Stuffed zucchini just feels like summer to me, especially when kept light and fresh. But to be honest, when I hear "stuffed" anything I quickly think labor-intensive steps. That's not the case here. This is a summer dish you'll be glad you gave a chance.
You can make this recipe in the fall or winter with squash, but I love this in the summer when zucchini are at their peak. Plus they're quicker to prep - just halve lengthwise and scoop out the tender pulp. While the zucchini bakes, you have a window of time to make the quinoa salad, which comes together quickly if you cooked the quinoa in advance like I prefer to do. Then all that's left is to spoon the quinoa into the zucchini halves and serve it up. The stuffing has an array of goodies: lemony, minted quinoa, dried apricots, zingy baked rhubarb (or green apple), feta, and pistachios. This is a bright, happy, tart and sweet dish. My husband liked it so much he said it had to skip ahead in the blog queue.
I took inspiration from a few Cooking Light stuffed zucchini recipes I used to make back in the day, as well as this eggplant involtino. The disparate sources of inspiration that led to this recipe remind me of a question I think about often.
"What is creativity?"
Is it pushing the boundaries and creating something original? Or is it weaving your own style and personality through something familiar to make it your own? Both require a creative process, but our end goal typically determines which we value more.
I'm usually after functionality over novelty. But food bloggers, including myself, feel pressure to think outside of the box and come up with original recipes. If we hit the jackpot with something completely novel, that's fabulous and should be celebrated. But we shouldn't self-impose expectations to always recreate the wheel either. Giving a fun twist on basics and updating classics are often the most helpful and practical for everyday cooking. And frankly, most motivating and inspiring because we can actually fit those recipes into our routine. A lot of blogs do this well, in fact, but there's often a gap between what we do and how we feel about what we do. We might be updating a classic while questioning whether our ideas are original or creative enough.
Whether you're an artist, teacher, writer, blogger, coach, or in another line of creative work, I hope this serves as a good motivator for us all to keep doing what we do well and feel good about it! Because it's our personal style and perspective we insert into our work that makes it valuable and creative.
Stuffed Zucchini with Quinoa, Apricots, Mint & Feta
Notes: As long as rhubarb is available I've been using it, but a tart green apple would be delicious here as well. See footnotes for ways to use leftover zucchini pulp.
- 2 1/2 cups (410 gr) cooked quinoa (~ 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa)
- 2 small-medium stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced(or 1 large tart green apple, peeled + diced)
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp salt + pepper
- 6-8 dried apricots, diced
- 1/3 cup (40 gr) shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
- 10 gr mint + basil, chopped or torn
- 50 gr feta, crumbled
- 4-6 medium, firm zucchini
- Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F.
- Place sliced rhubarb (or diced apple) on a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss. Cook for 5-7 min, until just starting to soften.
- In the meantime, remove both ends of zucchini, halve lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp. (Store pulp in the fridge for another use.*) Place zucchini halves cut side up on baking sheet and bake 13-15 minutes, until just tender. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Mix together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and dried apricots in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Add quinoa, rhubarb, pistachios and herbs. Stir from the bottom up to combine well with dressing, then fold in feta.
- Stuff cooked zucchini halves and plate up on a platter to serve. Add any remaining quinoa mixture on the platter between zucchini.
*Sometimes I'll chop the zucchini pulp and toss it into the stuffing. But I wanted to keep the flavors and textures very clean here. Save the zucchini pulp for pre-dinner snacking dunked into a lemon vinaigrette or to add to your next veggie sauté or minestrone.