I think in a good growing year, every gardener experiences “the zucchini that ate Manhattan” syndrome. You know – you go out there and pick your squash every day, because you know, to get more nice little squashes, you have to make sure you don’t have any gargantuan squashes. Letting summer squash get too big signals to the plant that it’s time to make sure that the squashes they have are all that they can be – they put their energy into growing canoe hulls instead of anything edible. So, you keep them picked.
Until, one day you are rummaging through the leaves and see something almost frightening – a zucchini big enough to house a small family.
You stand there, thinking to yourself: “Where did it come from? How did this happen? That wasn’t there yesterday!”
I think they have a natural instinct to camouflage themselves. If squashes hold their breath as you pass by, sometimes they can look like just another leaf, until that one day, when they can hide no longer, and you spot them. Often they end up going to the chickens, though frankly, by this time of year, the chickens would rather eat anything BUT squash. I think it’s because Larry always fixes them the same way [cut them in chunks and pitch them over the fence], whereas I can think of a thousand different ways to use a summer squash. The chickens may weary of summer squash, but we never do.
The timing works out well when it comes to stuffing zucchini. It has cooled off enough that I can stand to turn the oven on, and our vigilance in picking begins to flag a bit, rendering a higher probability of large squash at just the time I want to stuff one. Perfect! This particular squash was about a foot long by around 5 inches. It could have a been a little larger, but at about 14 inches or so, they are too big to fool with – the middle turns spongy, the flesh looses a lot of it’s sweetness, and the skins get too tough to eat.A lot of the time, I use rice for a meal like this – as I did in the Stuffed Sweet Peppers recipe, but I think the orzo in this is a really nice idea – it’s a little unexpected, and so long as you don’t cook it too long, the texture is wonderful with all the fresh veggies. And it makes great use of so much that is coming from the garden right now – onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, garlic and tomatoes.
To get started, you’ll need to hollow out the squash – I just run a knife around the edge, leaving a half inch or so to make sure the shell stays sturdy enough to hold in the filling. Then, using a spoon, gently scoop out the flesh, following the contour so that you don’t make a hole through the outer skin. [though if you do, it's not the end of the world - just put a little piece of squash over it, and all will be well] And save everything you scoop out, because that is going in the stuffing too.
- ½ cup orzo pasta
- 8 ounces ground turkey
- olive oil
- 1 zucchini, about 12 to 14 inches long
- 1 smaller summer squash, about 4 to 6 inches long
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- ¼ cup sweet red pepper, diced
- ¼ cup sweet green pepper, diced
- ½ a medium jalapeno, seeds discarded, chopped fine
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup chopped tomato – fresh or canned
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
- a couple tablespoons fresh chopped herbs – parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil – whatever you have on hand. Or use about a teaspoon of dried herbs.
- ¼ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup grated sharp cheddar
- Follow the package direction and cook the orzo, but remove from the heat and drain about 2 minutes earlier than normal.
- Using a large saute pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the ground turkey, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper, and breaking up into smallish chunks as it cooks. Set aside in a small bowl.
- Meanwhile, cut the large squash in half the long way, and scoop out the flesh, leaving a half inch shell. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay the squash shells side by side – season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Chop the scooped out flesh, and the second, smaller squash – you want about a ½ inch dice.
- Wipe out the pan, and add another tablespoon of olive oil, and return to high heat heat.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the squash, sprinkling lightly with kosher salt.
- After a couple minutes, add the onion, all of the peppers and the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato and the herbs, and cook until the liquid is reduced somewhat – another 5 minutes.
- Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the turkey and orzo and bring back up to a simmer.
- Stir in the Romano or Parmesan cheese.
- Divide the stuffing between the two shells on the baking sheet, mounding the center slightly.
- Bake in 1 350º oven for around 40 minutes, until the filling is bubbly.
- Top with grated cheddar, and bake an additional 5 minutes.
- To serve, cut into wide slices. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
When you take it out of the oven, it’s going be fragrant with herbs, and bubbly and cheesy – it will be all you can do to actually share it with other people.Go ahead and give them some though – you know that there are other zucchinis lurking out there, just waiting to get big enough to make this again!