Weekend Herb Blogging has been put on a two week hiatus and replaced by Holiday Cooking with Herbs in which you post recipes you'll like to share for the holiday season. You still have time to submit recipes to Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen where she'll be presenting the great big round-up on December 23rd. Oh, and if you submit something you also get to use that lovely banner designed by Kalyn's brother Rand!
It may indeed look like something you'd find hanging on your Christmas tree but this is a variety of Zucchini called Tondo di Piacenza or Globe Zucchini for those that appreciate the obvious.
As soon as I spied them at the farmers' market I knew I just had to have them - they just spoke to me. Their simple elegance would be perfect for a festive occasion. I needed to do something that maintained the integrity of their shape and what better way then to simply stuff them. Next I wanted to bring in some fresh flavours as zucchini can be a bit bland at times and one of my favourite ways of doing that is by using the herb paste Chermoula (if you want to know more about Chermoula just click on the link).
Rather than using the more complex version I posted about earlier, I decided to strip it back to it's most basic form - a combination of fresh coriander, parsley, onion garlic and a touch of smoked paprika. This is used to marinate a fine dice of chicken thigh meat which is then seared and mixed with the hollowed out zucchini flesh to form the basis of the stuffing. Roasted in the oven it's then presented "hat on" to your guests
Globe Zucchini stuffed with Chermoula Chicken
4 Globe Zucchini
2 skinless and boned chicken thighs
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
20 grams fresh coriander (leaves, stems and roots)
20 grams fresh parsley (leaves and stems)
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly sliced
1 large red shallot (or very small red onion), peeled and roughly diced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground salt and pepper
Make the Chermoula:
Place the fresh coriander, parsley, garlic, onion, and paprika into the bowl of a processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Season with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and process again - drizzle in a little more olive oil until a thick paste forms.
You'll find that this is probably more than you'll need for this recipe - just store it in the fridge in a sealed container under a cover of olive oil to keep it from discolouring.
Evenly Slice to tops from each zucchini - be a bit generous as the top becomes the lid of the dish.
To hollow out the zucchini - use a vegetable knife and cut a cross into the top of the zucchini. Then using the knife connect the outer points of the cross following the curve of the zucchini. Take a teaspoon and ease these loosened bits out - reserving all the flesh as it will be needed in the filling. Then keep digging with the spoon to rasp out the rest of the interior. You want to leave about 2-3 mm of flesh.
It may sound tedious and convoluted but it's actually pretty quick and you'll soon get the hang of it. Don't be put off - the final result is worth it.
Once you've hollowed them all out place them in boiling salted water for about a minute. Then drain and set aside.
Make the filling:
Slice the chicken into a 1-1.5 cm dice - take your cue on the best size from the size of your zucchini. Add 1-2 tablespoons of Chermoula to the diced chicken and let it marinade for half an hour.
Take all the zucchini flesh and roughly chop it. Keep to one side.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan then sauté the marinated chicken in batches over a medium-high heat. You want to quickly brown the chicken then remove it to a dish while you cook the rest. Once the last batch is done, turn down the heat and add the chopped zucchini flesh. You don't want this to brown you just want it to soften and release some of it's liquid. Return the cooked chicken and any juices back the pan and toss through to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Place in a bowl and allow to cool.
When cold, add the beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of Chermoula and stir through. You'll need to add some breadcrumbs to help the mixture bond - 1 to 2 tablespoons should be enough to form a soft but not sloppy mixture.
Spoon this mixture into each of the zucchini, push down gently - you don't want to pack it down too hard or the zucchini will crack when they are roasted. Mould the filling so it forms a peak.
Place the filled zucchini in a baking dish with their lids cut side up beside them. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F oven for 20 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the top has browned.
To serve as a starter - one per person will be more than adequate, though you might find yourself asking for an extra bite of your neighbours.