Monsters in your garden!
If you have a garden, and you grow summer squash or zucchini, you have probably gone out in the morning and found that, seemingly overnight, monster squash have grown amongst the leaves! Did you miss it when you went out yesterday? Was it lying in wait the whole time?
Every summer growing up we had a huge garden at the Breakers and my family would inevitably have ‘stuffed zucchini’ parties. Families would come over, the adults sipping on wine and gin and tonics and the kids playing in the yard… all while the aromas of the huge stuffed squash baking in the oven wafted in and out of the kitchen windows. The tradition continues!
It’s important with the larger squash that you boil the squash first to soften the shells so the ‘vessel’ becomes part of the dish. Then, scoop out the tender flesh in the center and incorporate it into your ‘stuffing,’ which can be made in a myriad of ways, but as a kid, it was always a really flavorful meatloaf type concoction. Layers of flavor that will feed a crowd and, if you have any leftovers, they make great sandwiches for the beach the next day!
Blended meatloaf squash boats
2 very large summer squash or zucchinis, 12 to 15 inches (or four 8-inch to 10-inches)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
8 ounces, cremini or white mushrooms, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 slices bread (butt ends or stale work fine also)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbs. Dish off the Block Ciao Bella Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
1½ lbs. ground beef (80/20)
1 lb. ground pork
1 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half Basil leaves for garnish
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil (the water should be deep enough to cover the length of the zucchini). Slice zucchini (s) in half lengthwise and immerse in the boiling water. Let cook until tender when poked with a fork, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size. Remove from water and let cool and drain, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
When cool, use a spoon to scoop out the pulp from each zucchini half, leaving enough inside so the shell keeps its shape. Drain the pulp in a colander and press with paper towels to remove most of the moisture. Chop pulp into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl and set aside. Allow the zucchini shells to continue to drain, cut side facing down, on paper towels.
Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions and garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes until soft. Add the red peppers and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Tear the bread slices into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Cover with the milk and mix with your fingers to allow milk to absorb. Set aside.
Combine the ketchup, Dijon, Worcestershire, horseradish, eggs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Break up the burger and ground pork meat and place in the bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, parmesan, 2 cups of the shredded cheddar, the milksoaked bread, and the drained zucchini pulp to the bowl. Roll up your sleeves and get in there! Massage it all together until well combined and everything is evenly distributed through the meat.
Press paper towels into each zucchini shell to absorb any excess moisture and season with remaining salt and pepper. Place the shells on foil-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
Split the meat mixture into 2 or 4 parts, depending on the number of zucchinis you’ve used and evenly distribute each portion into one of the halves, pressing and shaping it in the shell. Press tomato halves into the top of each zucchini, cut side down. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake at 375° for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat stuffing is cooked through and hot in the center, about 160 degrees (timing will depend on how many zucchinis and how large they are - hence how thick the meat stuffing is).
Garnish with fresh basil or parsley and cut into slices to serve with a nice glass of red!