This is a sponsored post. I was compensated financially by USA Rice. All thoughts and feelings and opinions about rice are entirely my own. As always, I wouldn't tell you about a product unless I loved it.
I didn't grow any zucchini this year. In fact, I didn't grow much of anything except pots of herbs and 3 tomatoes. No, not tomato plants. Tomatoes, singular. I'm not sure why the heck my tomatoes did not flourish, but I have an inkling it's because my yard has become tremendously shady over the past couple of years. Veg hate shade, that's a known fact. Good thing I'm dating a vegetable farmer so there has been no shortage of tomatoes, or zucchini or anything else that grows in the ground around here. If I were an emoji right now, I'd be the one with hearts for eyes.
My guy recently came across a rather large specimen of zucchini squash in his garden. A rogue that somehow got missed. It was gargantuan, like some of the zucchini can get, with skin a little on the firmer side. This baby is good for only one thing - stuffing. I've teamed up with the fine folks at USA Rice and written a stuffed zucchini recipe which combines nutritious brown rice, green lentils and zesty Greek flavours like feta cheese, kalamata olives, fresh basil and mint. Did you know that most of the rice consumed in Canada is from the United States, and U.S.-grown rice is as local as it gets for us up here in the Great White North. If you're saying "Renee! What about wild rice grown in Sask and Manitoba?!!" and I have to break it to you that wild rice isn't a rice at all. It's a type of sea grass. Neat, hey? I grew up eating a fair bit of rice. It's super versatile (goes with pretty much everything) and affordable. Great for a house with lots of picky kids. Low cal (only 108 calories per half cup serving) and nutritious (brown rice in particular is a great source of fibre) rice is naturally sodium, cholesterol and gluten-free. It's one of the least allergenic of all the grains. Whenever I do any gluten-free baking, rice flour is a primary ingredient. All around awesome, rice is also great for re-heating. Just make a big batch on the weekend, refrigerate it and either it in within a couple of days, or freeze for later. Just thaw, and use it in your favourite recipe. Like this stuffed zucchini. Or any of the other tasty recipes at www.riceinfo.com.
This stuffed zucchini is a great vegetarian side dish, or even a main. I served it with lemon roasted chicken thighs, which was a wonderful complement to the Greek flavours in the rice. The amount of cooking time will depend on just how large your zucchini is. If you're using a few medium-sized, then it could be as soon as 20 minutes. If you have a humungous squash like mine, then it could take as long as 45 minutes. Just pierce with a fork and you'll know for sure when it's done. If you're using a large zucchini, just cut in in half or thirds and serve. If you're using medium sized, then that should be adequate for 1 person. Tasty, nutritious and oh-so-satisfying on these chilly autumn nights, I hope you enjoy this stuffed zucchini as much as I did.
Greek Stuffed Zucchini with Rice and Lentils
1/2 cup (125 mL) U.S. brown rice
1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock or water
1 very large or 2-3 medium zucchini
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
Half onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) red chili flakes
1/4 cup (60 mL) finely sliced fresh basil
2 tbsp (30 mL) finely sliced fresh mint
1/2 cup (125 mL) cooked green lentils
1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup (75 mL) finely chopped Kalamata olives
2 cups (500 mL) tomato sauce
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
basil leaves for garnish
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and stock or water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Fluff the rice and let it cool down.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a spoon and scoop out the seeds, leaving about 1/2-inch (1 cm) of the zucchini on all sides.
3. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent - about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes and cook for another minute or two.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, lentils, feta cheese, olive and cooked rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Divide the rice mixture evenly between the zucchini shells. Spread your favourite tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange the stuffed zucchini over the sauce. Brush the edges of the zucchini with olive oil and drizzle some over top of the zucchini. Bake until the zucchini is tender when pierced with a fork. This could take anywhere from 20-45 minutes, depending on the size of your zucchini. If you find the rice mixture getting too dark, cover the zucchini with aluminum foil. Makes 4-6 servings.