It’s hard out there for a zucchini.
To novices, they’re often confused for cucumbers. To gardening experts, they’re that bountiful plant that puts off so much fruit that you won’t ever been able to eat it all. To people in between, they’re that green summer squash that you can interchange with yellow squash in just about every single recipe that calls for either one.
Zucchini lovers, I bring you the good news that America has declared Aug. 8 National Zucchini Day. (That was also National Frozen Custard Day, but we won’t mention that around the zucchini.)
By some accounts, the official title is National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, but no matter which made-up holiday calendar you follow, it’s a day to celebrate one of summer’s most underappreciated vegetables.
No word on why National Zucchini Bread Day is in April. Everyone who eats or makes zucchini bread knows that you only make it in the summertime when you’re tired of eating zucchini from your garden, your neighbor’s garden or the farmers market in pastas, casseroles, stews and straight off the grill.
Here’s a new spin on the ol’ zucchini boat trick, where you hollow out a squash and bake a flavorful mixture of ingredients inside. This version comes from Seamus Mullen’s new book, “Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day” (Avery, $35), and includes pepitas and goat cheese, one of my favorite salty-crunchy duos.
Zucchini Stuffed with Mushrooms, Pepitas and Goat Cheese
Garlicky tomatoes and mushrooms with the heat of chilies and the freshness of limes and cilantro get the toasty crunch of pepitas. Baked in summer squash or zucchini boats, the mix becomes an elegant vegetarian main dish.
2 long slender summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash
Jacobsen flake finishing sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1⁄4-inch slices
5 sun-dried tomatoes, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, cut into thin slivers
3 tablespoons pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 red ﬁnger chili, seeded, if desired, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and create boats with 1/3 inch of flesh all around the edges. Set the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, cut sides up. Sprinkle salt all over the squash, then drizzle with olive oil. Zest the limes on top. Roast the squash for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the mushrooms, stir well, then add the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the garlic. Add more oil if the pan looks dry; the mushrooms have a tendency to soak up the oil. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the pepitas and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the chili and a big pinch of salt. Stir well, then remove from the heat. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and stir well, then stir in the cilantro.
Divide the mixture among the roasted squash cavities. Return to the oven and roast just to heat through and meld the flavors a bit, 2 to 4 minutes. You want the squash to still have a little crunch. Crumble the goat cheese on top and serve immediately. Serves 2 to 4.
— From “Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day” (Avery, $35) by Seamus Mullen and Genevieve Ko