In 2000 I went to a three day women's retreat through an organization connected to the Unitarian Universalist Association. The chef at the retreat center was well known among many of the groups that attended events at the center. He made hearty, rustic meals that were filling, nutritious and delicious. One night the main course was stuffed zucchini.
Now, I have never been a big zucchini fan. I eat it when it's served to me, but I don't go out of my way to buy it and fix it for myself. So I put my serving of stuffed zucchini on my plate, loaded up with salad and bread in anticipation of not enjoying the main course, and found my seat. Boy, was I in for a surprise. One bite of the stuffed zucchini and I could have eaten all that was available. In fact I tried to go back for seconds, but there wasn't any left!
It was full of vegetables like mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes. There was a bit of heat from red pepper flakes and it had an overall smooth creaminess that was out of this world.
Over the years I've tried to reproduce that recipe, and have repeatedly kicked myself for not seeking it out from the chef himself. The original was a vegetarian dish, but I have struggled to come up with similar flavors by making this vegetarian. Although I am anxious to try seitan and red pepper flakes in place of the sausage soon and see if that works. In the meantime, I have created a meat version of stuffed zucchini that is so close I couldn't possibly perfect it any more and makes both my husband and me happy.
I have also made this recipe using large yellow or summer squash. While I prefer it with the zucchini, it's very good with the summer squash as well.
2 medium zucchini
6 ounces bulk low fat sausage
1/4 cup red or orange bell pepper, diced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup white button or cremini mushrooms, diced
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown sausage in skillet over medium heat.
Meanwhile cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Microwave 60 seconds to soften slightly.
Scoop out insides of zucchini to form a "boat," leaving sturdy walls. Coarsely chop portion scooped out of zucchini and place in medium bowl. Add bell pepper, tomatoes, cream cheese, mozzarella, salt and pepper.
Drain sausage and add to vegetables and cheese. Stir to combine.
Stuff each zucchini half with one quarter of the mixture. Place in baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over zucchini halves. Bake for 30 minutes.