving them of course), then scooped out the flesh, being careful not to rip the skin, with a melon baller.
Let me stop for a second here and tell you about my OXO melon baller : I bought it at Whole Foods in Cupertino, CA, about two years ago, and I don't have the faintest idea why, since I don't remember having ever felt the need for a melon balling apparatus before, but I guess it just stroke me as neat in the store. These things seem to happen. I did use it for the first time this summer (to ball melons, of all things), and did find that it worked beautifully! It's pretty sharp, like a little rounded knife. Neat.
I placed the hollow zucchinis in a baking dish, sprinkled them with salt and baked them in a hot oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I sauteed the zucchini flesh with garlic and herbes de provence, cooked 175 g of quinoa and toasted about 3 tablespoons of pinenuts in a dry skillet (watch these very closely, they burn fast. Here's a tip : if it starts smelling good, it's too late). When all that was ready, I mashed the zucchini flesh in a colander, draining it as well as I could (amazing how much water you get). In a medium bowl, I mixed the zucchini, the quinoa, the pinenuts, half a cup of ricotta and a generous tablespoon of pesto (to be very accurate, I used "pistou des Alpilles", which is the Provence [south of France] version of Italian pesto. My parents got me a jar of this, as well as a jar of green tapenade, the last time they visited the family we have there).
I then proceeded to fill the zucchini shells with this mixture, and was pretty astonished to see that I had almost exactly the right amount of stuffing (just an extra tablespoon or two). Isn't that creepy? That normally never happens, right? Kind of like when you dig a grave, and there's never enough dirt to fill it back in? OK, sorry, weird comparison, must have read that somewhere. Anyhow, my zucchinis were stuffed to the brim, and I put the lids back on. I did try to return its own hat to each zucchini, but they had gotten mixed up, and I figured they don't really care, now, do they? Do they, you think?
And now they're ready to go back into the oven when my friends get here. I'll put them in for about 20 more minutes, just to warm them up, and serve with a green salad and a hazelnut vinaigrette...
Update the next day : they were very good! Marie-Laure and Laurence enjoyed them very much, and said "c'est vraiment délicieux!".
Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest
Pattypan Squash and Pesto Soup
Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt-Based Crust