Quick, batten down the hatches, the relatives are coming! Swarming in from all corners of the country, they’ll begin their descent any day now, preying upon well-meaning hosts and hostesses, depositing themselves on couches and easy chairs, leaving all manner of clothing and garbage strewn about; it may seem like a tornado hit the house, not just sweet auntie and uncle, plus their rambunctious kids of course. We don’t have much time to chat, because the attack could come at any time, so just lay low for as long as possible and follow my advice: Have food. Lots and lots of food.
As long as you keep feeding them, they shouldn’t become too destructive or agitated, and they may even stay out of the kitchen long enough for you to prepare The Festive Meal. Finger food is best, as silverware may get lost in the struggle, and of course, quick and easy is the name of the game here. That’s why I’m recommending these stuffed zucchini.
Although an unlikely choice, these simple veggie rounds are surprisingly satisfying, filled with a hearty mixture of nuts and beans, plus aromatic herbs and spices. They could just as happily make themselves at home on a dinner plate, as a side or even an entree, thanks to their protein-rich stuffing. Best of all, they’re delicious both warm and cold, and can be prepared in advance, so you can focus on more important things when the family is around. Like preventing little cousin Billy from destroying your antique glass vase.
Good luck, solider. Arm yourself well!
Stuffed Zucchini Bites
4 Medium Zucchinis
5 Tablespoon Olive Oil, Divided
1/2 Large Red Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
Pinch Dried Thyme
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts, Toasted
2/3 Cup Cooked Canellini Beans
1/2 Cup Almond Meal
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or silpats.
Slice off the tops and bottoms of your zucchinis, and then cut them into 1 1/2-inch long segments. Stand each segment up on one of the cut sides, and use a melon baller to remove the center flesh, being careful not to dig all the way through the bottom. Reserve the flesh of two zucchinis for this recipe; the other two can go into a stir fry or something else. Arrange the hollowed-out zucchini pieces on your prepared sheets so that they’re ready to go. Set aside.
Set a medium sauté pan over moderate heat, and add in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Once hot, introduce the chopped onion to the pan, and reduce the heat slightly so that it softens and becomes translucent, but doesn’t brown. After about 4 minutes, add in the garlic, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. After another 5 – 6 minutes, incorporate the parsley, cumin, and thyme, plus the reserved flesh of two zucchinis, and cook for just 3 – 4 more minutes until the zucchini pieces are lightly browned. Remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer the contents of the sauté pan into your food processor or blender, along with the remaining oil, walnuts, beans, almond meal, and soy sauce. Pulse until the mixture is mostly blended, but still slightly chunky, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Give the stuffing a taste, and add salt and pepper as you see fit.
Spoon the stuffing into your prepared zucchini segments, and really mound it up on top; You should have plenty of stuffing, so don’t hold back. If it turns out that you still have extra when it’s all said and done, you can also just serve it along side chips as a dip, or use it later as a sandwich spread.
Give the zucchinis a light spritz all over with olive oil cooking spray, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and the zucchinis are fork-tender.
Serves 8 – 10 as appetizers, 4 – 5 as a side dish, and perhaps 1 – 2 as a main.