The June-July selection of the Cook the Books club was Garlic and Sapphires, The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl1. The author is well known for her sparkling prose and engaging way of talking about food—the latter skill honed during her career as food critic, which is the subject of this memoir. Readers interested in restaurants in NYC and the life of a restaurant reviewer will find the book entertaining. To be honest, I am neither. I think that her first memoir, Tender at the Bone, includes her best writing. While reading the book, the word "stuffed" kept coming to mind, blinking like a neon sign. I took that as my inspiration and was aided in my recipe development by the appearance at the farmers' market of beautiful round zucchini that just begged to be stuffed.
I headed their plea and chose to use ground pork meat (carne di maiale macinata) as the main ingredient for the stuffing. My husband participated eagerly in tasting the various renditions. I realize it is customary to complain about the abundance of zucchini and/or the length of their season: both are a plus for me, prompting me to come up with new ways of preparing them.
- 2 round zucchini, about 12 ounces / 340 g, possibly organic
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 ounces / 42 g fresh onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon Harissa spice mix3
- 2 ounces / 56 g ground pork
- 3/4 ounce / 20 g sliced prosciutto crudo, cut into small pieces
- fine sea salt, to taste
- 1 ounce / 28 g cheese (pecorino or sharp cheddar), grated
Cut the top of each zucchini and set aside. With the help of a melon baller, scoop out the pulp from each zucchini, leaving a thickness of about 1/4 inch / 6 mm. Finely dice the pulp.
Precook the zucchini by steaming them (body and top) until just tender. Set aside.
Warm up a small skillet and add the olive oil. Add the onion, stir and cook on gentle heat until translucent and soft, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir. After 1 minute sprinkle the Harissa spice mix and stir. After 1 minute, add the pork and stir while at the same time crumbling the meat with a fork.
When the meat is no longer pink, add the diced pulp and stir well. After 2-3 minutes, cover the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, then remove the lid, add the prosciutto and stir. Continue cooking until the zucchini pulp is soft and the water released has evaporated.
Adjust salt, give it a final stir and take off the heat. Let cool, then add the cheese and stir well.
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.
Spoon half the stuffing into each zucchini, pressing gently to make it all fit. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper and put the top on. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes.
This is a simple and delicious recipe for zucchini. It requires a bit of preparation, but the result repays the effort with interest.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the zucchine ripiene audio file [mp3].
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FTC disclosure: I have received the napkin free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.