Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini--French Way

The French love zucchini. We all know this by now, if not from a personal culinary experience, then from the movie "Ratatouille". And zucchini is one ratatouille's main ingredients. More than that though, when I lived in Geneva I ate flans, quiches, pastas, and pizzas made with zucchini of different shapes and colors.

The most amazing zucchini dish I ever ate were stuffed zucchini flowers, which I ate in restaurant in Geneva. I would like to repeat one day, the problem is though that they were stuffed with something extremely delicate that I was not able to identify.

My second favorite zucchini dish are stuffed zucchinis themselves. My mother was making a similar dish years ago, when I was a child. She was stuffing with ground meat a gigantic squash-like vegetable, something in between a zucchini and a pumpkin, weighing about four to five pounds each. Then the whole vegetable was baked in an oven and served with a tomato salad or green lettuce with mustard dressing. This zucchini-pumpkin vegetable (which I have not found outside Poland so far) was available only during two summer months.

The other day when I was flipping through a French magazine I stumbled on a recipe for stuffed zucchini which reminded me this favorite dish from my childhood. I decided to try it, as zucchinis are definitely at their peak, not only in France but in here as well. I got some local specimens, very fresh and green, stuffed them with mixed meats, and served them with a fresh baguette.

Stuffed Zucchini
(Serves four)

8 medium zucchini (or two per person),
1/2 lb ground meat (1/4 lb beef and 1/4 lb pork or lamb)-beef itself is a little bit too dense,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
1 egg,
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan,
2 tbsp chopped parsley,
1 glass white wine,
1 cup of beef or vegetable stock,
3 tbsp tomato purée,
all purpose flour,
olive oil for frying,
1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

1. Cut out and discard both ends of the zucchinis. Depending on their length cut the zucchinis in two or three cylinders.
2. Using a small spoon or a grapefruit knife cut out the insides of the zucchinis leaving about a quarter of an inch of flesh inside. Save half of the flesh that you scooped out and chop it finely.

3. In a medium bowl mix both meats, chopped zucchini flesh, garlic, egg, Parmesan, one tbsp chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients make a smooth stuffing.

4. Stuff zucchini cylinders, pushing meat tightly inside (it will shrink during cooking a little bit anyway).

5. Roll each piece in flour and put aside.
6. Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole. Fry zucchinis until gold all over.
7. In a small bowl mix wine, tomato purée, and vegetable stock. Add this mix to the pan, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big your pieces are.
8. Sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves, and serve with white bread and red wine.