This is one of my favorite method of preparing zucchini ~ and it is a perfect dinner party side dish, it can be made a day ahead, then baked when you would like to serve it, and kept warm if serving buffet style.
Serve this to zucchini-haters, and you may change their minds! People who claim to dislike zucchini have taken second servings of this one and many ask for the recipe.
Select unblemished medium or small size zucchini, cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Remove seeds and some flesh, leaving a thin shell. Reserve what you scrape out.
Boil in salted water for a couple of minutes until just barely tender.
Then plunge them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
Place them cut-size down on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to drain.
Besides the zucchini flesh, these are the filling ingredients;
Finely ground almonds, freshly grated parmesan cheese, fine dry bread crumbs,
heavy cream, and salt and pepper:
Whir the reserved zucchini flesh in the food processor until very finely minced. Then saute in butter until very tender and excess moisture has evaporated.
Stir in almonds and allow to cook for a minute or two.
Stir in cream, allow it to warm and evaporate just a bit.
Then stir in Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs, then remove from heat.
Stir again until Parmesan is melted. Taste for seasonings; add pepper and salt if needed.
You may need to add more cream if mixture is too thick.
Arrange the prepared zucchini "boats" in a baking pan. (I lightly butter the pan first.)
At this point you can either pipe the filling into the "boats", or simply spoon it in. I usually pipe it in ~ I always need practice with my piping "skills" because I'm not very good at it. This filling is more forgiving than whipped cream or cake frosting, so it doesn't matter if it's perfect.
I used the tip on the left this time.
Have fun with the piping! They don't have to be perfect...
As you can see! :) I need much more practice.
It really is fun to pipe the fillings, but if you fill them with a spoon they will be just as delicious.
Then just bake them off until heated through, then run them under the broiler to allow the filling to brown lightly. The recipe directs to bake in a bain marie (hot water bath), and that's the way I usually do it. But I've baked them without the bain marie; the difference was barely perceivable, so the choice is yours.
Here's the recipe:
Parmesan-Almond Zucchini Boats
3 to 4 medium size, firm zucchini, with skin
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup ground almonds; I prefer using blanched (skinned) almonds. Readily available at your local health food store. (I whirl them in food processor until finely ground, then set aside.)
[This time I used unblanched, the color of the filling is just be a bit darker, and the unblanched aren't quite as fine tasting, also they do not quite "pipe" as neatly or evenly, so if perfect presentation is important to you.] Try to use the blanched almonds if you can find them.
1/2 cup heavy cream, sometimes you need to add a little more
1/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (Original recipe called for 1 teaspoon. I reduce this amount substantially because of the saltiness of the Parmesan cheese, so start with less, then add it to your taste.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (not too tightly packed in measuring cup)
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs (preferably plain--with no seasoning added, but seasoned will do.)
Wash zucchini, and wipe with paper towel.
Trim and discard zucchini ends. Cut each zucchini in half (the long way).
Using a melon baller or small sharp-tipped spoon, scoop out inner meat and seeds of each, leaving a thin shell.
Place scooped-out centers into a food processor pulse/puree until well chopped. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch zucchini boats just until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Immediately refresh in a bowl of iced water. Drain and arrange, skin side down, in a jelly roll pan, baking dish or roasting pan so they fit without crowding.
If you are going to bake them right after assembly preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved chopped zucchini and saute until liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes. (It may not take that long, so keep an eye on it and stir every so often so it doesn't burn.)
Stir in ground nuts, cook for 1 minute or so, then add cream, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook until cream thickens, about 3 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and all bread crumbs. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.
Using a tablespoon or pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, stuff zucchini boats with cream mixture. (Or you can simply carefully spoon filling in with a teaspoon.)
Place the baking pan/dish containg the zucchini into a larger baking pan so you can make a water bath. Pour very hot water into the larger, bottom pan (not the one containing the zucchini) until it rises about 1/4-inch, to form a water bath. I've baked them without the Bain Marie (hot water bath), and they are perfectly acceptable.
Bake 15 minutes in preheated oven.
Heat broiler. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over tops and place under broiler until slightly golden, about 1 minute.
Make Ahead Notes: These can be prepared and stuffed ahead of time, up to 1 day.
Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to bake. Take from refrigerator about 20 minutes before you want to bake them. You may need to add a few minutes baking time to assure they heat all the way through.
Yields about 6 servings.
Recipe inspired by the TOO HOT TAMALES, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken