I know that the picture isn’t the most beautiful, or dazzling –but, I promise it is a delectable dish.
(I admittedly really need to work on my food styling, my apologies.)
When I was about 16, I was lucky enough to spend a month in France with a childhood friend of my Mother. It was my first time in Europe and Connie, her family and friends, were so wonderful to me- it is a time I can remember so vividly with such a feeling of joy. I can still see the flat in Paris and the country house in Darcey. I remember listening to the Wallflowers album on repeat on my Discman, going to see Jim Morrison’s grave and being totally bummed that the bust had been stolen, buying mustard in Dijon, being giddy to be able to drink wine and go to Chablis to bottle our own, collecting escargot with her son Benoit, eating wild boar at a village celebration, indulging on the best pizza I have EVER had (an escargot pizza with garlic butter), trying rabbit and frog’s legs but refusing black pudding ( I had to draw the line somewhere and I knew it didn’t look right). Most of my memories revolve around the scents and flavors, like fresh from the farm goat cheese, anise pastilles, or digging for fresh veggies in the garden. I recall cooking in their kitchen with such a mouth-watering fondness. I can remember one of the meals I made there was a stuffed mega-zucchini from the backyard garden. I packed it full with some rice, sunflower seeds and other fresh French goodies. This recipe varies quite a bit from what I made then, but it brings back memories which makes it just as delicious.
You won’t need anything fancy or French- unless of course you want to pop on a beret or munch on a baguette while putting this together- but, as always go for the fresh! Oui?
1 lb. Grass Fed Ground Beef
2 Cloves Garlic- Minced
3 Cups Chicken Broth (or water)
1- 1 1 /2 Cup Cooked Organic Farro
1 Can Cannelini Beans
2 Extra Large Zucchini
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
1/3 Cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1 12 oz. Package Mozzarella
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 350.
Serves 4-6, depending on if you serve anything on the side.
Although this recipe contains beef, it can easily be omitted and made vegetarian and you wouldn’t miss out on any flavor. You could substitute with diced and sauteed portabellos, which I might have to try next time.
Additionally, I encourage people to eat grass-fed meat for a myriad of reasons (that I won’t get into now, let’s save that for another blog post) but you can use any type or ground beef, or turkey for that matter.
Cook the Farro according to the directions on the package, the brand I used called for 3 cups of liquid on a light boil for 15 minutes to al dente. It took about 20 minutes, cooked in chicken broth, which is optional. Farro is similar in size to an extra large grain of rice, but with a nuttier flavor, packed with fiber and protein. It is likened to barely and spelt and when cooked has a firm, chewy texture.
In a large skillet, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, saute the minced garlic. Add the ground beef and brown over medium-high heat. Drain off grease and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the drained and rinsed beans, 2/3 cup of the Parmesan, the breadcrumbs, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to distribute evenly.
Add beef and 1-1 1/2 cups of the farro and evenly combine the ingredients. You may want to add more Parmesan, feel free!
While the beef and farro are cooking, half and gut your zucchini. Leave at least 1/2″ wall so the form stands when cooked and stuffed. Cover a baking pan with foil and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil. Rub the inside of the zucchini with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes. Don’t over cook, otherwise it will get mushy and won’t hold the shape.
When all ingredients are combined and evenly distributed, fill the zucchini. Stuff in as much as you can, packing it down with your spoon. Once the cheese melts, it will hold it all together.
After filling the zucchini, top with Parmesan then add final layer of sliced mozzarella. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Then turn on broiler, but watch carefully, you don’t want it to burn. You are looking for those glorious, golden bubbles to let you know it is ready.
Most likely you will have left over filling, so if you have more mouths to feed just up the number of zucchini you will use. If you don’t need to serve more, then you can always freeze use another time.
**A note from Hylton, the stringy cheese hater… He said this dish was “awesome” but he thought I “should use cheddar or something less stringy”. I guess he is really a fan of the way cheddar melts but doesn’t have a chewy consistency. I thanked him for his contribution and thought I’d pass it on to you. This would definitely work with a nice sharp, white cheddar if you have a melted mozz hater in your house, too. ***