Saturday, September 2, 2017


I got overexcited when I saw a few nubbins of zucchini thriving in my vegetable garden. I may be the only person in the world who can’t grow zucchini. The plants flourish and flower, but the baby zukes turn yellow and fall off the vine before they mature. So you can understand the thrill of seeing several specimens growing beyond the infantile stage.

Mature zucchini from my garden--perfect for stuffing.
I allowed them to keep growing, way past their perfect size when the skin is still tender and seeds immature. These got big and bulbous before I finally cut them loose. After admiring my harvest, I realized there was not much to do with mature zucchini except to stuff them.

Don’t peel the zucchini. The tougher skins of mature zucchini help the vegetable keep its shape when stuffed and baked.  At the table, you can scoop out the flesh and stuffing and discard the skin, if preferred.

Par-boiling the zucchini makes it easier to hollow out the shells and drain off excess moisture (zucchini contains a lot of water). One cup par-boiled zucchini pulp reduces to about ½ cup when cooked.

These zucchini "boats" are stuffed with vegetables and quinoa, a fine vegetarian main dish.

Oversized zucchini (3 inches diameter) is cut crosswise and hollowed out to make "tubs" for shrimp filling. Topped with grated cheese and browned, these are a lovely starter.

Zucchini Tubs with Shrimp Stuffing
Cuencos de Calabacín Rellenos de Gambas

Choose zucchini that are at least 3 inches in diameter, so that the hollowed out “tubs” are big enough to hold the stuffing. Par-boil the zucchini to make it easier to scoop out the pulp. Seeds are edible, but if they are very large, discard them. If the zucchini has a thin “neck,” not suitable for stuffing, finely dice it and add to the pulp.

If you are starting with whole, unpeeled shrimp (you’ll need 12 to 16 ounces), peel the shrimp and use the heads and shells to make a quick stock. If shells are not available, use chicken or fish stock. Small shrimp can be left whole. If using large ones, chop them. Use all shrimp or shrimp plus white fish such as monkfish, halibut or cod, cut into dice.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Scoop out pulp to make tubs.
1 or 2 large zucchini
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup peeled small shrimp or shrimp + chopped fish
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon diced red bell pepper
¼ cup white wine or Sherry
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 cup shrimp, fish or chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup grated cheese

Trim away the ends of the zucchini. Cut the zucchini crosswise into 4 pieces of approximately 2 ½ inches. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and add the vinegar. Cook the zucchini pieces about 8 minutes. Drain well.

When zucchini is cool enough to handle, use a spoon or melon ball scoop to hollow out pulp, leaving a shell of flesh. Save the pulp, discarding seeds if they are very large. Sprinkle the shells with salt and invert them to drain in a colander.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and fish, if using. Let it cook on a hot fire for 1 minute. Toss and cook 1 minute more. Tilt the pan so oil drains to one side and remove shrimp with a slotted spoon.

Add the shallot and red pepper to the oil in the skillet and sauté 2 minutes. Chop the pulp that was scooped from the zucchini tubs and any raw zucchini. Add it to the skillet and cook, stirring, until fairly tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and allow it to cook off.

Stir in the flour. Add the stock and cook the sauce, stirring, until thickened. Season with salt to taste, pepper and cayenne. Add the shrimp and fish to the sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

Zucchini shells can be filled in advance of baking. Top with grated cheese before placing in the oven.

Divide the shrimp and sauce between 4 zucchini tubs. (Zucchini can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated until time to finish in the oven.)

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place the 4 zucchini tubs in an oiled baking dish.  Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese. Bake until zucchini is easily pierced with a skewer, about 20 minutes. Turn the broiler on “high” and brown the tops, 2 minutes.

Shrimp in a savory sauce fill the zucchini cups.

Zucchini Boats Stuffed with Vegetables and Quinoa
Canoas de Calabacín Rellenos de Quinoa

Chewy quinoa and smoky pimentón give this vegetarian stuffing a very meaty flavor. Use grated cheese such as Manchego for the gratin topping.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

2 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón
1 cup grated tomato pulp
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup cooked quinoa or rice
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
¼ cup chopped green olives (optional)
½ cup grated cheese

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil with the vinegar. Add the halved zucchinis and cook 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Sprinkle the zucchini “boats” with salt and invert them to drain in a colander.

Melon ball scoop to hollow zucchini.

Use a spoon or melon-ball scoop to remove pulp. Discard any seeds that are very large. Chop the pulp.

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic until softened. Add the chopped zucchini pulp and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in the pimentón, then immediately add the tomato pulp. Add the brandy and ½ teaspoon salt. Raise the heat until the mixture bubbles, then reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes are thickened.

Add the quinoa, chopped egg and olives, if using. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. 

Fill the zucchini "boats" and top with grated cheese.

Divide the tomato-quinoa mix between the four zucchini shells. Place them in a lightly oiled oven pan. Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until zucchini is easily pierced with a skewer. If desired, place under hot broiler for 2 minutes to brown the tops.

More recipes with zucchini:

A meat stuffing for vegetables  here.


  1. Well, the classic thing to do with large zucchini is to make zucchini bread.

    1. David: I've never tried zucchini bread, but that microwave chocolate-zucchini cake (link is in the blog post) is pretty good.

  2. David is right! Zucchini bread is so good, especially in the fall. It also freezes well. Your recipe for stuffed zucchini boats with veges and quinoa sounds great-will make this soon.