This is one of my husband’s favorite meals, and considering he only ate brown food before he met me (peanut butter, bacon, meat, bread, etc.), that’s saying a lot. I’ve been making it for years and have experimented with it along the way. Sometimes I add mushrooms to the saute. I’ve also added ground meat. It’s a very forgiving recipe. Basically you roast the zucchini “boats” and potatoes (I’ve also tried sweet potatoes) in the oven while you saute the onion and other ingredients. Then you pull the whole thing together by throwing in the roasted potatoes with the sauteed ingredients and add some cheese and fresh herbs (I like basil). You stuff the “boats” with this mixture, top with cheese, heat until it melts and garnish with more herbs. It’s a really vibrant and healthy vegetarian meal!
Who knows the best way to store unused basil? The green market guy told me to place in a glass of water and leave out — DO NOT put in the refrigerator! he commanded. So I didn’t. It makes a lovely bouquet, but it wilted within a day and made our kitchen smell like “a pizzeria “, according to my husband. I’ve also tried washing the leaves, spinning them as dry as possible in a salad spinner, and storing them wrapped in paper towel in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator. The basil seemed to last longer, but some edges of the leaves still turned brown. If anyone has a fool-proof method, by all means let me know!
Instead of risking it going bad, I usually just wash the whole bunch and make pesto. I toast some pine nuts, crush some garlic, and process it with the basil. While it is processing, I add some olive oil, then taste it and add salt. If I’m using the pesto immediately, I also process it with grated parmesan cheese. But if I’m freezing it to store, I omit the cheese and add it later after it’s been defrosted. I can’t remember where I read about this tip — I believe it was in a Mark Bittman column when he used to write for the New York Times.
The pesto can be used to flavor pasta, steamed or roasted veggies, as a dip or sandwich spread. You can add water or more olive oil to thin it out. For me, this has been the best way to avoid throwing away an ugly bunch of brown basil that never got used! It’s just a matter of having the other ingredients on hand (if you don’t have pine nuts, other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, even hazelnuts can do the trick, altering the taste a bit, but the pesto is still delicious– it’s fun to improvise) and taking the time to make the pesto. It is well worth it!
Roasted Potato, Tomato, and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini
4 medium sized zucchini
3 medium red or Yukon potatoes, cut into small cubes
kosher salt and pepper to taste
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
2 cloves of garlic pressed through garlic press, about 1½ teaspoons
1 plum tomato, cored and deseeded, chopped
1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped basil, divided
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place two foil lined baking sheets in oven, one on top rack and one on bottom rack. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out interior flesh with a melon baller or spoon creating a zucchini “boat”. Reserve flesh for another time. Cut off a sliver from bottom of each zucchini “boat” so that it can rest without wobbling. Brush cut halves with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for 10 minutes on top baking sheet, cut side down.
- Toss potato cubes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently remove heated empty baking sheet from oven. Spray with non-stick spray and transfer potatoes onto sheet, spreading into one even layer. Return to bottom rack in oven. Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking period.
- While zucchini and potatoes are roasting, heat remaining olive oil in large non-stick skillet. Sauté onions, stirring constantly, until onions are soft. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and the roasted potatoes. Cook until tomatoes are soft. Off heat, add ½ cup cheese and 1/3 cup of the basil. Stir to combine.
- Turn zucchini halves over and divide potato filling among them. Sprinkle each with remaining cheese (about 2 tablespoon per zucchini half). Return to oven and roast for about 5 minutes on top rack, until cheese has melted. Garnish with remaining basil. Serve immediately (2 halves per serving).
Yield: 4 servings.
Note: I used to throw out the extra zucchini flesh I scooped out. Now I save it in a container in the refrigerator and steam it later or throw it into a stir fry. There is a lot of it, so it’s really no point in throwing it away when you can use it in something else!
A bunch of basil
Kosher salt to taste
About 2 heaping tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted (or other nut)
Clove of garlic, smashed
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on taste
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
1. Process basil, pine nuts, and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Scrape down edges. While processor is running, slowly pour in olive oil through feed tube. Season with more salt to taste. If using immediately, add parmesan and process again. If freezing, omit and add parmesan after defrosting.
Makes about 1/2 pint.