Mmmm ... I get hungry just writing that title. This is probably my absolute all-time favorite summer meal. Make sure you buy as many of the ingredients from your local farmers' market as you can; it just doesn't taste as good if you have to go to the store for everything (unless you don't live within two hours of a farmers' market, in which case I suggest either moving, or planting a really great garden). And you can do anything with this recipe! Substitute to your heart's content!!
Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash
4-5 eight ball squash (a kind of zucchini, actually!)*
2 cups brown rice, cooked (measure out two uncooked cups, and use the whole amount in the recipe)
1 lb ground meat (I like to use venison, but beef or turkey would work great, too)
3 bell peppers: red, gold, and purple (or whatever colors you like), diced
1 large or two small red tomatoes, diced
1 yellow or orange tomato, diced
1 c finely diced carrots (optional)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
3-6 cloves garlic, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350. Heat a really big stock pot 2/3 full of salted water. Either cut the top off the squash, or (I like to do this) without removing the top, cut the squash in half, from top to bottom. Remove all the seeds (this isn't like doing a pumpkin, you can just use a spoon), and throw them out or feed them to the chickens. When your water is boiling, place all the cut squash in the water for about 3-4 minutes, not enough to fully cook them, just enough to take a little of the crunch out. Remove, and set aside to drain and cool.
In a large frying pan, brown the meat, onion, carrots, garlic, and if you don't like crunchy peppers, the peppers. (Since I use venison, I have to add olive oil at this phase to make it brown correctly, but if you're using regular ground beef, you might want to brown the meat and veggies separately, then mix them together once you've drained the fat off the meat.) Turn off the heat, and add the peppers if you haven't already, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and the rice, then add a few tablespoons or freshly grated Parmesan to make sure everything binds together. Mix it all really well (you might need to use a really big bowl if your pan isn't ginormus), then start filling your squash.
NOTE: Make sure your squash doesn't have any water in it!! If you have to use a paper towel to soak up the water, then do that, just trust me, you do not want water in your squash.
Add as much filling as you can to each squash**; don't be afraid to really pack it in there. Just don't break your squash. Place all the filled squash on a large baking sheet (if you cover it with foil first, clean up will be really easy, and you'll thank me later!), and add a sprinkle of Parmesan to the top of each squash, just for fun. And because it tastes awesome. Place the pan in the oven, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, just enough to let everything get all warm and yummy and good smelling and the squash to finish cooking.
Remove from the oven and serve pretty quickly, while it still looks pretty, and I recommend bowls and not plates, it just makes life easier. Enjoy!!!
*I guess you could use some really big regular squash or zucchini, but I've never tried it. Just make sure that they're really big, big enough that they'll hold plenty of filling once you scoop out the seeds and pulpy goo.
**Yes, you will have filling left over. Lots of it. So either invite a million people over for supper and make 12 servings instead of 5, or do what I do: put the extra in the fridge, and have it for lunch the next day. It's sooooo good reheated the second day.
ps- this recipe is insanely healthy, especially of you don't use ground beef, but don't tell anyone. It tastes almost sinfully delicious!!!!