Italian, Savory

Stuffed Zucchini

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This is a versatile recipe and it will most certainly make the “veggie-haters” eat zucchini.  For this particular recipe, I used ground beef with Italian flavors.  You could use taco spices for a Mexican spin and you can change up the protein with ground chicken or turkey.  You can also make this a 100% vegetarian meal by using beans, corn, quinoa, and peppers as a filling.  I have also heard a friend use crabmeat as a filling, which I have to try next.   However you choose to make this, it is a fool-proof way to jazz up zucchini!

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Ingredients

2 large medium-sized zucchini

1 medium onion, chopped

1.5 cups of ground beef

1/2 tsp of minced garlic

1/4 tsp of Calabrian chili paste

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1 tsp of tomato paste

1/2 cup of tomato basil sauce

1 Tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp of olive oil, plus additional oil to brush on zucchini

Shredded mozzarella cheese for melting on top, as much as you like

salt and pepper for seasoning.

Method:

Slice zucchini down the middle, length-wise.  Using a melon baller or a spoon, scoop out the inside of the zucchini, making a hollow “boat”.  Season with a little bit of salt and let the zucchini rest for 30 minutes to an hour.  This will pull out some of the excess liquid in the zucchini and also season the flesh.

Preheat oven to 375F.  While that happens, move on to making the filling.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the ground beef.  Saute till it starts to brown.  Then add all the remaining spices except for the tomato basil sauce and parsley.

Cook all the ingredients, till the beef is dark brown, and all the spices have bloomed and are married together.

Finally, add the sauce and parsley and cook for an additional 7-9 minutes.  At this point, you can store the filling in the fridge for later use or you can proceed to the next step.

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Using a paper towel, blot the excess moisture off the Zucchini and arrange them, cut-side up, on a greased baking pan.  Sprinkle the cavity with some black pepper and bake the zucchini for 10 minutes.

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Pull out the zucchini and fill then with beef mixture.  You will note in the picture that two of the “boats” have more filling than the other two, personal preference really, I like more vegetable and my husband prefers more beef.  He also likes more cheese as you will see in the following pictures.

 

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Baked the filled zucchini for another 10 minutes.

Top the boats with cheese (as much as you like) and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and bubbly!  Turn the broiler on at the end if you want to brown the top of the cheese.

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Serve piping hot!

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Appetizers, Savory, Sides

Zucchini Fritters

 

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In India, on a raw, rainy night, you will often find family members gathered over hot cups of tea and plate of piping hot fried fritters.  These fritters are usually vegetarian, like potato, onion, and eggplant (all separate–not mixed together).  Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day turned into a gloomy, rainy evening–which led me to crave fried food.  I could have pulled out some samosas, but I have zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used.  Also, earlier in the day, I came across this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, so it must have been a combination of all these different sensory inputs (haha, can you tell I am a biologist?) that led to this recipe.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchinis, grated and drained

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 small onion, minced

1 egg

2 Tbsp of flour

1 Tbsp of rice flour

1/2 tsp of salt

A dash of black pepper

1 tsp of olive oil for the batter plus more for frying

Method:

Grate and or chop finely the zucchini.  If you have a food processor, you can grate it.  I have a handheld grater which almost pulverizes the zucchini.  So, for some texture I grated one and chopped the other–the different textures give the fritters some body.

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Place the zucchini on a paper towel or dishcloth and let it drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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Squeeze out all the water and add the zucchini to a mixing bowl.

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Add egg, flours, salt, pepper, jalapenos, and oil to the zucchini and mix thoroughly.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet.  Using a tablespoon, gently dollop the batter into the hot oil.  Using the back of the spoon, flatten out the dollops to form a pancake shape.

Fry on medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes or till golden brown.  Then flip the fritters and cook the other side.

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Blot the fritters on a paper towel and serve piping hot!  This makes a great evening snack or a hearty side dish for a simple chicken dinner.

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Savory, Sides

Oven-baked Zucchini Sticks

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Super easy side dish that is healthy and flavorful.  It is just different enough to make it taste special too.  With only 5-ingredients, this recipe could become your go to zucchini recipe.  It tastes almost like fries so picky eaters may enjoy them.

Ingredients:

2 small zucchinis, cut into sticks

1/2 tsp of lemon pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp of Italian seasoned  breadcrumbs

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 F

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread on a lined, rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.

