You can call me weird, étrange, after you hear this short story if you wish, and I will not find this strange. I will not even lift an eyebrow. In fact, I will probably agree with you.
In the summer, I am obsessed with Eight Ball Zucchinis. I do not grow them — I suppose I would need a vegetable garden first — but I go around town desperately looking for them. Except that this year was a good one as I had mostly nothing to do. The zucchinis were there, waiting for me.
Eight Ball Zucchinis are unpretentious vegetables that most people do not consider buying because they do not necessarily know what to do with them. I used to call them round zucchinis for lack of knowing better, even if people looked at me with a what-do-you-mean kind of look. What is the official name anyway?
“What is it again that you are looking for?”
“Round zucchinis, you know, small and green” I repeated stubbornly.
If only they had known how extremely happy finding these greens made me. Just as much as, I swear, receiving a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. And this summer, because I have been able to buy these zucchinis easily, imagine how happy I have been. It is just that I have understood the trick: I simply know where and when to go to buy them.
I have become one of these people who get to the farmer’s market early — when they open — to make sure that I will be able to buy my round zucchinis before anyone else. And this is why.
Last week, when I arrived at my usual vegetable stand and asked my bossy smiling vegetable lady whether she had any round zucchinis, she shouted back: “Not any more! A man bought them all only a few min after we opened.” He did what? How could he have had the guts to do such a thing? Didn’t he know about my dinner plan? I was so disappointed that I paused for a few seconds before asking for the second time: “Are you sure?” I felt glad that I did not know who the greedy guy was because I might have had to steal his vegetable bag had I seen him around.
This being said, I have learned my lesson and have become smarter. Now I call the farm ahead of time, to make sure that some round zucchinis are put on the side pour moi. Hence, I have neither train to catch nor battle to fight with “the greedy man who bought every single round zucchini at the market“. Instead, I can relax and think about what I am going to do with them.
So what do I do with them, you may ask?
Well, I stuff, stuff and I stuff again. I am quite obsessed with stuffing vegetables of all sorts. Preparing vegetables this way makes them visually festive. If, like me, you think that small means cute, then you are bound to love the looks of them as much as I do. And, even if it looks complicated, you have to take my word that it is not at all. I always imagine all sorts of food associations: I have made stuffed vegetables with quinoa and rice — red, white or black — couscous, faro, ricotta, veal, beef, and many vegetables, to only name a few. Imagine mixing a leftover of cooked rice with spinach and some tasty cheese and fragrant herbs. Some cooks like to precook the vegetables before stuffing them, but I rarely do. I prefer to cook them for a longer time in the oven at a lower temperature. P. even prefers the dish the second day.
To us, stuffed vegetables are comfort food at its best. I swear, they really have this je-ne-sais-quoi that makes me happy.
And I know well that I am not alone to be that weird. You too must have an obsession with a vegetable, don’t you?
- 8 small round zucchinis
- 1 pound ground veal
- 2 slices of prosciutto, diced
- 1 3/4 oz manchego cheese, grated
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4.5 oz watercress (or spinach), chopped
- 4.5 oz celery root, grated
- 1 celery branch, diced
- 10 sage leaves, thinly chopped
- 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 Tbsp crème fraîche
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 Tbsp olive oil + some to drizzle on top of the zucchinis
- Salt and pepper
- Cut a top off the zucchinis (make a zigzag pattern if you like with a small knife, as I did) and keep them on the side.
- Scoop the flesh out of the zucchinis with a sharp spoon — use a grapefruit one, or a melon baller — and season the inside with salt and pepper. Keep them on the side.
- Preheat your oven at 350 F.
- Prepare all other vegetables.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 min, until fragrant.
- Add the celery branch and continue to cook for 2 min.
- Add the grated celery and continue to cook for 3 min.
- Add the green vegetable and cook until it gives its water out.
- Then add the prosciutto and meat. Add the herbs and cook for 10 min, uncovered on medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the meat, cheese and 1 Tbsp crème fraîche. Mix well.
- Stuff the zucchinis with this preparation, and place a top on each.
- Place the vegetables in a baking dish, with a little water at the bottom.
- Drizzle some olive oil on top.
- Cook for 1 hour.
- Serve with plain Jasmine rice or potatoes, and a mixed green salad.
- 8 petites courgettes rondes
- 450g de veau haché
- 2 tranches de prosciutto, coupées en dés
- 50 g de fromage manchego, râpé
- 1 échalote, hachée
- 2 gousses d’ail, écrasées et hachées finement
- 125 g de cresson (ou épinard frais), haché
- 125 g de céleri rave, râpé
- 1 branche de céleri, coupée en dés
- 10 feuilles de sauge, ciselées
- 2 càs de persil haché
- 1 càs crème fraîche
- 2 oeufs, battus
- 2 càs d’huile d’olive + pour arroser les courgettes
- Sel et poivre
- Coupez un chapeau dans les courgettes (coupez-les en zigzag si vous le souhaitez avec un petit couteau pointu, comme je l’ai fait ici). Évidez les courgettes et assaisonnez l’intérieur de sel et poivre. Gardez les courgettes et les chapeaux de côté.
- Préchauffez votre four à 180 C.
- Préparez vos légumes.
- Faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile d’olive dans une sauteuse ou une poêle à revêtement anti-adhésif. Ajoutez l’échalote et l’ail, et faites suer pendant 1 min.
- Ajoutez les dés de céleri branche et poursuivez la cuisson 2 min.
- Ajoutez le céleri rapé et poursuivez la cuisson pendant 3 min en remuant de temps à autre.
- Ajoutez ensuite le légume vert et cuisez jusqu’à ce qu’il rende son eau et devienne tendre.
- Ajoutez alors les dés de prosciutto et le veau haché. Remuez et ajoutez les herbes, cuisson pendant 10 min à découvert sur feu moyen. Asaissonnez de sel et de poivre.
- Battez les oeufs dans un bol. Ajoutez la viande, le fromage et 1 càs de crème fraîche. Mélangez bien.
- Farcissez les courgettes avec cette préparation. Placez un chapeau sur chacune d’elle.
- Placez les légumes dans un plat à gratin, avec un peu d’eau au fond.
- Arrosez d’un filet d’huile d’olive.
- Enfournez pendant 1 heure.
- Servez avec un riz parfumé ou des pommes de terre et une salade verte.