Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sausage-stuffed zucchini boats

Who out there is trying to jump on the eat-what's-in-season bandwagon?  I once said I'd buy, cook, and eat whatever I wanted without letting the season or harvest dictate my choices.  I pointed fingers at people I'd  (sometimes) unfairly labeled "hippies" and mocked their trendy, farmer's market-frequenting ways.

And then, last summer, I went to a local farmer's market where I, too, was sucked into the (glorious) world of seasonal and local eats.

The colors were so bright.  The offerings were so great.  And the people!  The people were so nice and proud of their ability to provide for not only their families but the surrounding community.  In just a few minutes of visiting the tables, I felt an equal sense of pride and wanted to buy from my new local farming friends.  Sure, there was a little bit of guilt involved since I'd talked with at least one fellow for almost five minutes about bacon, but a little guilt won't hurt anyone (except maybe a pig).

Oh, and there may have been doughnuts.  Homemade doughnuts made by sweet little Amish girls.  Damn those unassuming shy girls with their wide smiles and free doughnut hole samples.  I may have purchased a doughnut to balance out the bacon and vegetables.  Life is all about achieving balance, right?

So, I marched home with tomatoes, bacon, apples, and zucchini (the doughnut never made it past the first block of my journey) and my mind began to wander.  Did I really need to buy this stuff?  Couldn't I have waited until Sunday when I did my normal grocery shopping?  Did I even have a plan for this produce?  (You know I love my plans.)  And, really, what's the big freakin' deal about buying stuff in season?  A tomato is a tomato in both January and July.


A tomato in July is the sweetest and juiciest little sphere of culinary joy!  Where have they been all my life?  A winter tomato just couldn't compare, friends.  The rest is history.

That's the story of how I, too, became hooked on the seasonal movement.  Taste is the biggest difference to me, but I've found that things are lower in price, too.

I picked a recipe to make for dinner this week and checked the ingredients.  And, wouldn't you know that zucchini, red peppers, and sweet onions are totally in season according to the grocery flyer?  Ground beef and mozzarella cheese, too.  Gosh, I love how cows are always in season.  #omnivore4life

Whether you're new to cooking in season or an old pro, I've got a piece of advice for you -- cook what you love.  If parts of a recipe don't appeal to you, well, change them so that the final product has your mouth watering in anticipation.  Even if it's a family recipe that's been passed down four generations and has never, ever been tweaked by anyone for fear of being disowned, change it to your liking.  If you don't like it, you won't eat it.  Simple as that.

While the original recipe was lovely, I just wasn't feeling sausage in the filling, nor was I over the moon about turning on my oven for at least 45 minutes for preheating and cooking.  So I made a few tiny changes and, lo and behold, dinner was absolutely divine! 

Dinner the way I like it.  Shopping the way I like it... even if there was a little nudging involved.  Cooking and eating the way I love them most.  I'll happily ride in my bandwagon boat and encourage you to make your own boat, too :)

One year ago: Almond cake
Two years ago: Chocolate wafer icebox cake

Stuffed Zucchini Boats
(altered quite a bit from SkinnyTaste)
-serves 2 as a whole meal, 3-4 with a side

A few notes: This is one of those infinitely adaptable recipes.  I made a boatload of changes to suit my tastes and encourage you to do the same.  Choose the protein, be it ground chicken, broken up sausage (out of the casing, of course) or even crumbled tofu if that's your thing.   Grated asiago, provolone, fontina, or Monterey Jack would be great atop the sauce, too. 

2 medium zucchini
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1/2 of one whole pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 to 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cut zucchini into equal halves, lengthwise.  Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out inner flesh, leaving 1/4 inch-ish border.  Set aside zucchini innards (I love that word) for later use*.  Drop zucchini in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove promptly, patting dry and placing on a lined baking sheet.

Preheat broiler.  In a saute pan over medium high heat, cook and break up ground beef until completely browned.  Remove meat to a bowl, saving some of the rendered fat.  Return pan to heat and add onions, peppers, and garlic and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add ground beef to saute pan and stir until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide filling among 4 zucchini boats, packing slightly if necessary.  Top each filled boat with marinara sauce and sprinkle with cheese.  Top with a dash of Italian seasoning.  Repeat these steps until all boats are filled.

Pop baking sheet into the oven under the broiler for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and, if it's your thing, bubbly and browning just a bit.  Remove and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

*Note: The original recipe called for adding the chopped zucchini to the filling, but that would've made way too much filling.  Instead, I chopped it and made zucchini muffins!  Here is the recipe.  Chopped zucchini can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 5 days.


  1. Thank you so much....this is just what I was looking for and your instructions are so easily understood... I can't wait to fix this tomorrow

  2. I made some zucchini boats a few weeks ago and haven't posted the dang recipe but I like this version.
    Every time I come to your blog you h ave some amazing recipes so I have nominated you for the Liebster award.
    Check it out:

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