Spinach and Feta Stuffed Zucchini

My husband saw the photo for this post on my computer screen and asked me when I made this. The fact that I had made myself an interesting vegetarian meal without him here must have seemed new to him. Lately, I don't eat that much meat - only a little chicken and fish here and there, but only one or two days a week.

It's been a while since I've made stuffed zucchini, and my husband must have forgotten that it was never one of his favorite dishes. It tends to be mild in flavor, because strong flavor in the stuffing would overpower the star of the dish - squash. It's definitely not something you can douse in hot sauce, either. And my husband, like most men, enjoys the grand use of condiments.

I, on the other hand, enjoy tasting the delicate flavors of vegetables once in a while. A simple squash, usually a side dish, can become a quite interesting main course. Stuffed zucchini is quick and easy to throw in the oven on a cool or rainy summer day, served with rice, pasta, or simple tomato salad and a baguette.

I tried to make this stuffed zucchini a bit more interesting by adding feta and spinach to the basic mix of bread crumbs, onion and egg. Honestly, they were all just things that happened to be hanging out in the fridge that day. I think it turned out really nice.

Zucchini season is just starting out, so there will be many more concoctions to come. However, I will definitely be making this very easy one again.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Zucchini
main dish: 2 servings
side dish: 4 servings

2 zucchini, medium size (6-8" long)

Olive oil 
salt and pepper

1/4 C onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 C fresh baby spinach
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp dried basil
1/4 C dry bread crumbs
2 T pine (pignoli) nuts, toasted
1 egg, beaten
2 T feta cheese

2 T parmesan cheese (shredded or grated)
2-3T dry bread crumbs

Heat oven to 400F.

1. Prepare the zucchini by hollowing out the halves, and reserving the flesh:

Trim the ends off each squash and slice lengthwise. Using a paring knife, score a line 1/4" in from the edges, about 1/8" deep. Continue to score the flesh deeply, like a tic-tac-toe board, into 1/4" squares. Again, careful not to cut all the way to the skin - the goal is to have a 1/4" thick shell left intact.

Using a teaspoon (because it matches the curve of the squash), gently scrape out the cubes and reserve them - leaving the 1/4" thick squash a shell.

2. Place the hollowed halves on a baking sheet or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Prepare the filling. Heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and zucchini cubes. Cook 3 minutes and add spinach in handfuls. Cook until the zucchini is soft and spinach is wilted. Season with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. 

4. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs and pine nuts. Let cool slightly (2 minutes or so) and add the feta and egg - you don't want the egg to cook in the hot mixture. Stir together to moisten the crumbs and incorporate the egg evenly.

5. Spoon the filling into the hollow zucchini halves. Mix together the parmesan and extra breadcrumbs and spoon over the filling. 

6. Bake uncovered 25-35 minutes, until zucchini is fork tender. In the last 5-10 minutes of cookig, raise the heat to 425F to brown the topping. Serve whole, garnished with fresh basil, pine nuts or feta. 

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