Last night, my BFFs Laurence and Marie-Laure were coming to dinner, and as a main dish, I served these Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini.
These small “eight-ball” 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, and three is always 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 on a whim 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. I guess it just struck me as neat in the store. These things seem to happen. I did use it for the first time last summer (to ball melons, of all things), and did find that it worked beautifully! It’s pretty sharp, like a little rounded knife. Like I said: neat.
The filling is a simple mix of cooked quinoa, ricotta, sautéed onions and garlic, and the carved-out flesh of the zucchini. This I proceeded to spoon into the zucchini shells, and was astonished to see that I had precisely the right amount of stuffing to fill them.
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, forget I said that. Anyhow, my zucchinis were stuffed to the brim, and I put the lids back on. I did try to return each hat to its rightful owner, but they had gotten mixed up, and I figured they were probably past caring at that point.
This is a lovely dish that you can prepare in advance, and pop back into the oven when your friend get there. And Marie-Laure and Laurence were very appreciative indeed. “C’est vraiment délicieux!” they said.
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- 190 grams (1 cup) uncooked quinoa, rinsed in fresh water
- 12 medium round zucchini
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 120 g (1/2 cup) ricotta
- Olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
- First, cook the quinoa. Bring 360ml (1 1/2 cups) water to a simmer. Add the quinoa and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, cover, and let rest for at least 10 minutes; a little more is fine. The grains will continue to unfurl and plump up during this time; it will have absorbed all the water and won't need draining.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Slice a "hat" off the top of each zucchini, and carve the inside using a melon baller or a sharp-edged teaspoon, reserving the flesh.
- Put the zucchini shells and hats in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon herbs.
- Put into the oven for 20 minutes; this will give the zucchini shells a head start on the cooking.
- Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and fragrant.
- Add the reserved zucchini flesh, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon herbs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until cooked through. If the zucchini has rendered a lot of juice, drain the mixture in a sieve placed over a bowl
- Add in the cooked quinoa and pine nuts, and mix well.
- Take the zucchini shells out of the oven. If some cooking juice has pooled at the bottom of the shells, flip to pour out (the zucchini shells will be hot).
- Divide the filling evenly among the zucchini shells and place the hats on top.
- Return to the oven for 20 minutes.
- Serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan, if desired, and green salad.