Fight giant zucchini oppression with this recipe!


My friend Michelle went on vacation and came back to find the zucchini in her backyard were out of hand. As in as-big-as-a-small-child out of hand. This is a problem all over Alaska. My Fairbanks friends talk about making anonymous zucchini drops on strangers’ doorsteps. It’s hard to know what to do with a zucch that’s so big. The usual preparations, like grilling, don’t work as well as they should, because the skin is tough and meat is spongey. You don’t want to throw them away. But there is only so much zucchini bread a person can take. I have been making this recipe all summer using the extra cheap large zucchini from the farmer’s market. Michelle’s were even larger, but she came over and we gave it a go. I declare it a very decent alternative to dropping, ringing and running.

Here’s what were were working with (banana for scale):

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And here is the full recipe cast, except basil.

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First thing: put on some rice. You can use something other than brown rice, but I like how nutty it is. Preheat the oven to 425.º Cover some big sheet pans with parchment.

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The idea is to make the zucchini into little serving-sized boats. Start by chopping up these bad boys.

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Then put them on a parchment-covered sheet pan.

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The outer flesh of these things is edible, but it’s tough and some people don’t like to eat it. You want to scoop them out with the spoon and make the walls of your boat pretty thin. I am putting this picture in to give you an idea, but these walls should be thinner. (Make sure you don’t go all the way through on the bottom, though.) Reserve about half the zucchini meat and chop it finely. (If it’s too wet/seedy, you can do all rice but you’d need to make more at the start). Feed the other half to the chickens.

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(At this point, if you want to rid them of some of their moisture, you could sprinkle with salt and turn them upside down on a cookie cooling rack over your sink. Then you could give them a rinse and a pat dry before you put them back on the parchment to stuff them. That felt too high maintenance to me the day I was doing this, so I didn’t. Just depends on your tolerance for water in the flesh. I’m cool with zucchini in all forms.)

Now, you want to make the filling.  Start out by sautéing the garlic and onion with some red pepper flake. Then add the Italian sausage. I love this Alaska Sausage kind. You can get it at Safeway. It’s spendy, so I didn’t use a ton. You can double the sausage and leave out the zucchini in the filling if you’re into that. Too bad this isn’t scratch-n-sniff, because it smells like heaven.
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Add the zucchini meat, the rice and some tomato sauce or strained tomatoes. (I love Pomi strained tomatoes) And the cheese. The cheese is key. You can add other varieties, if you like. Goat is really great.

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Here it is all mixed up with a sprinkling of fresh basil.

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Now you want to stuff the boats. (My friend Michelle is having her second baby. I’m pretty excited for her.)

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Sprinkle with cheese. Be generous.

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And now put them in the oven. Depending on the size of your zucchini, they bake for 45 minutes to 75 minutes. You want the tops to be brown and the flesh on the sides to feel tender.

And there you go. No need to anonymously put giant zucchini on your neighbor’s porch and run!

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Stuffed giant zucchini

(Makes enough for six to eight people)

One to two large zucchinis

1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice

3 tablespoons oil

1 onion, finely chopped (about a cup)

1 large clove garlic, minced

a pinch of red pepper flakes

half a pound Italian sausage

1 cup canned tomato sauce or strained tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

6 ounces Italian blend grated cheese

Preheat oven to 425º

Set the rice to begin cooking. (If you want to omit the zucchini meat in the recipe, double the rice and the sausage.) Cover a sheet pan with parchment. Chop zucchini into four-inch-thick rounds and scoop out the meat, making boats. (Try to get the walls of the boats pretty thin.) Heat the oil in the pan. Sauté onion, garlic and red pepper flake until the onions are soft. Add sausage. Cook until it’s cooked through. Add about half the zucchini insides, the cooked rice, the tomato sauce, basil and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill the zucchini boats and set them on the parchment-covered pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 45 to 75 minutes, depending on the size of the zucchini, until tops are golden brown and the sides are tender.

Preheat oven to 425°.

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Julia O’Malley is a journalist who lives in Anchorage. She writes about culture, family, home, the environment and food in Alaska.

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