This morning I trekked to the farmer’s market in jeans, leather shoes and a rain coat. Looking at me you’d have thought it was April 1st instead of July 1st. But what I found at the market convinced me that somehow it was summer after all: zucchini, a type of summer squash!
Every summer I look forward to Green Acres Farm’s selection of vegetables (I bought these garlic scapes from them a few weeks ago), especially their summer squash. This vendor usually has a few varieties to choose from and I like them all, but today I was most inspired by the ball zucchinis.
The plan was to hollow and fill the zucchinis in a way similar to the bison-barley stuffed peppers and stuffed buttercup squash, but this time with ground lamb, eggplant, tomatoes and a lot of fresh oregano. These Mediterranean flavors remind me of foods common in Italy and Greece creating a dish that is hearty, savory and summery all at once.
To complete the meal I served the stuffed ball zucchini with bulgur, a fantastic earthy compliment to the lamb and vegetables. Another way to make this dish would be to dice regular zucchini, saute it with the rest of the ingredients and serve it as a stir-fry over cooked bulgur.
As for why I chose to stuff the ball zucchinis, the answer is because it’s fun!
Here’s the recipe:
Mediterranean Stuffed Ball Zucchini with Lamb – makes 4
4 ball zucchinis, each about the size of a baseball
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup diced eggplant
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, plus extra for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the tops off the ball zucchinis and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out of the center leaving 1/4-inch thickness around the edges. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute then stir in the ground lamb.
Use a wooden spoon to break the lamb into small pieces and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the eggplant, grape tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 5 minutes then remove the pan from the heat.
Spoon the lamb mixture into the hollowed ball zucchinis and set them in an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Pour the chicken broth into the dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes then remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes until the zucchini becomes soft but still retains its shape.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool slightly before serving. Garnish with a spinkle of fresh chopped oregano.