If you are a gardener, you know how easy it is to grow zucchini. You may have more zucchini than uses for them. Perhaps you’ve tried them in the form of a fritter, put them in your smoothie mix, made zucchini bread, or added them to marinara sauce to serve over pasta.
But if you simply cut them in half, you’ve got yourself a little culinary vehicle, a boat, if you will, for a myriad of flavors.
The Kitchn’s Nina Elder presents four ways to use this versatile summer vegetable that will appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike.
It’s important to start with smaller zucchini as they are more flavorful and hold less water than the larger ones. Be sure to season your boats well. The flavor doesn’t just come in the toppings. And don’t overcook them! The goal is for the boats to be tender, not soggy, so keep your eye on the timer.
For a meatless option consider this Buffalo Chickpea Zucchini Boat recipe that you can drizzle with ranch or blue cheese. If you love pizza (like me!) ditch the traditional bread crust for zucchini and make these Pizza Boats. For a Mediterranean twist add tabbouleh to beef and add to the boat with dollops of seasoned yogurt to make Lemony Beef Tabbouleh Zucchini Boats that come together magically over the grill.
But I have chosen the most intriguing of the bunch here, something that deconstructs the delectable pork and chive Chinese dumplings and marries it with zucchini, then gives it a spicy chili honeymoon. (My mouth is watering as I type this!) Don’t balk at the ingredient list as you’ll already have many of the items in your pantry, and several are easily replaced with substitutions.
For the zucchini boats:
- 4 ounces chives or scallions (green onions)
- 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger
- 2 pounds small or medium zucchini (4 to 6)
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 large bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, dry sherry or any cooking wine
- 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons Chinese chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (but use less than 1 tablespoon as it can be syrupy)
- Pinch granulated sugar (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF.
Finely chop 4 ounces chives or scallions (about 1 1/2 cups) and transfer to a large bowl. Peel and mince 1 (1-inch) piece ginger until you have 1 tablespoon.
Cut 2 pounds zucchini in half lengthwise, no need to trim the ends. Using a small spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell to form zucchini boats. Place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Coarsely chop the flesh (about 2 cups).
Place 1 tablespoon white sesame and 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the white sesame seeds are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil to the same skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini flesh, spread into an even layer, and cook undisturbed until it begins to turn light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini has softened and the ginger is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat, add the chives or scallions, and stir to combine. Transfer to the bowl the chives were in and let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, drizzle the zucchini boats with the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and rub it onto the skin with your hands. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Flip the boats so they are cut side up. Coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems from 1 large bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/2 cup. Finely grate or mince 2 garlic cloves.
Add the cilantro, garlic, 1 pound ground pork, 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, and 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper to the zucchini mixture. Using your hands or a spoon, mix everything together until fully combined.
Divide the garlic chive pork mixture evenly between the zucchini boats. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and gently press on them so they adhere to the filling.
Roast until the filling is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, and the zucchini shells are crisp-tender, 18 to 22 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Place 2 tablespoons chili crisp, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, and a pinch of granulated sugar if desired in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Let the zucchini boats cool for 5 minutes before serving with the sauce.
The filling can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container, and the zucchini boats in a separate container. Oil and salt the zucchini boats right before filling and baking. The boats may need additional baking time.
I doubt you’ll have leftovers, but if you do place them in an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 4 days.
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