One zucchini plant is usually plenty to keep a family of four supplied with enough little green squashes for an entire summer. I find, however, that most of us tend to plant several “just in case one doesn’t grow well,” or “just in case some of the neighbors want a few.” As you know, zucchini is most delicate and tender when the squashes are picked before they reach eight inches long. Unfortunately, if we have more than one or two plants, it’s difficult to keep up and a few get too big without our noticing. Now I’m, not talking about the zucchini in the corner of the garden that is allowed to grow through the entire summer so that the gardener can enter his giant squash in the Guinness Book of World Records (that size squash is not suitable for human consumption – trust me on this); I’m talking about the ones that get about 10-12 inches long. Although 10-12 inches long is not optimal for breading and frying or slicing and sautéing, the squashes are perfect for hollowing out and stuffing with a good filling since the middle is seedy and can easily be scraped out.
My friend Mary, a native of upstate New York, lived in Minnesota for several years, and quickly learned from Minnesotans how to make almost anything into a “Hot Dish.” She always kept a beautiful, large vegetable garden, which meant she had to use her excellent cooking skills to come up with recipes using all of that fresh produce. One of the easiest and fastest dishes that Mary developed for her young family while in Minnesota is the following, which not only can be prepared very quickly, it can be made ahead and refrigerated before baking. Even though her children are now grown, they still request this delicious dish whenever Mary is in upstate New York, the location of their own beautiful, large vegetable gardens. It’s easy enough for anyone to prepare, including Mary’s kids, but as we all know, Mom’s cooking always tastes better!
4 medium zucchini, (8-12" long)
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound Italian sausage, (hot or mild, your preference)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce, (your favorite brand) or 3-4 cups of homemade if you have it
1 - 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Slice the zucchini lengthwise in half; scrape the seeds out and set aside.
Brown the ground beef and sausage in a large skillet; add the onions, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper; continue cooking until they are soft. Drain the fat off, if any. Mix in enough of the spaghetti sauce to moisten.
Spoon the mixture into each of the zucchini evenly and place in a casserole dish that will accommodate them in a single layer. Sprinkle with the Mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered at 350° for about 30 - 40 minutes or until browned on top.