Thursday, October 31, 2013

Buckwheat Kasha Stuffed Zucchini

Piece of stuffed zucchini on plate
Topped with Last of the Garden Basil for 2013

Recipe inspired by Mom & Old House Farm

At this time of year, as we approach Day of the Dead, the veil between the worlds gets thinner as we remember loved ones who have passed. Before my mom died, 10 years ago now, she reminded me of a stuffed zucchini I’d made for her way back when with buckwheat. I’d completely forgotten. During those early days I threw together whatever ingredients I had without much thought—or many ingredients. So this recipe is an approximation of the dish that Mom liked, and can be improvised upon freely.

Giant zucchini on the vine
Inspiration from the Garden
Old House Farm inspired me with their recipe for stuffed zucchini using brown rice, pesto, lots of oil, and mozzarella, topped with stewed tomatoes, Parmesan, and chopped basil. I used garden tomatoes, and substituted tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and dried herbs for the pesto. You could skip the tomato paste and Worcestershire and use more instant veggie broth, Spike, or other seasonings—as I probably did originally. 

Late Summer into Autumn Harvest
I used Monterey Jack cheese—inexpensive and most likely what was in the recipe that Mom liked. You can try any cheese or combination: sharp cheddar or Swiss would be fine. It’s best to top with just a thin layer of Parmesan so that squash can be cut into pieces easily. You can serve it with more Parmesan if you like.

Note that buckwheat is gluten free, not related to wheat, and in fact not even a grain. It’s a grass, like rice. Kasha, at least in the US, refers to buckwheat that has been roasted, which makes it more palatable and quicker to cook. Kasha is also called buckwheat groats. The toasty flavor is essential to this dish. Don’t use raw buckwheat, unless you toast it first.

Happy Halloween to all, whichever side of the veil you’re on. This one’s for you, Mom.

Slice of stuffed zucchini on plate
Gluten Free and Veggie Rich
Buckwheat Stuffed Zucchini
serves ~10

1½ cup water
1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
~2 tsp. instant veggie broth
1 large zucchini, ~12 inches
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red or other sweet pepper
4 – 6 cloves garlic
4 – 6 plum or other tomatoes
1½ tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¾ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried marjoram
½ tsp. salt
a few grinds pepper
¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
~4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
grated Parmesan cheese, optional garnish

Prepare kasha:
Boil water and instant broth (or a little salt) in medium saucepan. Add kasha. Cook over medium high, uncovered, watching carefully without stirring. At first there will be a layer of water on top of the kasha. When this water layer is absorbed into the top of the kasha (about 4 minutes), lower heat to very low and cover pot. Cook another 5-10 minutes, until water all water is absorbed by grain. If you listen closely and don’t hear the pot bubbling, it’s done. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Prepare zucchini:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice zucchini into equal halves lengthwise. Scoop out inside, leaving ~3/8 inch shell and reserving inside pulp. Salt and pepper insides of squash. Place cut side down in parchment-lined baking dish. Add ½ inch of water to pan. Sprinkle outside of squash with salt and pepper.

Place zucchini in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until soft but not collapsed. Remove from oven. Invert zucchini to cut side up. Set aside.

Prepare other veggies:
While zucchini is cooking, prepare other veggies. Roughly chop inside zucchini pulp, removing any large seeds.

Dice onion to make about 1¼ cup. Chop sweet pepper to make about 2/3 cup. Mince garlic to make about 1 tbsp. Slice tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Roughly chop to make about 1 cup.

Prepare stuffing:
Heat olive oil over medium high heat in nonstick skillet. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to become golden, about 4 minutes. Add sweet pepper, stir and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another minute or so, until garlic starts to cook but not brown. Add diced zucchini and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Stir until evenly mixed. Add tomatoes. Heat over medium high until tomatoes start to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in kasha. Stir in shredded Monterey Jack cheese till well blended.

Stuff and bake zucchini:
Scoop stuffing into zucchini with spoon, mounding up evenly, and packing down lightly. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

Return zucchini to 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until zucchini shell is soft and cheese is lightly browned.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh basil and optional extra Parmesan.

Two Stuffed Half Squashes in Baking Pan
Ready to Bake

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