I have been almost completely absent from the internet for about one week due to my beautiful and relaxing vacation at Massanutten! I make no apologies for neglecting my facebook posting and blog reading/writing duties because: how could you spend your time on the laptop when you get to wake up to this every morning?
I was super excited to arrive at our condo last week for my first trip to this resort, especially since we were going to have a full kitchen in the unit. I decided to try making the eight ball zucchini that I picked up at the farmers’ market over the weekend. The plan was to prepare stuffed zucchini in my apartment kitchen, place them in a baking dish, and then pop them in the oven when we arrived at the resort to enjoy for dinner after unpacking and such.
I wrote a little about these zucchini in my last farmers’ market post. The zucchini I used were about the size of a softball, and colored forest green with yellow-orange striping. They are the perfect size for one person, unlike the mammoth sized zucchini that I often see at the market in summer in Virginia. I like how easy it is to scale recipes using eight ball zucchini. You can just throw in one per person, whether you are cooking for one or cooking for a crowd.
First, I sliced off the tops and scooped out the insides, leaving about a 1/4″ thick wall around the outside of the squash. I used half of the zucchini pulp in the stuffing and saved half to make zucchini bread later in the week. I kept about a cup of zucchini in this adorable little container that I picked up at Fishs Eddy in NYC.
Next I prepared quinoa as a base for the stuffing. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a grain-like plant which is harvested for its edible seeds. It originated in South America and was grown in the Andes mountains by the Incas. It is sometimes referred to as “Inca Gold” based on the gold color of its seed coat. The quinoa that is commercialized in North America is often sold with its bitter casing removed so that it can be more easily prepared at home. The quinoa that I purchased had already had its casing or “saponins” removed through soaking and rinsing. I usually give it a quick rinse in a fine mesh strainer before cooking anyway.
Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice. I measured one cup of quinoa to two cups of water in a saucepan and cooked it over low-medium heat, covered, for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Quinoa is a good ingredient for vegetarians, so Kyle and I incorporate it into our diets as much as possible. It is a great source of protein, fiber, and essential amino acids. Besides, we love the nutty flavor and grainy texture. Here is what it looks like after cooking. The seed becomes soft while the white spiral remains crunchy.
To the quinoa I added fresh corn kernels, diced tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, minced onion and garlic, black beans, cilantro, olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper, and a bit of this Mrs. Renfro’s salsa verde that is one of my new favorites.
I also tossed in a little shredded sharp cheddar cheese for good measure.
Finally, I stuffed the zucchini balls and wrapped them in a baking dish to transport them to the mountains. I had a ton of leftover filling (on purpose) in a separate container for us to heat up and enjoy throughout the week. We drove the two hours to the resort with the faint smell of stuffed zucchini wafting from the backseat of the SUV.
Imagine my surprise when I walked into our spacious condo to discover this:
Luckily, I remembered how my Dad used to make me and my sister “baked” apples in the winter by microwaving fresh apples stuffed with brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, walnuts, and raisins. So “baked quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini” quickly became “microwaved quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini.” No harm done, they turned out beautiful and delicious after seven or eight minutes in the microwave, followed by four minutes of rest.
And, by the way, nothing pairs better with microwaved quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini (with a side of kitchen-appliance-induced panic) than a bottle of South Australian Jim Jim Shiraz.
Thanks Mom and Dad for cheating on your baked apples, or I might have been completely lost on this one!