When I saw 8-ball zucchini at the nearby farm stand, I snatched some up immediately, even though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them. After all, who can resist squash the size and shape of a pool ball? Stuffing was the obvious option, because otherwise their cute shape would go to waste.
I stuff things a lot, at least when it comes to dishes that eventually wind up on this blog. After all, stuffed vegetables are cute, and when you’re going to be taking photos of a dish, a stuffed baby eggplant is more attractive than an unstuffed one, though not necessarily tastier.
When it comes to ordinary, not-on-the-blog meals, however, I’m not very fond of stuffing. For one thing, it takes a lot longer than just chopping up the vegetable and, say, roasting it or even making raw “noodles” out of it with a spiral cutter. And for another thing, my daughter E. has a inexplicable dislike of stuffed vegetables: Even when she likes the veggie in question and the ingredients of the stuffing, she will automatically hate the stuffed vegetable. So I tend not to go to the trouble too often.
But, as I said, 8-ball zucchini are just too perfectly suited for stuffing, and since E. was out of the house, I decided to fill these cuties with a simple herbed rice mixture similar to what I’ve used on regular zucchini. This time, however, my variegated basil is in full-force, so I let it be the star of this stuffing. Sun-dried tomatoes lend some depth, and a few Kalamata olives pack their usual punch, but the peppery-fresh taste of basil really makes these stuffed zucchini special.
Eight-Ball Zucchini Stuffed with Rice, Basil, and Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 4 8-ball zucchini
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
- 1 1/4 cup cooked brown rice
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 1 cup basil leaves , chopped
- 5 Kalamata olives , pitted and chopped
Cut zucchini tops off about 3/4 inch from the top. Scoop out the insides, being careful to leave a wall about 1/4 inch thick on all sides. Steam zucchini and tops for about 8 minutes, until slightly softened.
Rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes by soaking them in hot water until softened. Remove from water and chop. Reserve soaking water.
Chop the zucchini pulp. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the garlic for about 1 minute. Add the zucchini pulp and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, brown rice and almonds, and if the mixture seems dry, add a splash of the tomato liquid. Add the basil leaves, Kalamata olives, and black pepper to taste. Cook until warm, about 3 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Using a spoon, carefully stuff the rice mixture into the zucchini, mounding slightly on top. Place in an uncovered baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot, covered with tops if desired.
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