Zucchin Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts and Rice

My usual process for recipe making is perhaps a little easier than a lot of people’s. Four out of every five things I think about are food, so when it comes to actually preparing food for a first time recipe, I’ve already gone over it a million times in my head, so it only takes 2 times to get the written and finalized recipe done.

However, for some unfortunate reason, one of the simplest vegetables (actually, technically a fruit….) was quite elusive. This recipe took me a grip of trial and errors. First, I tried zucchini rounds with just ricotta cheese and chili flakes. Not bad, but not good enough to try to get other people to make it. I tried a few different variations on this zucchini-ricotta business and none were fantastic. Then I figured it out: I needed a different cheese, and more substance to it! From here, it was a breeze. See for yourself:

Per 2 Zukes (I used regular, but round globe zucchini would work perfectly)stuffedzuke

    ½ cup cooked brown rice
    ¼ cup soft, fresh goat cheese
    3T white onion, finely minced
    2T pine nuts, toasted*
    2t minced garlic
    ½ t mild chili powder
    ½ t cayenne

    ½ – 1T fresh parmesan (to taste)
    pinch of red chili flakes (to taste)

    Pre-heat to 450
    1. Slice Zucchinis length-wise down the middle and use a small spoon to scoop out the center, leaving a canoe-like Zucchini boat. Reserve the meat!
    2. Coat the boats in evoo, salt and pepper and bake face down until slightly browned on the skin and soft inside. (7-10min)
    While they are baking:
    3. Heat a bit of olive oil and butter on medium heat and add garlic and onions, cook until onions are soft.
    4. Throw in brown rice to heat, then add zucchini meat, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
    5. Cook until zucchini softens, about 3 minutes.
    6. Transfer to bowl and add goat cheese in small increments, stirring to mix completely.
    7. Stuff mixture into the cavities of the baked zucchini, sprinkle with Parmesan and red chili flakes to taste.

Another tasty variation for finger-food appetizers:goatcheesezukes

    1. Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch rounds, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 450 until just soft (leave a little bite to it, you don’t want squishy zucchini).
    2. Top with dollops of the cheese and rice mixture (leaving out the zucchini meat from the mixture.)
    3. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chili flakes.

Some good substitutions for the goat cheese could be feta, or for those who aren’t fond of the goats at all – cream cheese. It will achieve generally the same consistency as the goat cheese.

*Its super important to always toast nuts before you use them. Nuts are oily, and the flavor is all there in the oil that comes out when heated. Put them in a small sauté pan and heat on med until just a little browned. Watch ‘em because they will burn easily and once they’re over the edge, they’re gone forever.pinenuts

Meatballs 3 Ways

After the winning meatballs and guacamole incident, I’ve begun to look at meatballs in an entirely different way (my weekly Saturday trip to Lucca doesn’t hurt, either…). They don’t have to be with noodles; nor to do they have to be with tomato sauce. They make great crostini toppers and appetizers as well as a slightly less traditional pal to pasta. I mean really – think of all the options: a meat ball is basically a burger in a ball, so you could combine just about any concoction and it will probably be tasty, right? Well, probably wrong, but you get the idea.

Before the recipes, here’re a couple notes:

    For all of these recipes, except for the goat cheese, the cheese is a bit salty so you should be sure to go easy when salting the meat.

    If you plan on mixing and then storing the meat for a bit, make sure that the meat is completely covered with plastic wrap that is directly on the meat. Don’t cover a bowl that has the meat in it, make sure the cover is touching the meat and keeping air out of it. The exposure to air will oxidize the meat and turn it brown. (This is how to know what meat NOT to buy in the store: you want good bright red meat.

    I strongly recommend butter basting these.

And so, without further ado, here are three eclectic meatball ideas: two appetizers and one main.

The instructions/process for all is the same:

      Very thoroughly mix all ingredients by hand or with a fork.
      Roll into medium sized balls.
      Add olive oil and butter to a skillet and heat on medium heat until butter is melted but not browned.
      Add meatballs, one by one and turn until all sides are browned, adding bits of butter when it starts to brown, and basting as they brown.

