June 18, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce



The cool and rainy weather in NYC lately would try to convince us summer is far, far away. But zucchini have arrived at the greenmarket, a sure sign that summer is somewhere nearby.


These adorable little round green and yellow summer squashes at the Columbus Ave greenmarket (see their pic in previous post) were the perfect shape for stuffing. Black beans and brown rice make a hearty filling, with smoked paprika, chile powder, and cilantro adding a touch of the southwest. The mixture is delicious on its own and would make a great side dish with fish, chicken, or tofu.


Roasted red pepper sauce has a vibrant color and flavor, is quick and easy to make, and is a nice change from tomato sauce. I used a fresh pepper and roasted it over a stove burner till the skin was blackened, allowed it to steam in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and then removed the skin, stem, and seeds. In a pinch you can also use jarred roasted red peppers.


Stuffed Zucchini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce


For Zucchini:

Six medium zucchini, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For roasted red pepper sauce:
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers (jarred or fresh, see note below*)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the seeds from the halved zucchini. Place halves cut side up in a baking dish, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes, and remove from oven.
3. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add red onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the black beans, brown rice, smoked paprika, and chili powder, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup of the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Fill zucchini halves with the bean and rice mixture, mounding slightly, and top each with 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Place roasted red pepper in a blender, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and blend until pureed. With blender running, slowly drizzle in remaining oil. Blend until sauce is very smooth, and season with salt to taste.
6. Serve the stuffed zucchini with red pepper sauce and garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro and scallions.


*Note: If using a fresh bell pepper, roast the whole pepper over a stove burner on a medium-high flame, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin is blackened on all sides. Place pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove skin, stem, and seeds.

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