Celebrating Summer

  • Zucchini boats For the Recorder/Brianna Castillo—

  • Zucchini boats stuffed with Israeli couscous and topped with bruschetta. For the Recorder/Brianna Castillo

  • Risotto, salmon and roasted carrots. The leftover risotto was a main ingredient in the zucchini boats seen at left. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Prosciutto-lined zucchini boats stuffed with rissoto and served with grilled chicken. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2020 8:46:48 AM

Of all the deliciously fresh vegetable varieties that are readily available at farm stands across the region right now, zucchini are among the most versatile — they’re a personal favorite.

Sliced into half-moons and sauteed, they can add a tantalizing and local twist to dishes like burrito bowls. When baked, they can be a great addition to a casserole or can stand on their own as a side dish. Hollowed out into boats, zucchini can serve as a flavorful base for a variety of grains and proteins — like couscous, rice, chicken, pork, and many others. For variety, zucchini boats can be dressed with decadent toppings like cheese and bruschetta.

They’re a great way to quickly and easily re-purpose leftovers.

As I’ve found, the secret to consistent and flavorful cooking is to constantly reinvent leftovers. With planning, a side dish can be an element in a subsequent main course.

The other day, for example, I made a dinner of seared salmon with a lemon-thyme sauce with basil risotto and a side of roasted carrots. My wife, Brianna and I enjoyed all of the fish and the carrots, but had plenty of risotto to spare — perfect for zucchini boats. The next day, I hollowed out and roasted two halved zucchinis, lined them with prosciutto, filled them with the remaining risotto, added mozzarella cheese on top and served them alongside grilled chicken.

The boats were an explosion of flavor — the salty prosciutto accented the fresh and earthy zucchini, which in turn complemented the savory risotto (made with homemade veggie broth) and the melted mozzarella. The leftovers were better than the original meal.

Below are the recipes for the stock, risotto and zucchini boats, which are great alongside a protein like chicken or fish.

Homemade Veggie Stock

While it is possible of course to purchase veggie stock from a store, I prefer to make it myself. Instead of throwing away vegetable trimmings, I store them in the freezer. I typically make stock every other Sunday.

8 to 12 ounces water

½ gallon bag vegetable scraps

Salt and herbs

Empty the vegetable scraps into a Crockpot. Cover the scraps with water and add salt to taste. Let the veggies cook slowly on the low setting for around 8 to 12 hours. Once it’s done, strain the contents through a few sheets of paper towels into a bowl. Season the stock with herbs, pepper and more salt to taste, then ladle the stock into containers for storage.

Savory Parmesan Risotto

½ cup dry white cooking wine

4 cups veggie stock

1 cup arborio rice

2 scallion shoots

3 garlic cloves

½ medium onion

¾ cups parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

4 basil leaves

Olive oil

Heat 4 cups veggie stock in a pot over low heat. Dice half the onion, mince the garlic, roughly cut the basil and thinly slice the scallions, separating the white pieces from the green pieces. Pour a swirl of oil into a second pot and saute the scallion whites and the minced garlic for a minute or two on medium-high heat until fragrant. Add the ½ cup dry white cooking wine, the chopped basil leaves and the diced onion; simmer until the cooking wine is slightly reduced and the onions are soft. 

Pour in the arborio rice and mix until it’s coated and the white wine has been completely absorbed.

One ladle at a time, add the heated veggie stock, waiting until it’s absorbed before adding more. Keep on ladling the stock until it’s gone (this will probably take about 20 minutes). If the arborio rice isn’t yet completely soft when the stock has run out, continue the process with water. When the mixture is creamy, season with salt and pepper, add the parmesan cheese (slowly, based on personal taste) and top with the scallion greens.  

Prosciutto Risotto Zucchini Boats

2 fresh zucchinis

4 slices of prosciutto

1 cup risotto

1 cup fresh mozzarella

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Turn the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim and halve the zucchinis, then spoon out the seeds. Cover the halves completely in olive oil, then season to taste all over with salt and pepper. Roast the four halves with the sliced side facing down for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the risotto in the microwave for maybe a minute or two. 

When the zucchini are browned, remove them from the oven, turn them over and line them with the prosciutto slices. Switch the oven to broil. Spoon in a liberal amount of risotto, cover everything with mozzarella cheese and put them back into the oven for two to five minutes until the cheese is crispy.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.

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