January 30, 2004
[Stuffed Round Zucchini]
We buy most of our fruits and vegetables at our favorite little fruit stand in the rue des Abbesses, where the staff is friendly, greets us with big smiles, gets stuff for us from the back - often including a little freebie - and is always happy to discuss what's the best seasonal choice and how to prepare it.
But sometimes it's just more convenient to go to the Champion grocery store if it's on my way, and I have to admit the produce aisle there is really pretty decent. Sometimes the veggies look a little sad and wilted (especially the eggplant, for some reason) in which case I just skip that particular variety, but most of the time the quality is fine. Especially in the winter, summer produce being more delicate to handle. I can also tell they really try to offer more than the average supermarket selection, and occasionally have exotic fruits or unusual vegetables. Unfortunately, I'm afraid only a few of us customers seem to go for the new stuff : more often that not the effort is short-lived, and the particular new produce item is nowhere to be found a week later.
So last week, when I saw that they sold little ball-shaped zucchini, I instantly decided to get a few, because anything round and small and cute gets my enthusiastic vote, and also as a measure of encouragement for the good Champion guys who make the produce selection. And of course, what can you do with little round zucchini, if not stuff them with goodies? I had made a similar dish a few months ago, filling the shells with quinoa, ricotta and pinenuts, and had enjoyed the process as much as the result. I decided to do something different this time, a non-vegetarian version that would use Jackie's wonderful red onion confit.
This was really great (not to mention easy-peasy to make) : the zucchini look so pretty, and they are deliciously tasty with the meat and onion filling - which owes a lot to Jackie's confit. Maxence enjoyed it particularly, and said that this was the best thing I had done lately. (He's not quite the soup-fan that I have become, so I'm afraid the poor darling has been feeling a little deprived...) As often with dishes that are a blend of flavors, make sure you have leftovers, as this is even better the next day.
Courgettes Rondes Farcies
- 12 round zucchini
- 450 g (1 pound) lean ground beef
- 10 Tbsp onion confit
- 2 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- herbes de Provence (or the dried herbs of your liking)
- salt, pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Wash and dry the zucchini. Using a paring knife, cut a little hat off the top of each, and carve the inside using a melon baller or a small sharp-edged spoon, reserving the flesh. Put the zucchini shells and hats in a greased or non-stick gratin dish, pour a little olive oil all over, sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Put in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked al dente : you want the shells to be tender, but still hold their shape.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the garlic clove. Heat up a little olive oil in a large skillet, and put the garlic in for a couple of minutes, until nicely fragrant. Add the reserved zucchini flesh, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until tender. The flesh will render a lot of water, which you want to pour out regularly, as you check on the cooking. Put the cooked zucchini flesh in a sieve over a bowl, and leave it there to drain.
By then the zucchini shells should be ready. Take them out of the oven, and put them upside down on a plate lined with paper towel. Brown the meat, sprinkled with salt and pepper, in the same skillet.
Empty out the zucchini water from the bowl (throw it out or keep it in the fridge to use in a soup), and put the zucchini flesh in the bowl, along with the ground meat and the onion confit. Mix thoroughly with a fork.
Put the shells back in the gratin dish, spoon in the meat mixture, distributing it evenly, and top each zucchini with its little hat. Up to this point, the recipe can be prepared earlier in the day or the day before.
Return into the hot oven for about 20 minutes, until heated through, and serve three stuffed zucchini to each guest, on a bed of greens.
63 rue des Abbesses
01 46 06 33 78
63 bd de Rochechouart
01 45 26 83 37
Zucchini Noodle Salad
Springtime Pot-au-feu Beef Stew
Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest