Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella
The two vegetables that say summer to me more than any other are zucchini and tomato. Last summer I was weeks deep into tomato season when my wife lamented that we had yet to have squash. My first reaction was that there was no way that was true because grilled squash is usually a start of summer ritual for me, but then I stopped and thought about it, and she was right. How did I let myself get two-thirds of the way into the season without enjoying one of my favorites? Well, I had to right that wrong, and given we were still in prime tomato time, I felt obliged to combine the two into these stuffed squash boats with tomato, basil, and mozzarella.
I usually get a lot of my zucchini eating in during the early weeks of summer, then tire of it and move on to other things. I'm not sure if it was just the batch on hand, or the fact that it was later in the season, but the grocery that day in late July only had these monster-sized zucchinis. I've made squash boats many times before and was used to using medium-sized zucchinis that are a good serving size and simple to manage, so I worried a bit if these large ones would hold up as well. Never-the-less, I started them out in the same manner by first halving lengthwise, then creating a crater for the filling by scooping some flesh with a spoon, and finally brushing with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper all over.
The stuffing combo in this recipe was influenced by the Italian themed cookout I was going to serve these at, and it actually contained quite a bit more than small grape tomatoes, low moisture mozzarella, and basil. Alone, those were not going to hold together as a stuffing, so I used some sourdough bread and egg to play the parts of binders. I also added additional seasonings by way of garlic, lemon zest, and parmesan to add more complexity and brightness.
Once the stuffing was done and I had a fresh chimney full of charcoal lit, I dumped the coals out and arranged them in a pile on one side of the charcoal grate to create a two-zone fire. Next I placed the zucchini on the hot side of the grill, cut side down, and let them cook until they developed good charring and just started to soften.
That first cook is really about developing color and flavor, the squash actually do most of the there cooking during their next stint on the cool side of the grill. Once I had arranged them there, cut side up, I spooned in the filling, covered the grill, and then let the cook, peaking from time to time to see how they were doing.
After about ten minutes, the stuffing had started to brown in spots and the squash felt nice and tender. Their large size didn't prove to be any cooking challenge, but did present a problem as I lifted the first one up with tongs and it promptly split in two. The extra weight didn't play well with the tender zucchini, so to get them off the grill in once piece, I grabbed a large spatula that I could slide under the entire squash, and that did the trick. Their massiveness also led me to cut them in two to make for more manageable portions after taking some photos first.
I'm not sure why I forgot to make zucchini earlier, but the delay that led to their marriage with tomatoes was a positive result of that folly. The squash had a fresh touch with a light flavor which allowed the charred bits to deliver a good taste of the grill. The tomatoes then provided a great sweetness and light acidity that cemented the seasonal summer profile and was given an appropriate amount of heft by the tangy sourdough that fused with the mozzarella and parmesan into a creamy cohesion that got extra boosts of freshness from the lemon and basil. I do like to make squash boats, but they never quite excite me enough to return to the same recipe again, but I felt this one was different, probably because it had so much that I love about summer grilling packed into one satisfying and easy-to-make dish.
Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 10 Minutes
- Cook 13 Minutes
- Total 23 Minutes
- 1 1/2 cups torn sourdough bread
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 4 large zucchini, washed, halved, and center of flesh scooped out with a spoon
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced chives
- In a medium bowl, mix together bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, lemon zest, garlic, and egg until ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Brush cut side of zucchinis with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place zucchinis, cut side down, on hot side of grill. Cook zucchinis until they develop light grill marks, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer zucchinis to cool side of grill and flip cut side up. Spoon filling mixture into zucchinis, cover grill, and let cook until zucchinis are crisp tender and filling begins to brown in spots, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer zucchinis to a serving platter, sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately.