One of the big advantages to the hot, humid, & sweaty Houston summer is the growing season that comes with it. When I came down here (in late August), I was astonished to see tomato plants & herbs still being sold. Combine that with the farmer’s market within walking distance of my apartment, and I’m in fresh fruit & vegetable heaven.
Going to the farmers market has been a learning experience in itself. I’ve always been a suburbanite, going to the grocery store and getting used to uniform size & colored produce all year long. The farmers market, though… all shapes & colors of peppers, differently colored tomatoes & eggplants, and, I discovered, zucchini balls. I had never never seen a zucchini ball before. Upon seeing my first, I thought, wow. Think of all the OTHER vegetables you could stuff inside!
That led to stuffed zucchini balls.
They were easy and delicious. I altered several recipes to come up with this one, and it’s flexible – use what you have on hand! I made mine vegetarian, but it wouldn’t be hard to add ground turkey or beef – saute it with the onions at the beginning, making sure to cook thoroughly.
2 zucchini balls
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 med onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
handful of fresh basil & oregano
3 tomatoes, chopped & drained
roasted red pepper
1cup bread crumbs
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1. Cut off the tops of the zucchini balls & scrape out the insides. Set aside the meaty part of the inside, toss the seeds. Make sure to drain it well, otherwise it’ll end up watery (same goes for tomatoes below) Cook in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for around 30-40 minutes, until tender.
2. Saute the onion & garlic in olive oil for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, then add chopped basil & oregano. Let cook for 2 more minutes, or until onion is transparent.
3. Combine chopped (drained!) tomatoes, roasted peppers, 1 c breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Mix well, then add to onion mixture. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then take off heat & transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
4. Chop mozzarella cheese & remaining basil, add to stuffing mixture, and mix well.
5. If you’re serving it later or planning on leftovers (and they keep well), save this step until you plan on serving it. Remove the zucchini balls from the oven and add stuffing. Make sure to fill it to the top – you want as much of the yummy insides as possible! Top with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted & insides warm through.