A Quest for Eight Ball Zucchinis — A la recherche de courgettes rondes

stuffed eight ball round zucchini

Eight Ball Zucchinis Stuffed with Veal, Celery and Watercress

white flowers

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?

stuffed eight ball round zucchini

A few more recipes I have cooked before but have not yet had time to blog about.

stuffed vegetables

Petits légumes Stuffed with Beef, Prosciutto and Spinach

stuffed quinoa eight ball round zucchini

Round Zucchinis and Red Quinoa Stuffing

stuffed eight ball round zucchini

Eight Ball Zucchinis Stuffed with Veal, Celery and Watercress

You need:

  • 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

Steps:

  • 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.
Le coin français
Courgettes rondes farcies au veau, céleri et cresson

Ingrédients :

  • 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

Étapes :

  • 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.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Grains, Meat | 45 Comments

45 comments

  1. J’adore les légumes farcis, et les tiens semblent particulièrement réussis, j’en ai l’eau à la bouche …

  2. Mmmmm – how fabulous. As always, I am blown away by your photography!

    We (or more accurately my husband) have been growing vegetables in our back garden for the third year in a row. Each year we expand what we grow and for the first time we are growing our own courgettes. Although the taste is so similar we decided, if we were going to grow our own, that it would be much more fun to choose a variety that we could not find readily in the supermarket. So we chose a variety that produces beautiful, lemon-yellow, spherical courgettes. We shared the first one simply sliced and steamed and could not believe how sweet and delicious the flavour. We have some more ready soon and I am keen to try and create some stuffed with a meat filling – I will have to experiment as I am not keen on celery or quinoa. I’ll use your recipes as a motivation/ starting point!

    Thank you!

    PS the photos of the coconut panna cotta blow me away. I’ve returned to your blog several times since you posted that article JUST to look at the images.

  3. Those zucchinis look so adorable. Like they have little hats or something. Love the way you carved them too!

  4. I share your obsession! I love this little things and they are so hard to find. Also, there are tiny round cucmbers that I cannot find here. We used to hollow them out and fill them with herbs and cheese. I did manage to find some seeds and will be growing the round cucumbers next year, perhaps I should grow round squash also!

  5. a.k.a. Roly Poly, Cue Ball, Geode, Tonda de Nizza, so I’m not sure eight-ball is the official name. At Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op, the nec plus ultra of cultfood in New York, it’s a Roly Poly.

  6. Those are so much better than stuffed tomatoes….and how dare that man take you rounded veggies.

  7. Irresistibly cute! I love these little zucchini too, but rarely find them at the farmstand. Now I know why — you have gotten there before me!

  8. So lovely. I have these in my garden. I also fell in love with them last year when I grew them for the first time. Recently I stuffed some with quinoa, ground beef, tomatoes, and basil with a bit of parmesan. Very tasty, but I did not like the photos, so now I am trying it again!

  9. Oh my goodness, I LOVE how you stuffed random vegetables like an onion and a red potato. I’ve never thought of doing that. Brilliant and beautiful!

  10. Ils sont si jolis ces légumes farcis!
    Je n’ai jamais vu (ou remarqué) ces zucchinis ronds, j’ouvrirai l’oeil au Farmer’s Market cette semaine…
    Je suis aussi allée lire (et admirer surtout) toutes les recettes que tu proposes dans ce billet, maintenant je ne sais plus par laquelle commencer ;-)

  11. Sooooo cute. They remind me of little creatures in Play With Your Food.

  12. I know what you mean by obsession Bea. Especially with “eight ball zucchinis” (I have learned something today)
    I made the same recipe but with different stuffing a few weeks ago but had yet to blog about them.

  13. j’adore les petites courgettes rondes et les petits farcis en règle général. Les tiens sont superbes

  14. how wonderful. i have just very very recently stuffed some round zucchinis myself and posted on them. (i didn’t know they were called 8 ball zucchini … now i know). i think here we are lucky as you can find them quite easily at the market/ super market.
    also love the idea of all kind of petits legumes farcis. that i still have to try.

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  16. i actually grew these 8 balls in my garden this year but because the weather has been so crappy, i’ve only gotten 3 so far. i suppose i should be happy that i got any. i have just started making farcis in general! perfect for our cold weather :D (this weekend should be warm though. yay!!!) beautiful post, bea, as usual.

  17. Ooh, they’re all so cute, but I particularly love the ones with the jaunty zig zagging which remind me of halloween pumpkins.

    And the cheek of that man, stealing your zucchini!

  18. C’est drole, je n’ai jamais vraiment craque la-dessus. Par contre sur les autres legumes farcis, nottamment les oignons rouges comme tu fais, la oui!

  19. The round ones would make a much prettier presentation. I have never seen or heard of one until now. Now watch…I will go to the farmer’s market today and they will be everywhere!!!!! That is always the way…it was the same with chipotles.

  20. Thank you all! Merci de vos commentaires !

    Ben , you are my English walking dictionary, merci bien ;-)

  21. When I lived in the U.S. I had a ‘Stuffed Vegetable’ party every fall. It was as much fun to cook as it was for everyone else to eat!

  22. Oh my… those are simply adorable! You’ve inspired me so very much.

  23. Vos courgettes farcies sont vraiment géniales. Je n’ai jamais vu des courgettes rondes, ces belle « eight balls ». Peut-être j’arrive toujours trop tard au marché, hé ! (Autrefois, je me lèverais très tôt le matin pour les œufs).

  24. Love the photos! And I, too, love eight ball zucchini. There’s a guy at our farmers’ market who carries them all the time and I always have an urge to stuff them, but get overwhelmed by the possibilities . . . I have the same feeling when I walk into a used book store or a music shop, can’t make up my mind. So thank you for the suggestions!

    PS — are those onions you stuffed in the shot of “Petits Legumes Farcis?”

  25. Thanks again.

    Swirlingnotions, you are lucky! Yes these are stuffed onions ;-)

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  27. Hi, Bea,

    I tried the recipe using red rice, after finding gorgeous zucchinis at the farmer’s market in Central Square. Loved it — I will definitely be serving these for company sometime soon (assuming I can still find them).

    I went to Copenhagen last winter, so if you want any recommendations, let me know!

    Dina

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