Prosciutto and Reggiano Meatballs

    1 ½ lb ground meat, part beef and part turkey (of course veal would always be a substitute…)
    ¼ cup fresh reggiano
    ¼ cup prosciutto, cooked until almost crispy (I recommend smoked prosciutto)
    1T chopped fresh parsley
    2 egg yolk
    3t breadcrumbs
    Salt (easy) and fresh ground pepper

    Serve over fresh noodles with olive oil, shaved Reggiano and a sprinkling of coarse Fleur de Sel (or sea salt). Add app. 2 teaspoons cooked chopped prosciutto to every 2 cups pasta, if you wanna.

Blue Cheese Meatballs

    Serving these with a small amount of blue on baguette will help bring out the mild blue cheese flavor in the meatballs. It depends on how much you like blue cheese though. Use the meat drippings to pour over the baguette.

    1 ½ lb ground meat, part beef and part turkey
    1 cup blue cheese (best are the milder, less salty and not too creamy ones because like the goat cheese, when it melts, it will have trouble holding together.)
    2 egg whites
    3t bread crumbs
    Salt (easy) and fresh ground pepper

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Meatball Sliders goatcheesemeatballs

    The creaminess of the goat cheese when it melts makes it hard for it to completely stick together, so this works really well as an appetizer slider on baguette.

    1 ½ lb ground meat, part beef and part turkey
    1/3 cup fresh goat cheese
    3t fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
    1t finely minced garlic
    2 eggs
    1 french baguette, sliced into ½ inch rounds, buttered and toasted

    *Reserve the juices in the pan and make a light pan sauce using 1 ½ T cream, 1T white wine and 1T finely minced garlic. Add to the still warm pan with meat drippings and scrape the pan. Cook over medium heat until wine is reduced and cream is browned. Pour over sliders. (Or keep it simple by a) pouring the as-is drippings over the meatballs and baguette, or b) just put the meatball on the bread and call it.)

    Serve meatball sliders on top of the toasted baguette.

Where can I get some ground duck?

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Leeks Quiche

Don’t let the length of this recipe fool you. It’s a rather standard quiche: “Goat Cheese and _______” and it’s really not difficult. If you – like me – detest making crusts, just use a frozen store-bought. I have too much pride to do this, so I suffer through the process, bitching and moaning the whole time, but I sure don’t blame you if you opt out to make your life easy.

Other than salt and pepper, I don’t use many herbs or spices in this dish because the flavors of the leeks combined with the texture of the warm goat cheese are so rich already, I try not to distract from them.

Some good alterations include replacing the leeks and shallots with crispy, chopped, brown sugar cured bacon, thinly sliced raw chives, sliced (and maybe roasted?) heirloom tomatoes. Also, you can use any kind of goat cheese. I used herbed, but plain would be just fine, as well as peppered (the peppered would be great if you replaced the leeks and shallots with tomatoes!).

(Don’t forget, this is also great for those individually sized dishes that are so cute and fun!)

For crust:

  • 2 C. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. oil

  1. Mix together dry ingredients, and whisk to aerate.
  2. Add in liquids and mix until forms a dough ball.
  3. Roll out and put into a 9” pie or tart pan, per-bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.
  4. Take out and set aside.

For the Filling:

  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3T butter
  • 1t butter
  • 2 ¼ t brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 C. milk
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese (herbed or plain)
  • Salt and Pepper

  1. Caramelize the shallots:
    • Melt 1t of butter on medium heat in a small sauté pan.
    • When melted, add shallots and salt generously.
    • When warmed, add ¾t of brown sugar and stir.
    • *watch the heat closely to keep the sugar from burning!
    • Cook on medium to medium-low heat until soft brown, app. 5 minutes.
    • Take off heat and set aside.
  2. Caramelize the leeks:
    • Melt 3T butter in larger sauté pan.
    • When melted, add leeks and salt and pepper generously (the shallots are a more delicate flavor, which is why I omit the pepper for them).
    • When warmed, add 1½ teaspoons of brown sugar and stir.
    • Continue the same as the shallots.
    • Take off heat and combine with shallots.
  3. Do the eggs and put it together:
    • Combine 4 eggs, 2 yolks (save the whites to make some meringue cookies for dessert!), milk, salt and pepper and whisk.
    • Add leeks and shallots and mix gently.
    • Crumble goat cheese into egg and milk mixture, reserving just enough to spread on the bottom of the crust.
    • Spread some goat cheese on the bottom of the par-baked crust and pour in the filling, using a small spoon to evenly distribute the leeks, shallots and crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.
  5. Stuff your face.