There’s never a shortage of zucchini in summer, but there’s often a shortage of good ways to use it. Turn your zukes into boats and stuff ’em with ground beef, queso fresco and diced peppers.
Photography Credit: Nick Evans
Zucchini season is starting to take off, which means we are going to need lots of creative uses for this vegetable.
Whether you grow it yourself, know someone who grows it, or just buy it at the market, when it’s zucchini season, it’s abundant!
AVOID ZUCCHINI BOREDOM WITH STUFFED BOATS!
I quickly get bored with zucchini breads and simple stir-fries, and am always looking for fun ways to transform zucchini into something interesting. That’s why I love this recipe for Taco-Stuffed Zucchini Boats.
It’s fairly simple to make and has great flavor from the mix of ground beef, onions, chili, and cheese (of course).
I prefer to make this recipe on the grill, which gives the zucchini a light smoky flavor, but you can also make them in the oven without too much trouble.
When Choosing Zucchini, Take the Goldilocks Approach
The trick here is to make sure you get medium-sized zucchini — 8 to 10 inches long is a good guide. If the zucchini are too small, there won’t be enough room to stuff them, and if they’re too big, there will be too much stuffing in each one, which will end up being too heavy per serving. So somewhere in the middle is just right.
How to Make This Stuffed Zucchini
Once you have the right size zucchini, cook them on the grill, cut-side down, for about five minutes. Then scoop the flesh out of each zucchini with a spoon. Add your taco filling, top with cheese, and return to the grill to finish the boats.
If you happen to have leftover taco stuffing, it’s great in an omelet the next day or makes for an easy quesadilla lunch.
This is actually a much lighter dish than it may seem, but two boats from one whole zucchini are enough for one serving. Tag some zucchini this year for these boats!
More Ways to Avoid Zucchini Boredom!
Taco-Stuffed Zucchini Boats Recipe
Oven Method: If you want to cook these in your oven, briefly roast the zucchini in the oven at 350°F until soft enough to scoop out the centers. Then fill the zucchini with the taco stuffing and bake for 20 minutes. Check to make sure the zucchini are tender. If they are still firm, bake for another 5 to 10 minutes and re-test.
For the taco filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and green parts minced
- 4 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the zucchini:
- 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 ounces queso fresco
- Scallions, for garnish
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Diced red or orange bell pepper, for garnish
1 Make the taco filling: Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the diced red onion and jalapeño, along with all spices, and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Remove the taco filling from the heat and let it cool slightly. If there seems to be a lot of liquid in the mixture, drain it on paper towels before using. You could make this filling a day or two in advance; refrigerate until needed.
2 Prep the zucchini for stuffing: Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (350°F to 400°F). Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and brush the cut sides with two tablespoons of the olive oil.
Place the zucchini on the grill, cut side down, and grill for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the grill. Once the zucchini are cooled slightly, use a spoon to scoop out the centers of the zucchini, leaving enough around the edges so they aren’t flimsy.
3 Stuff and grill the zucchini: Use a slotted spoon to divide the taco filling between the zucchini halves, stuffing them full. Then crumble the queso fresco over each stuffed zucchini half.
Return zucchini to the grill, placed upright like a boat, and cook for another 6 to 7 minutes, until the zucchini is tender when pierced and the cheese is bubbling and melted.
4 Garnish and serve: Remove the zucchini from the grill and garnish with a drizzle of sour cream, diced bell pepper, and diced scallion. Serve while warm.
Leftovers keep fine for a few days and can be reheated in a 350°F oven until warmed through, or, if you’re in a rush, microwaved for one minute on high.
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