Zucchini Ripieni al Forno con una insalata e una crema

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Submitted by M5

This is a plan for a complete meal; well, complete if you add some bread. The idea for the main dish I stole from a local (Austin) Salvadoran restaurant called Elsie's. Hers is made with a chayote squash and melty cheese, while mine uses zucchini and stronger cheese and is better The salad and dessert are mostly there because I like squash a lot (and baby squash are so cute).

First, the ingredients upon arrival home from Central Market:

Ingredients

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Stuffed Baked Zucchini

  • 4 good-sized zucchini (size to fit your roaster)
  • 20 green onions (scallions)
  • 10-15 roma tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Stuffing

  • 1.5 cups grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 lb blue cheese
  • handful of oregano and basil

Baby Squash Salad

  • 20-30 baby sunburst squash (or whatever they're called)
  • 4 tbsp pine nuts
  • 6-8 grapes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • pinch of dry dillweed
  • spinach leaves, parsley

Acorn Squash Custard

  • 1 medium-sized acorn squash
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt (maybe a bit more)
  • 6 tbsp coarsly-chopped pecans
  • 1 piece semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

Equipment

  • Food mill
  • Food processor
  • Cheese grater
  • Knives and board
  • Heavy skillet
  • Earthenware casserole dish
  • Seives
  • Big pot for boiling water
  • Silicone muffin mold
  • Lots of bowls
  • Cookie sheet w/ Silpat
  • Stove, Oven, Microwave

Preparation

I overlapped the preparation of the different bits and pieces. During that time I also baked 6 loaves of bread and made lunch for my kids and played with a dog. The overall process took a while but there's lots of free time.

Prep the salad dressing

Drop the grapes into the food processor and splash in some balsamic vinegar (about 1 tsp; not terribly important to measure because you'll adjust it later).

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Process until the grapes are obliterated, then strain through a seive into a bowl. Reserve.

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Prep the acorn squash for the custard Cut the acorn squash in half (through the stem).

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Scoop out the seeds and most of the stringy stuff, then place cut-side down on a Silpat (or parchment).

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Roast in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for about an hour. When done, there may be burned sugars around the squash; don't worry.

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Scoop out the squash (avoiding the more roasty bits) and force through a food mill into a bowl. (I got 2 cups of smushed squash.) Reserve.

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Prep the zucchini stuffing

Clean some oregano and some basil. Other herbs are possible: rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, parsley, chive, etc.

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Grate about 1.5 cups of Romano cheese. Be careful with your Microplane grater.

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Whirl the herbs by themselves in the processor, then add the Romano and the broken-up blue cheese.

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Process until smooth, scraping down the bowl a couple times. Reserve.

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Start the tomato sauce

Get a big pot of water boiling. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Drop in the tomatoes.

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Remove after about 1 minute. The skins should be ready to come off.

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Put the tomatoes through the food mill and transfer to your casserole dish (where the zucchini will eventually be roasted).

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Pop that into a 275 degree oven; it can stay there for a while but you want at least to get the casserole dish hot and the tomato purée reduced a little.

While you've got the water hot, blanch 8 whole green onions and drain them.

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Cook the baby squash for about 2 or 3 minutes, and drain.

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Make the custard

Crack one egg into a bowl, and add the yolks of two others.

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Whisk until uniform, then add 1/2 cup of sugar (or more; I like custard less sweet than some people), 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Whip until smooth.

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Add the reserved squash (draining any liquid that's accumulated) and 2 tbsp cream, and whip until smooth.

Drop the pecan pieces into the bottoms of four muffin cups.

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Pour the custard mixture over the pecans, gently urging it down around the nuts (but don't stir). Fill the cups to the brim. Slide that into a 275 degree oven and cook for about 40 minutes. When it's ready, the custard will be just separating (on its own) from the sides.

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Remove from the oven and let cool until warm. Remove from the cups, invert (so the nuts are on top) and cool in the refrigerator.

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Make the stuffed zucchini

First, chop up 10 or 12 green onions, including a good part of the greens. Chop 3 cloves of garlic too.

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Remove the tomato purree from the oven, add the chopped scallion and some white wine, and season with a little salt (to taste).

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Slice each zucchini in half length-wise. Slice them such that the halves lay flat; in other words, look along the length of the zucchini and find a place to slice where the squash is pretty straight.

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Scoop out the seedy part such that there's a nice furrow in each half.

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Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over the cut faces of the zucchini, then sear the cut side in a hot heavy skillet. Keep track of the pairs!

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When the cut side is well-browned, remove and fill the furrows with the reserved cheese mixture. (The photo makes the zucchini look more black than it really was.)

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Reunite the halves and tie each squash with two reserved blanched scallions.

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Lay the tied zucchini over the sauce. Return to a hot oven (400 degrees).

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roast for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the squash look fairly browned.

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While the zucchini is roasting

Toast the pine nuts in the hot skillet in a little oil. (They burn quick so be careful.)

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Salt them. Also quickly brown the baby squash and then salt them a little too.

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Whisk some oil and a pinch of dry dillweed into the reserved grape-vinegar mixture.

Put the chocolate and 1 tbsp butter into a microwave-safe bowl or cup and microwave for a couple of minutes, until the butter melts and you can swirl it into a smooth chocolate sauce. Pour over the custards and return them to the fridge.

Serve

Arrange some spinach and parsley leaves on small plates. Top with baby squash and pine nuts. Dress with the vinaigrette.

Place a roast zucchini on a dinner plate, with a surround of tomato sauce. (You can pre-slice the squash artfully if you're feeling artful.) Crusty bread is called for.

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My wife and kids liked this. So did I. I'll definitely do the zucchini again, as it's really tasty.