Sunday, September 13, 2015
Kolokithia Yemista (Stuffed Zucchini) Papoutsakia-style
Back in my vegetarian neo-hippie adolescence, I made lots of stuffed vegetable recipes from classic cookbooks like Moosewood, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, The Vegetarian Epicure, and Laurel's Kitchen, most of which tended to be 1. time and labor intensive, and 2. dairy-and-egg-laden gut-bombs. (For instance, one of the Moosewood recipes crams its zucchini full of three kinds of cheese, three beaten eggs, and - in a Hannibal Lecteresque touch - its own guts, sautéed in butter with onions and garlic. Yow.)
In recent years, I've found pleasure - and a few fairly significant challenges - in veganizing and lightening up those old favorites, and I devoted MoFo 2013 to doing exactly that. But with today's recipe I was going for a traditional papoutsakia-style stuffed zucchini, which features a meaty filling and cheesy béchamel topping (think little, individual moussakas, only less time and trouble). And at the risk of being immodest, I have to say this dish turned out really well: delicious, filling but not heavy, and massively well-received. On the whole, an excellent way to use some of our zucchini overstock, and a definite keeper.
(FYI, "papoutsakia" means "little shoes," and is used in reference to stuffed eggplant as well as zucchini. I assume that once upon a time the scooped-out vegetables reminded some waggish Greek of footwear; one could look it up, but this theory will suffice because it pleases me. Another popular approach is kolokithakia avgolemono, which I'll tackle another time; since zucchini season isn't over yet, maybe even before the month is out!)
The Stuffed Zucchini
~ 4 medium-size zucchini squash
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 6 large shallots, diced (about a cup)
~ 3 large cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh tomato
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, marjoram, chili powder, smoked paprika, white pepper
~ Pinch nutmeg
~ ½ cup each: water, dry red wine
~ 1 package TJ's or Nate's veggie meatballs, cooked and mashed
~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and spray a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Trim the ends of the zucchini and scoop out the flesh to make a little squash canoe - or shoe! - leaving about a ¼" thickness around the perimeter. (Set the zucchini guts aside and store for use in muffins or bread; recipe to follow).
~ In a large skillet, sauté the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped tomato, and dry seasonings, and continue cooking another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are breaking down.
~ Stir in the water, wine, and tomato paste, and add the mashed meatballs. Combine thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and cook another 8-10 minutes, until you have a thick "sloppy joe" texture.
~ Remove from heat, add the fresh dill, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
~ Fill the scooped-out zucchini with the meatball mixture (make sure it's packed in pretty densely; you should use all the filling) and arrange them in your prepared baking dish.
~ Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
~ While that is happening you can make...
~ ⅓ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 cup vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)
~ ¼ cup tahini
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast
~ Fresh parsley for garnish
~ In a saucepan, heat the soy milk over medium heat until almost at a simmer, then add the mozzarella and stir until melted.
~ Add the tahini and nutritional yeast and continue cooking a few minutes more, stirring constantly to make a smooth, thick sauce.
~ After it's been baking for 30-35 minutes, take the casserole out of the oven and ladle the sauce evenly over each of the stuffed zucchini and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
~ Return the whole business to the oven and bake, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.