Provençal Stuffed Zucchini
- SERVINGS: 8 FIRST-COURSE OR 4 MAIN-COURSE
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- 8 round zucchini (1/2 pound each)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 meaty slices of bacon, minced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound ground pork
- One 1-pound eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup chopped Calamata olives (3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut a thin slice off the tops of the zucchini and reserve. Using a small spoon, scoop out the flesh and finely chop it. Season the zucchini cups with salt and pepper and turn upside down to drain for 15 minutes. Set the cups right side up on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook over low heat until the fat is rendered, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic, cover and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the ground pork, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat, breaking up the meat, until it is mostly white. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the chopped zucchini and cook for 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs, olives, basil, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme.
- Mound the stuffing in the zucchini cups, top with the lids and bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
This stuffed zucchini was inspired by Provence. When Daniel Johnnes thinks of pairing wine with food, he likes to think in terms of regional affinities; so, for something to go with the zucchini, he looks to wines from the Rhône Valley, which runs right through Provence, from south of Lyon all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Look for a Crozes-Hermitage, made from the region's Syrah grape. An ideal bottling should have spice and moke to mirror both the smoky bacon and the herbal spiciness of the thyme and olives in the stuffing.