The Grillmaster often tells a story about a former neighbor’s Middle Eastern mother. Whenever she visited her son in the U.S., she would hollow out squash and stuff them with rice, tomatoes and meat. He was always amazed by how she could scoop out the pulp of a crookneck squash while leaving the skin intact. When I received a copy of Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan and saw the recipe for Stuffed Zucchini, I knew I had to try it.
Fortunately, this recipe uses nice straight zucchini that are easy to hollow out. Normally, I go for skinny zucchini, but in this case, fatter is definitely better. If your zucchini are big enough, you can cut them in half crosswise and then take out the pulp with an apple corer – very simple and no finesse required. The cores (pulp) aren’t used in this recipe, but do save them. I had planned on throwing them into some soup, but The Grillmaster found them first and used them to enhance a chunky vegetable pasta sauce.
I recommend using a pan large enough so that your zucchini can fit all in one layer. I had to double-stack some of mine and the ones on top didn’t get quite as much tomatoey goodness as the ones on the bottom.
The only deviation I made from the recipe below was to use ground turkey instead of ground beef chuck. When I first read the recipe, I really wanted to cook the turkey a little first. There was something about shoving raw meat and dry rice into the squash that didn’t seem quite right. But I decided to trust Mr. Hazan, who knows way more about Italian cooking than I ever will, and it worked out just fine. My stuffing was a little on the dry side, so I’ll probably use a mixture of beef and turkey next time. I might also try putting some of the tomato inside the zucchini.
Hazan Family Favorites is a beautiful book with charming stories and pictures from Giuliano Hazan’s childhood. Hazan’s mother is Marcella Hazan, the “godmother of Italian cooking in America.” My favorite picture in the book is one of Giuliano’s father shaving fresh white truffle over his mother’s plate of risotto (page 68). You can just feel the love they have – for each other and the food. There are also photos of Giuliano cooking with his own daughters, continuing the family tradition.
Other members of the Virtual Potluck gang will be cooking from Hazan Family Favorites today; visit Cookistry to see the complete list. You are also welcome to join us for a Twitter party, hosted by VPer Marnely Rodriguez-Murray (@nella22). The party will run from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern tonight (May 21, 2012) and will feature special guests Giuliano Hazan (@giulianohazan), his wife Lael Hazan (@educatedpalate) and book publicist Marisa Dobson (@marisa_dobson). We’ll be using the hashtag #HazanFavorites and we’ll also be giving away a copy of the book during the party. Hope to see you there!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan from ABRAMS.
Reprinted with permission from Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan
This dish is a perfect example of the amazing convergence of both sides of my family’s roots. My paternal grandmother, Nonna Giulia, and my maternal grandmother, Nonna Mary, both made these stuffed zucchini almost exactly the same way. Unfortunately, I have no written record from either grandmother, so my recollection has morphed into a single recipe. The tricky part is hollowing out the zucchini without breaking through the skin. The easiest way is to scoop from both ends of the zucchini, then push the insides out. The pulp is not used here but can be made into a delicious pasta sauce or used in a frittata.
3 pounds zucchini
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
3/4 cup Italian rice for risotto (Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Arborio)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes or 1-1/2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 medium clove garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini, then cut each squash in half crosswise. Use an apple corer (or dinner knife with a rounded tip) to scoop out the inside of each zucchini, leaving a tube shape with a 1/4-inch wall. Save the pulp for another meal.
- Put the ground beef and rice in a mixing bowl. Add the grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands, then fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the mixture. Only fill up to about 1/4 inch from the ends to allow space for the rice to expand as it cooks.
- Peel and coarsely chop the tomatoes.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic and put it with the olive oil in a shallow braising pan or a skillet deep enough to accommodate the zucchini. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes and season lightly with salt.
- Once the tomatoes are bubbling, add the stuffed zucchini, lower the heat to medium, and cook until very tender, 45 to 50 minutes. If there is still liquid in the pan when they are done, raise the heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce reduces. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving (with beef): 393 calories, 19g fat (6g sat), 40mg cholesterol, 110mg sodium, 41g carb, 5g fiber, 8g sugar, 17g protein
Per serving (with turkey): 318 calories, 11g fat (2g sat), 30mg cholesterol, 204mg sodium, 41g carb, 5g fiber, 8g sugar, 15g protein