There are few things I find more satisfying than creating a brand new meal out of leftovers, transforming the uninspiring contents of my fridge into something exciting — it’s like cooking magic. That is why I am so delighted by this week’s Tuesday dinner of stuffed vegetables, from the blogger Thyme (aka Sarah Kenney). She’s gathered a bevy of bits and pieces, added a few fresh vegetables, and voilà, whipped up a bright, fast meal that whispers of Provence.
Sarah grew up in southern Louisiana and, after stints in Missouri, Michigan, New York, Japan, and Kansas, she and her family now live in Houston, Texas. Her blog features her beautiful photography (I want to live in her pictures) and recipes for home-cooked food with a global flair. Sarah is also an intrepid home-school instructor to her teenage son, which means she’s an expert at juggling time. I’m delighted to share her tips for quick meals!
“Rarely do I go to the market during the week and meals are usually pulled together ‘on the fly,’ especially dinners when we are all pretty tired,” says Sarah. “When I know that nothing is going to be whipped together for dinner that looks even remotely fancy it is often a piece of toast with a egg over easy and side salad. Sliced fruit or berries will probably be added in too. Oh, and there is always fig preserves to go with that bread.
“If I am having guests, I typically make a big pot of soup ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator. I have also learned (the hard way) that dough takes a long time to thaw. Now, I make my tart, quiche, or any sort of dough ahead of time and put it in the freezer and try my darnest to remember to take it out in plenty of time to thaw. These days, I also tend to rely on Whole Foods’ fresh side dishes to help me out. I’ll spend more energy and time on the main course and pick up a delicious side dish that I don’t have to pull together on my own.
“This zucchini recipe is a ‘quick weeknight’ type of meal. Literally this dish came about by pulling the last of anything fresh from the refrigerator. What was nice about it is that everyone really liked it so we call that a ‘do again.'”
Stuffed Zucchini with sharp cheddar
by Thyme (Sarah)
Note from Ann: You can put almost anything into the filling — I mixed raw beef with a scoop of leftover mashed potatoes and an egg white, but I’ve also used leftover crumbled sausage, stale cubes of bread, rice, quinoa, etc. I served this with the tail end of a box of fusilli to round out the meal a bit, topped with the tomato sauce from the baking dish.
1 medium zucchini, 1 yellow squash, 1 baby eggplant (I used three zucchini and a tomato)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup cooked ground beef, or brown rice (I used 1/2 lb. raw ground beef)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried or fresh basil (I used oregano)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the vegetables in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop the pulp out of each vegetable half, leaving an 1/8-inch shell. Dice the pulp.
Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and vegetable pulp and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the ground beef and 1 cup tomato sauce and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling. (Note: I removed the cooked vegetables from the heat and mixed them with the raw beef, an egg white, leftover mashed potatoes, pinch of oregano, salt, and pepper.)
Mound the vegetable mixture into the zucchini shells. Place the filled shells into a shallow baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce. (Note: I spread about a cup of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.) Sprinkle with the basil (or oregano) and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the zucchini shells are tender.
(All photos courtesy of Sarah Kenney, except for the top photo.)