When I was younger and much less adventurous in the kitchen, zucchini was a vegetable given to me from the abundance of a neighbor's garden, then placed in the refrigerator until it became rotten enough to throw in the garbage. My intentions were always honorable; I really did intend to use that zucchini in some culinary fashion, but I just didn't have any experience or recipe base accumulated wherein I could comfortably cook and use this vegetable with certainty. The internet and all of its associated food blogs and instructional recipe sites finally saved the zucchini from its death row vegetable drawer status and elevated it to a place on my dinner plate. It is now, in fact, the main course in many of my meal plans. The following recipe is one of my zucchini favorites.
Barley Stuffed Zucchini
1/2 cup pearl barley (NOT the quick cooking kind)
1 1/4 cup beef broth
3 medium or 6 small zucchini
1 lb lean ground beef (I use Laura's Lean 96/4)
1 tsp montreal steak seasoning
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
10 oz box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 oz goat cheese
4 oz light cream cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
In small sauce pan bring beef broth to a boil and add barley. Reduce heat and simmer until barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise and scoop out visible seeds. Hollow out the remainder of the pulp, leaving a zucchini "boat" to stuff. Dice pulp and set aside. Place zucchini shells cut side up on a greased baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn oven temperature down to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet brown ground beef seasoned with steak seasoning. Add onion, bell pepper, reserved zucchini pulp, and pepper flakes. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in worchestershire sauce and spinach. Add goat cheese and cream cheese and stir until melted and creamy. Stir in the cooked barley. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Stuff zucchini with ground beef mixture and return to baking sheet. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the zucchini and place baking sheet in oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.