Segment 2: For the Love of Eight-Ball Zucchini!
Kayla Parker, Seacoast Eat Local Intern
Every week just before the close of the Portsmouth farmer’s market, I walk around with my cart asking the farmers if they would like to donate any food to our local food pantry (part of Seacoast Eat Local’s Gleaning program). All are very generous, and I end up with a wonderful variety of donations.
Last week when I did my normal rounds Kelsey, a fellow classmate who works at Heron Pond Farm’s stand, told me to help myself to some of their “eight-balls”. I looked around, a little confused because I wasn’t too sure what those were. Kelsey, noticing my confusion pointed to a crate of little round green and yellow zucchini’s and I headed over to them. As I picked them up I asked her what people usually did with them. She told me most people prepared them just like any other type of zucchini, but they are perfect for stuffing!
Why You Should Love the Eight-Ball Zucchini
The eight-ball zucchini is a variety of summer zucchini not typically seen at the grocery store, but don’t let this throw you off. It has the same nutritional profile as the long slender types, and can be used in different ways thanks to its unconventional round shape.
One average sized eight-ball (just over 300 grams) contains approximately 50 calories, including 1 gram of fat (mostly Omega-3 from its seeds) 11 grams carbohydrate (four of which are dietary fiber), and 4 grams of protein. It is a good source of Vitamin A, and a very good source of potassium, manganese and vitamins C, K, B2, and B6.
Nutriient profile from whfoods.org
How to Love an Eight-Ball Zucchini
Stuffed Local 8-Ball Zucchini
Makes 4 servings
4 8-ball zucchini
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 medium sized mushrooms chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. very lean ground grass-fed beef (less than 10% fat)
1 tsp. seasoning blend of choice*
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 oz coarsely grated cheese of choice**
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
*I used a rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and fennel blend
**I used a local raw milk cheddar
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut stem and flower ends off zucchini, trimming off the smallest possible amount of the skin and taking care to cut it off evenly, since this will show. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, then using a pointed teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out most of the zucchini flesh and seeds, leaving an even 1/2 inch of flesh attached to the skin. If your zucchini are rolling around a lot, you can cut a thin slice on the bottom side of each to make them sit up. Chop the removed flesh and seeds and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan and saute chopped onions, mushrooms, and peppers until they are just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. (They will cook more in the oven, so they don’t need to be fully cooked at this point.) Remove and add onions, mushrooms, and peppers to the chopped zucchini flesh, pouring off any excess liquid. Add ground beef to the hot pan and cook until starting to brown. When meat is about half cooked, add seasoning of your choice and garlic then continue to cook until meat is well browned, breaking it into small, pieces with the side of your turner. Remove and drain cooked ground beef then add to mixing bowl.
Add chopped basil, cheese, tomato sauce, meat to vegetable mixture, and gently combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Choose a roasting pan with sides at least two inches high and just big enough to hold the zucchini. Spray pan with nonstick spray or a light misting of olive oil. Stuff zucchini with stuffing mixture, packing in as much as you can into each zucchini, and mounding it up as high as you can, until all stuffing is used.
Put zucchini into roasting pan, putting them close together so they hold each other stuffing-side up. Roast uncovered about 20 minutes, until zucchini is tender-crisp, and filling is hot and slightly browned. Serve hot.
Recipe modified from http://www.kalynskitchen.com/