The season for zucchini is upon us. We don’t yet have a garden in our new house (it will require some terracing ingenuity—on the list for 2013), but in our old garden we were always overrun with summer squash come August. We would schlep them off on friends, leave them on our neighbor’s stoop, and pretty much beg people to take them off our hands. Regardless, squash was incorporated into nearly every August supper, from soups, to frittatas, to salads, to paninis, to pastas, to muffins… You get the picture. One of my favorite preparations, however, is simply to stuff them. You can stuff zucchini or summer squash with nearly anything, ranging from ground lamb to quinoa, but one of the simplest versions is with cheese. This garlic- and herb-laced cheese filling is made with either fresh ricotta or cottage cheese and is finished with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. It makes for a wonderful side dish with just about anything, or a lovely main attraction with a substantial salad alongside.
To prep the squash, first cut it in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works great), scoop out the center seeds and some flesh, leaving a quarter-to half-inch wall. Next, remove a small sliver down the back (skin side) of each half so that the “boats” lie flat on a sheet pan. The recipe below is for 8- to 10-inch squash, but this is the type of recipe you can play around with. If your squash are bigger or smaller, make more or less filling and adjust the baking time. If you have any squash blossoms, sauté them with the onions and garlic and add them to the filling.
- Olive oil for pan
- 2 8-10- inch zucchinis (about 1 ½ pounds total)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ medium onion , finely diced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove , minced
- ¾ cup cottage cheese or fresh ricotta
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese , divided
- 1 large egg , lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mixed herbs , such as basil, mint, parsley and/or thyme
- 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs , divided
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Rub a small baking dish or sheetpan with olive oil.
- Trim the ends of the zucchinis and cut them in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works great) scoop out the seeds and discard, leaving a quarter- to half-inch border. Cut a very small sliver off the bottoms of each so that they lie flat without rolling around. Place the zucchini halves, cut side up, on the prepared baking dish or sheet pan.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, 4-5 minutes, or until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly.
- Stir in the cottage cheese, ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese, the beaten egg, scallions, herbs and 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the zucchinis with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling down the center of each. Sprinkle the Parmesan topping evenly over top. Bake 25 minutes, or until tender and golden. If the tops aren’t browned, broil the zucchini 2-3 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.