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)
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:
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.