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Bake for 15-20 mins and finish off by broiling on high for 2 mins.

Serve hot with ketchup and/or hot sauce !

Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Lent

Cornmeal-crusted Catfish with Cajun-style Orzo

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One of my fondest memories from growing up in Texas was eating fried catfish.  Of course catfish also made the rotation in regular fish curries – a staple for Bengalis.  more recently, I had cornmeal crusted catfish at Husk, an amazing southern restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.  So, when I saw catfish in the market in New England, I just had to recreate some of these food memories.  Hope you like it !

Ingredients for fish:

2/3 cups cornmeal

1/3 cup flour

½ tsp of Paprika

1 cup of milk

1 Tbsp of hot sauce

3 large catfish filets

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive for drizzling

Method:

Preheat oven to 425F

Mix milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper in large dish.

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Marinade fish filets in the milk mixture for 15-20 minutes.

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In another plate/shallow dish, mix cornmeal, flour, paprika, more salt and pepper.

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Shake off excess milk from the fish and coat them in the cornmeal mixture.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with oil and arrange the filets.  Drizzle olive oil on the fish.

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Bake for 15 mins and broil on high for another 5 mins.

Let the fillets rest for a minute or so before serving.

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Ingredients for Cajun-style Orzo:

1 medium sized zucchini, diced.

1 small tomato, de-seeded and diced

1 medium yellow pepper, diced

½ white onion, diced

1 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp of garlic

2 tsp of Cajun spices (you can change this to Italian seasoning—depending on the rest of your meal).

A pinch of dried oregano

1 & 1/4  cup water.

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat oil (high heat) in a pan and sauté zucchini till golden (tip: don’t salt the zucchini, it won’t brown).  Once it is browned, add a pinch of salt and set aside.

Reduce temperature to medium high and In the same pan, sauté the remaining vegetables with garlic, salt and pepper.  Once the vegetables soften, add ¼ cup water, cover and simmer till the vegetables become saucy.

Add the cooked orzo, remaining 1 cup water, and oregano.  Cover and simmer, stirring ever so often to prevent the pasta from sticking.  The pasta is cooked, and it will get over cooked, but that gives it a creamy consistency, almost like a risotto. Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. You can serve immediately or stop the cooking process while there is still a little bit of liquid left in the pan.  Reheat right before serving.  I would not wait for more than two hours between pre-cook and serving.

Add the sautéed zucchini mixed with the orzo, or you can have it on the side.

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Comfort food, Stew

Curried Lentil Stew with Chard and Garbanzo Beans

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This stew is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G !!!!! I read the ingredient list and and it sounded  yummy but I had no idea how wonderful the flavor would be.  The original recipe does not include the fennel, sun-dried tomtoes or the veggies.  It just had the beans and the swiss chard.  I had the leftover vegetables, threw them and it was the most hearty vegetarian stew I have ever  made.  PLEASE TRY IT THIS FALL !!!!!!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
  • 1 large bunch or 2 small      bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped (about 12      cups)
  • 1 chopped zucchini or summer      squash
  • 1 bulb of fennel sliced
  • 1 pound red lentils (about 2      1/4 cups)
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans      (chickpeas), drained

Preparation:

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add onion and fennel, sauté until golden, about 13 minutes. Mix in curry and cayenne.

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Add vegetables and sun dried tomatoes and sauté for a few more minutes till the vegetables are soft.

Add broth and chard. Increase heat; bring to boil. Add lentils and garbanzos; reduce heat to medium.

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Cover; simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 10 minutes.

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Classics, Comfort food, Sides

Saving Summer Vegetables !

I had a bunch of fresh vegetables in the fridge that I was planning to eat over the weekend.  But an impromptu getaway was not kind on the vegetables–well they would have gone bad, but I saved them ! All time go to solution–roast them !! Salt, Pepper, olive oil, some herby seasonings like basil and parsley and some chili flakes for an added kick and presto ! Veggies revived ! And they stay well in the fridge for about another week–so you just extended their shelf life !  I paired these veggies with a steak salad, chicken cutlets ( to be posted) or just dipped them in hummus and ate them cold.  Try roasting your favourite vegetables and open up endless possibilities !

