I don't sleep in - even on Saturdays. I've been on early morning photo shoot call time for enough of my life that being in bed at 9 am would be quite the luxury. So while the rest of the house is still tucked in - the new kitty included if we're lucky - I've started taking off to a local farm-stand market or two on Saturday mornings to see what I can see. It's great to see the natural progression of what's for sale - to see what's in season that week and watch what we eat change. Not to get too soapbox-y...but it also makes me feel really good to buy more of our food supplies locally.
When I came across a local farm that had these gorgeous ronde de nice zucchinis, I immediately thought back to one of Helen's posts that made my mouth just water. Stuffed squashes have always been in my repertoire but I hadn't seen these unusual beauties until Helen posted her recipe. They've magically appeared at our market several times since then...and that's as often as I've prepared them.
I've made several incarnations of this dish but this one is my favorite: saffron infused pearl couscous, fresh home-grown herbs, a smattering of local pink-eye peas and a rough chop of perfectly ripe tomato. While I encourage you to make this recipe - it is delicious - this is hopefully something to inspire you to make your own variation. Include whatever looks incredible at your local market. Cut back those herbs growing wild in your garden and use them. Head off to market, get inspired, and be creative.
Farm-stand Stuffed Zucchini Squash - serves 2 as a vegetarian entree
- 1 1/3 cups pearl couscous
- a pinch of saffron threads
- 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock (i use a half - and - half mixture of stock and water)
- a pinch of dried red chili flakes
- 1 medium just-ripe tomato, chopped
- 1/4 cup freshly shelled & blanched pink-eye or zipper peas (I quickly boil mine in enough water to cover them for about 15 minutes or until tender)
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs - I've used basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary
- 1/4 cup fresh wild arugula, sunflower sprouts or other greens you have on-hand
- 2 ronde de nice zucchini squash
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
For the couscous: In a small skillet, dry toast your couscous over medium heat until it's just lightly golden toasted. Bring your water/vegetable stock to a low boil in a medium saucepan with a lid. Add the saffron threads, dried red chili flakes and toasted pearl couscous to the boiling mixture. Cover and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed - this was about 12 minutes for me. Once cooked, stir in chopped tomato & pink-eye peas. Taste and add salt & pepper accordingly. Add your fresh herbs and sprouts, reserving a tablespoon or so for garnish at the end.
For the zucchini: Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the top off of the zucchini at the stem end so you make a little lid. Scoop out the inner flesh of the zucchini - you can discard or save it for another occasion (or you could add it in with the couscous but I did not for styling purposes). Drizzle the inside cavity of each squash with 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Place the hollowed out squashes - and their lids - in an oven-safe baking dish. Cook for about 20 minutes.
To assemble: Being careful not to burn yourself with the warm squash, spoon the couscous mixture into the cavities of the squash until full. Place back in the baking dish in the oven for another 8-10 minutes - you're looking for the squash to be fork tender but not falling apart. When cooked, place on plate and sprinkle the top with some of the remaining sprouts and herbs. Top with the baked lid or prop it up alongside. Serve immediately.This recipe does make a little more couscous that you'd need to fill the squash, which means there's plenty of seconds and leftovers.