Stuffed summer squash

(Beatrice peltre)
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July 16, 2008

Serves 4

At the farmers' market, cute round zucchini are irresistible. Alas, once you get them home and cut them up, they look just like their long, slender kin. But leave the zucchini whole and add a little stuffing, which does not involve anything difficult, and the outcome is always delicious and pretty. The only delicate part of stuffing vegetables is scooping out the flesh - one scoop too deep and you end up with a hole at the bottom. This filling is made with sauteed ground veal, celery, carrot, and the scooped-out zucchini flesh. For a vegetarian version, substitute cooked rice or quinoa for the meat - and of course you can stuff the classic long zucchini (below) instead of the rounds. Add a mild cheese, such as ricotta, an egg, and freshly chopped herbs, then fill the hollowed-out shells and drizzle them with a splash of olive oil. For a side dish, steam small potatoes and dust them with parsley, add a salad of freshly picked greens, then pass a bowl of native berries for dessert. Toast the local growers.

4 round or long summer squash or zucchini
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, grated
3/4 pound ground veal
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
1/4 cup water (for the pan)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. With a teaspoon, scoop out the flesh of the squashes or zucchini. Chop it coarsely. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the flesh to a bowl (use the remaining flesh in a vegetable stew or soup recipe). Sprinkle the hollowed squashes with salt and pepper and turn them open side down on a cutting board.

3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrot, and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the squash flesh and cook for 3 minutes more.

4. Turn up the heat and add the ground veal. Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Remove the skillet from the heat. Let it cool slightly. Stir in the ricotta, egg, and parsley.

6. Fill the hollowed shells with the stuffing mixture. Set the filled shells in the baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and add the water to the dish. Bake the squashes for 35 to 40 minutes or until the shells are tender when pierced with a skewer. Beatrice Peltre

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