Zucchini and yellow squash are two of the flavors that always remind me of summer. Just like fresh corn kernels, juicy tomato slices and tangy barbecue sauce, summer squash momentarily transports me to the backyard of my childhood home. I remember chasing fireflies after dinner, while the adults picked crabs and sipped cold beers on the back deck, and the smells of Old Bay, dewy green grass, pool chlorine, and charcoal grills filled the air.
I remember eating zucchini and squash in one of two ways: grilled on kabobs or sautéed with Vidalia onions, bread crumbs, and grated parmesan cheese. Every once in awhile, I still make squash the second way for company. Each time, without fail, one of our guests tells me their Mom used to make it the same way. Although the results are delicious, the method of tossing vegetables in butter, breadcrumbs and cheese is not the most nutritious way to prepare fresh produce. For a protein and veggie packed preparation, I turn to stuffed zucchini boats.
I love this one recipe from Eating Bird Food for Overstuffed Vegetarian Zucchini Boats. One night this week, armed with a package of tempeh and a bag of market fresh spinach, I decided to put my own spin on Brittany’s recipe. My version features a filling made with browned tempeh, sauteed onions and garlic, fresh spinach, chopped olives, tomato sauce, herbs and feta cheese. The hollowed out zucchini and squash boats are stuffed, topped with more cheese (or not, if you’re being super healthy) and baked until bubbly.
I am finding that as I experiment with more local ingredients, I create my own signature seasonal dishes that will hopefully become new food memories and comforting associations. Stuffed zucchini is quickly becoming a summer standby for me.
Mediterranean Tempeh and Spinach Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 4 medium zucchini or other summer squash
- 4 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1 – 8 oz. package of tempeh
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning or mixture of basil and oregano
- 1-1/2 cups pasta sauce
- 1 – 4 oz. can of chopped olives, drained
- Salt and pepper
- 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
- 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash lengthwise into halves. Scoop out the insides and leave about a 1/4-inch thick wall of flesh on the inside of each half.
- Place the squash in a baking dish, skin side down. Brush the squash with about 1 Tbsp of oil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
- Grate the tempeh over a bowl with a large cheese grater. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the tempeh to a large mixing bowl.
- Take the squash innards that you scooped out in step one, and measure about 1 cup of squash. Save the remaining squash for zucchini bread or cookies. Chop the 1 cup of squash into a small dice.
- Add 2 Tbsp oil to the small pan and add onions and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then add squash to pan and sauté the mixture until tender, about 5 minutes.
- To the mixing bowl, add: squash/onion/garlic mixture, spinach, crushed red pepper, seasoning/herbs, pasta sauce, and olives. Add salt and pepper to taste. At this step you can stir in the crumbled feta. For a vegan version, omit the cheese.
- When the squash halves are removed from the oven, stuff each “boat” with the filling and top with shredded mozzarella cheese if desired.
- Bake the stuffed zucchini at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until filling is bubbly and cheese is melted.
Happy Summer Solstice!