Zucchini is infamous for how quickly and easily it grows around here. If you don’t pick it while it is small, zucchini just keep growing, getting larger and larger until it gets ridiculous. One plant can easily produce a dozen or more zucchinis. I find it to be a good source of garden humor.
If we are honest, virtually every gardener who has ever grown zucchini feels a little angst when thinking about the harvest season. No gardener wants to waste the smallest bit of the food they grow, but what do you do with the vast surplus of zucchini that seems to appear overnight if you aren’t rigorously diligent at picking it? Giving it to friends works for awhile, until we begin to see the look of panic in our friends’ eyes when we offer zucchini yet again and they frantically try to think of a polite way to say, “No more!” Some gardeners I know resort to dropping off zucchini by the door at night, or when they know their friends aren’t home. Others simply put it out in front of their own house with a “free” sign.
Most cooks have collected a lot of zucchini recipes as a defense from the onslaught–fried zucchini, steamed zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini casseroles, zucchini pancakes, zucchini cookies, and on and on. Gardeners often give recipes away along with surplus zucchini as incentive for people to take it off their hands. “Here, take this 20 lb. zucchini and you can make this great zucchini bread! (as an aside) At least 40 loaves…” Savvy friends have learned to give at least half the loaves back to the gardener.
It’s a modern day gardening version of musical chairs–who will get stuck with the giant zucchini that finally has to be thrown away?
Early in the season, though, the first zucchini is cause for pleasure, especially if there’s something different and new about it. I recently found a new variety of zucchini at the Lummi Island Farmers Market. Almost perfectly round, “Eight Ball” zucchini practically begs to be stuffed. Here’s how I did it.
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready In:
- 1/2 lb. ground beef (Hillcrest Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 tsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 5 scallions, chopped (Hillcrest Farm, Lummi Island)
- 2 round Eight Ball zucchini, or 6 medium long zucchini (Hillcrest Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 clove green garlic, minced (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
- 6 leaves Rainbow chard, coarsely chopped (Nettles Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 egg (Misty Meadows Farm, Everson)
- 2 Tbsp summer savory, finely chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 tsp salt (see Exceptions)
- 1 cup cheese, grated (I used Jalapeno Gouda from Appel Farms, Ferndale)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Carefully trim off the stem and flower ends of each zucchini–just barely enough to make a small flat spot on each end. Then cut the zucchini halfway between the two ends (equatorially). Put the cut side down on a buttered baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes. The outside of the shell should give a little when pressed but should not be so soft it begins to lose its shape.
While the shells are roasting, melt the butter in a skillet and brown the beef over medium heat. When just barely browned, add the scallions and garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Put aside in a mixing bowl.
In the same skillet, add the chopped chard, cooking 2-3 minutes until wilted. Add to meat mixture.
When the squash halves are sufficiently roasted, remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Let the halves cool enough to handle them comfortably. Use a spoon to hollow out each half, leaving about a quarter to half inch rim on the inside of the skins. These shells will be the serving bowls for the dish, sitting on the flat spots created when you trimmed the stem and flower ends.
Chop the zucchini you scraped out of the skins, drain excess liquid, and add to the meat mixture. Also add the egg and summer savory. Mix well.
Salt the inside of the shells (about 1/4 tsp per shell half). Spoon in the filling mixture, dividing evenly among the shells. Top with grated cheese.
Set the stuffed zucchini halves on the baking sheet and return to the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese has just begun to brown.
Steamed corn on the cob and fresh ripe plums make this a wonderful summer meal.
Full Bloom Farm farm stand, Lummi Island
Islander Grocery, near ferry dock, Lummi Island
Lummi Island Farmers Market, next to Islander, Lummi Island (open Sat. 10a-2p)
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale (open Mon-Sat 9a-6p)
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Terra Organica, Flora and Cornwall, Bellingham