Peter came home on the weekend with a big bag full of zucchinis and cucumbers that he got a Ofuna market. Yes, it's that time of year again - time to wonder what the @&*% to do with all the zucchini.
In my opinion, it's best to deal with them when they're small, otherwise they breed exponentially, and you find yourself in a weeping pile in the middle of the kitchen, having made zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini stir-fry; zucchini pickle and having grated zucchini into spaghetti sauce, oatmeal, and finally, in a desperate bid to finish it off, directly into the toilet. It rather reminds me of the time I bought the biggest daikon I could find, and was still making things out of it a week later.
I have no idea what the Japanese do with zucchinis, so I thought back to how I like to eat zucchinis in Canada. All I could remember was roast zucchini, which seemed hard to manage in my oven-less kitchen. One reason why I started learning to cook Japanese dishes was that I'm limited by my gas range - it seems most of the dishes I grew up on rely on having an oven to bake or roast ingredients. (This usually takes longer, but does leave the cook free to wander off and put the wash on or play a short round of Mario Party. ) One dish I really loved in Canada was stuffed eggplant, in which big eggplants are stuffed with ground chicken, breadcrumbs, and herbs, and topped with cheese and grilled in the oven. I though with a little re-engineering, I could make this with zucchini on a gas range. Thus, I give you Erin's Stuffed Zucchini (on a gas range)
Step 1: Sternly deal with Zucchinis
There is always too much zucchini. It's a fact of life. Although Peter brought home only four small zucchinis, I knew it would be too many. I set two aside to be cut up and frozen. The remaining two were lumpy and bumpy and irregularly shaped, like most natural things, so I cut them down to smallish boat-like shapes. The long skinny top bits I sliced thinly and set aside for a side dish for the next day. Then, addressing the boats, I hollowed them out with a knife and spoon, and finely chopped the scooped-out guts. I put them into a bowl to form part of the stuffing. In a pan, I heated some olive oil, maybe a tablespoon or so, and salted and peppered the boats. When the oil was hot, I lay the boats in the pan, hollow-side down, covered them up, and put the heat to medium low.
Step 2: Stuffing Logs
While the boats sizzled, I added about 200 g of ground chicken to the boat-guts (sorry, but boat is so much easier to type than zucchini), along with two tablespoons of breadcrumbs (panko for me, but any kind would do), a crushed clove of garlic, some fresh thyme I had off my thyme plant, and generous salt and pepper. I squashed this all around until it was evenly mixed. At this point, I checked on the boats, and flipped them. They were nicely browned on one side. Going back to the stuffing, I formed it into four flattish sausages, and set them aside. A few minutes later, the boats were nicely limp, so I took them out of the pan, and added the sausages. I pan fried them for about five minutes on each side, until they were cooked through. Then I plopped them into the boat hollows, judging to see which hollow matched which sausage best. Then I transferred the lot of them to my fish grill.
Step 3: Up in My Grill
When the stuffed boats were together, I put them onto my fish grill, and topped them with grated cheese. I had white cheddar, but parmesan or gruyere would be grand as well. Even regular 7/11 pizza cheese would do in a pinch. Then I fired them under the grill for about 5 minutes (while I queued up the next episode of Lost on my computer), and served them up for dinner with some crusty bread. This makes a very light dinner, so I recommend some sort of side - salad, baked potatoes, rice....as you like.
As for the rest of the zucchini, since my pan was already dirty, and I had already sliced them up, I popped the slices into the frying pan with some sesame oil, salt, and Korean chili powder. One strategy I try to employ to cut down on my time in the kitchen is to always try to think of two dishes I can make out of one prep session. Prep once; eat twice, and all of that. When they were limp, I put them into a plastic container for the next day's dinner.
Two zucchinis down; two to go.