Stuffed Zucchini Boats
I feel like I the minority when it comes to my love for zucchini, and I kind of get it, zucchini can have a mushy texture and can be a little bland. But depending on how you cook and season it, it can be quite delicious. And this is one of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini.
Since zucchini is a little boring on its own, I like to pair it with well seasoned meat and some sort of a sauce, be it a creamy sauce or a red sauce. In this recipe I stuff whole zucchini with a meat sauce that's been seasoned with the Tunisian inspired blend Tabil. The stuffed zucchini is then drenched in a creamy Béchamel sauce and baked until browned. Cooking the zucchini this way helps it retain some of its texture and it doesn't turn to complete mush. The meat sauce and the Bechamel elevate the zucchini by adding flavor, texture and richness, taking the vegetable from bland to delicious!
4 Madga zucchini
1/2 - 3/4 lb ground beef (or any minced meat)
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1-2 medium tomato
1 1/2 tspn Tabil
1 tspn cayenne
1 tspn oregano
1/2 tspn mint
1 chicken bouillon cube (optional)
EVOO for cooking
2 TBSP Butter
2 TBSP APF
1 cup cold milk or alternative
Pinch of Tunisian black pepper blend
Zucchini: Create a flat bottom on each zucchini by carefully skimming off some the skin and a small amount of flesh from the zucchini. This will allow the zucchini to sit flat. Then core the zucchini by creating an opening on the top part of the zucchini and carefully removing the flesh. Save the zucchini core, this can be added to the meat sauce to minimize waste. Once the zucchini is cored, place on a baking sheet, brush with oil on the inside and add a sprinkle of salt. Bake in a 360 degree oven until slightly softened (about half way) and slightly golden brown.
Meat Sauce: In a pan on medium high heat sauté chopped onion in 2 TBSP of EVOO until softened. Toss in roughly chopped garlic and tomato and season with Tabil, cayenne, mint oregano and a pinch of salt. Add the ground beef, cover and let simmer on low heat until done. *If you saved the zucchini core, add it to the meat sauce from at the same time the ground beef is added.*
Béchamel: In a pot, melt butter, add APF and whisk until lightly golden and fragrant. While whisking, add cold milk and continue to whisk until the thickened. Add a pinch of Tunisian black pepper and salt.
Assemble the dish: In a baking dish of you choice, pour a small amount of the Béchamel sauce into the dish, then add the half cooked zucchini into the sauce. Fill the zucchini boats with as much meat sauce as possible, and pour the remaining Béchamel on top.
Bake : Pop into a preheated 375 oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn the over to broil and finish baking until nicely golden brown.
Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes then enjoy! This pairs nicely with a salad, rice or Arabic bread.