If you Google zapatitos rellenos you will get some idea of how popular stuffed zucchini are in Argentina. There are many, many recipes on-line for this dish.
I am certain that today the zucchini that you buy in grocery stores in Argentina looks just like ours, like a cucumber, but, when I was growing up the zucchini only came in the ball form and it was something to look forward to. I can’t remember seeing any ball zucchini sold in US grocery stores, but they are usually a standard summer item in Farmers Markets.
Most of the stuffings by argentine cooks did, and still do, consist of some sort of meat mixture, but for years now we have been stuffing our “zapallitos” with Shiitake mushrooms, and that mixture has become our standard.
Jack has been requesting that I post our recipe and I have hesitated because the ingredients in the stuffing depends on how many zucchini you are stuffing, and how large they happen to be. All to say that the ingredients in the following recipe are approximations.
The zapallitos make for a nice company dish for a couple of reasons. One is that you can make one stuffed zucchini for each guest and it will look good on the plate, and the other is that they can be assembled up to a day ahead of time, and served up to 30 minutes after they are taken out of the oven. A good company dish as you can assemble the day before you have guests and also taken out of the oven before they arrive for dinner…but, make sure to make a couple of extras because guests may want seconds!
- 4 ball zucchini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped, stemmed, Shiitake mushrooms
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup Vermouth*
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon soft breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Because this dish has rather a lot of ingredients, I recommend that you mise en place, and THEN begin your cooking!
- Wash the zucchini, cut off the tops, reserve, and using a melon ball or small spoon, scoop out all the flesh. Chop the zucchini balls coarsely so that they will cook faster.
- Chop the onions, the stemmed Shiitake mushrooms, the basil leaves, and mince the garlic.
- Measure out the Parmesan and breadcrumbs reserving a tablespoon each.
- Assemble the ingredients and begin!
- Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and sauté the onions. When they begin to soften (about 5 minutes), add the Shiitake mushrooms, garlic, the basil leaves, and the crushed red pepper.
- Cook for another 3-4 minutes and add the zucchini. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes or until the zucchini has soften to meld into the mixture.
- Add the Vermouth (* or dry white wine) when the zucchini mixture becomes too thick and sticks to the pan.
- Cook until the Vermouth has cooked down.
- Add the ½ cup of breadcrumbs and the 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, stir to blend.
- Spoon the cooked mixture into the scooped out zucchini. Mix the reserved Parmesan and breadcrumbs and divide over the top of the zucchini.
- Place the tops on the zucchini and place on a foil lined baking sheet that is long enough to cover the zucchini. Sprint the foil with oil, cover them with the foil and bake in an oven dish, covered, for 35 minutes.
- Remove the zucchini from the oven, open up the tin foil, and bake for another 10 minutes or so.