Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Italian Zucchini Boats

Thank goodness for summer-fresh zucchini!  Last year, my dad's garden didn't really produce the expected bounty, which in turn meant that I didn't cook all the inspiring zucchini dishes that I had wanted to.  However, already this season, he has set out a roadside wagon full of his garden's harvest, with many more zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers still coming on.

One word:  Yippee!

While we were gone on vacation to the Outer Banks last week, my mom did some quick grocery shopping for me and stocked my cereal shelf in my pantry and put some fresh milk in my fridge.  She also brought over some zucchini and other garden-fresh lovelies.  She was so thoughtful, and it has been nice to not have to rush off to the grocery store before bags are unpacked and laundry is washed.

So, yesterday, when I was at the pool with the kids, I began to contemplate what to make for dinner.  It was only natural to start with zucchini.  Which led me to suggest to my 8-year-old zucchini boats (he loves them!).  Suddenly, Italian zucchini boats floated across my imagination; my tastebuds concurred.

It was fun to pull this together, using only what I had in the house.  I had planned on using tomato paste, but alas, I had none.  I can't believe that I forgot to add garlic, but the addition of the tomato pesto made up for it.

Not only is this blog post for you because I love to share, but it is also for me, because I am pretty sure I am making these again...soon!

Italian Zucchini Boats
A Karla Original

1 large zucchini,
olive oil, for drizzling
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef, browned, crumbled, and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 of an onion, diced
2 tbl. prepared sun-dried tomato pesto (found in the pasta sauce section of your grocery)
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbl. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 generous cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbl. shredded Parmesan cheese
6 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice zucchini lengthwise in half, discarding ends.  Using a spoon, scoop out seeds, forming a channel down the length of the zucchini.  Place on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season lightly with kosher salt.  Turned oiled zucchini open side down on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until fork tender.  Remove from oven to fill.

Meanwhile, lightly drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet.  Add ground beef and cook over medium heat until browned; crumble.  Season with kosher salt and pepper.  Drain off excess liquid.  Return to heat and add diced tomatoes, onion and pesto.  Cook until onions are tender and liquid has evaporated.  Add the grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Mix together then off the heat.

Turn over zucchini, open side facing up.  Using a spoon, scoop ground beef filling generously into the cooked zucchini.  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove and garnish with sliced basil leaves.  Serve immediately.

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