Seasons come and go, produce on the markets change every month, but the courgettes (zucchini) seem to always stay around … And since they are always here, we thought we better use them more often.
This dish is our favorite vegetarian variation of a Bulgarian tradition to stuff courgettes (zucchini) and aubergines (eggplants) with minced meat and tomato sauce. We love it, as it lets you improvise every time, according to the mood or your garden (fridge) content. I adore preparing variations of it for my mom and dad, using all the fresh vegetables and herbs I can find in their garden. So for me and my family this dish is literally the comfort food made as a celebration of the Nature’s bounty.
Preparation and baking time: 35-45 minutes
4 courgettes (zucchini)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely copped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
2 small ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
½ cup grated cheese*
Big handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Even bigger handful of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
*Just about any meltable cheese will work; for this recipe we use Bulgarian kashkaval cheese.
First prepare the zucchini – remove the stems and cut every vegetable in two lengthwise. Using a teaspoon or fruit baller, scoop out the middle seeds and flesh, trying to form a boat out of every zucchini half. Save the flesh in a bowl.
Slightly salt the zucchini boats and place them (cavity facing down) over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated to 140-150 oC/280-300 oF, until you prepare the stuffing, or for about 15 minutes.
For the stuffing heat the oil over medium heat in a big, heavy bottom pan. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, add the garlic and grated carrots and give the mixture a nice stir. When the onions and carrots are soft, but not ready cooked add finely chopped zucchini’s flesh, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the mixture is almost dry and all the vegetables are soft and tender, add tomatoes and the herbs (well, you need to keep in mind the whole dish is going into the oven, so be careful not to overcook the stuffing). Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 2 more minutes, then remove from heat.
Take off the zucchini boats from the oven and leave them to slightly cool too. Meantime increase the temperature in the oven to 180 oC/360 oF. Stuff the zucchini with the vegetable mixture and arrange them in a baking pan. If your stuffing came out a bit too dry, pour some hot water over every boat (1-2 tbsp on each). Bake for 15-20 minutes, and then take them out, sprinkle with the cheese and return in the oven until the cheese melts and gets a nice golden color.