Classics, Comfort food, French

Ratatouille

A bowl of stew full of fresh summer veggies ! There really is nothing more to say about this recipe.  I guess if you make your kids watch the cartoon “Ratatouille” and serve them this stew–you might just be able to make them eat their veggies !

Ratatouille adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child.

Ingredients:

½ lb. eggplant

½ lb. zucchini and yellow squash

4 Tb. olive oil, more if needed

½ lb. (about 1 ½ cups) thinly sliced yellow onions

2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers (I used red peppers–just because I had them in the fridge)

2 cloves mashed garlic

1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes

3 Tb. minced parsley Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Chop the eggplant and salt it and let it stand for a 20-30 minutes till all the water drains out.

Meanwhile chop the rest of the vegetables.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and fry the eggplant till soft, and set it aside.

Next heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and saute the squash and the zucchini till tender.

Next, heat the remaining oil and add the garlic, tomatoes, pepper and onions and saute till soft.

Now add back the other vegetables and let them stew together for about 30 mins till all the vegetables fall apart and marry into the stew.

Towards the very end, adjust salt and pepper and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Serve hot or warm or even at room temperature.  I sometimes add a fried egg on top to add some protein to my meal and make it a little more filling.

I am a huge fan of this recipe and I truly advocate in its power of converting vegetables haters to lovers.  Please try this and I encourage in using fresh vegetables since all the flavor comes from them.  Try it this French classic this weekend !

Moroccan

Moroccan Zucchini and Chickpea squares

I think I sort of invented this recipe though I am sure there are versions of this out there/made by someone before.  The spice blend comes from a chicken recipe (I will put it up if I make it sometime) and I was craving Falafel (but did not have Tahini) and those Zucchini’s I got were not going to last any longer.  So here it is, spicy, vegetarian, filling and healthy.

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas

3 medium Zucchini

1 Tbsp of sundried tomatoes

1/4 cup whole flour.

Spice Blend:

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of ground coriander

1/2 tsp of ground turmeric

1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp of ground cardamom

1/4 tsp of ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

1. Finely chop or grate the Zucchini, set aside.  Don’t worry about the water that weeps out.

2. Add the chickpeas, sundried tomatoes and all the spices in a food processor and blend till smooth.  If it gets too tight, add some of the water that was released by the Zucchini.  No need to add extra oil, the sundried tomatoes are already packed in oil.

3. Mix the chickpeas with the Zucchini and add the flour and mix till it has a thick batter-like consistency.

4. Pour into a pre-greased 9×9 baking pan and bake for 1hr (yes 1 hr) in  400F preheated oven.

5. Cut into four pieces, put on a cookie sheet and bake for another 30 min.

4. After the second baking they will be nice and golden brown.  Crunchy on the outside, smooth and creamy inside.

5.  Serve hot with wedges of lemon on the side.

Note: You could fry the batter like fritters but I really wanted to avoid the frying and keep it healthy.

Enjoy !

Quick Dinner

Dinner for two

Yesterday “the boy” and I celebrated 4yrs of dating.  What did we do? We cooked dinner because he wanted to take pictures of me cooking and put them up here. On the menu we have oven baked Tilapia served on a bed of pan sauted Zucchini and Summer Squash.  Also, this is my first recipe with the Zucchini that I got on sale a few days ago.  More Zucchini recipes to follow.  In the meantime, I or we share with you our Anniversary Dinner.

Ingredients

~1 pound of Tilapia

1/4 cup of Italian style bread crumbs

2 tsp of olive oil

2 zucchini

2 Summer Squash

2 Tbsp of Italian style dipping oil (the seasoned oil you get at the grocery for dipping bread)

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Method:

Slice the zucchini and squash into 1/4″ inch thick discs.  Do not slice them too thin because they will wilt and melt during the cooking process.

Heat 2 tbsp of the dipping oil in a saute pan and add the zucchini and squash.  Saute till tender.  Season with salt and pepper at the very end.

The veggies will take a while to cook which is enough time to work on the Tilapia.

Preheat oven to 350F

Rinse and pat dry Tilapia fillets.  Arrange on a greased and lined baking tray.

Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Brush top side with olive oil and press the bread crumbs on to the fish.

Bake for ~15min till the fish is white and flakey in the middle.  The veggies should be done by then.

Divide the veggies onto two plates and serve the fish on top of the veggies.

And then we ate !