Got zucchini? Any gardener knows that’s a silly question. Duh?! Of course, they do; like a lot, like help, I need ways to keep up with the constant zucchini harvest. I hear you. I’ve got you, fellow zucchini-burdened gardeners. With a hearty dose of zaatar seasoning and a lemony tahini drizzle, these vegetarian stuffed zucchini boats are the perfect way to use up a bountiful zucchini harvest.
How To Select and Store Zucchini
First, let’s talk about zucchini. If you don’t have a garden plot you can pick up beautiful ones at your local farmers’ market. Look for ones that are small to medium-sized, around 8 inches in length. The zucchini should feel heavy for its size. For this recipe, I used ones around 10 inches long that weighed about 1 pound apiece. Smaller-sized zucchini are more tender and less seedy. Trust me on this. I once discovered a zucchini in my garden the size of my forearm. It was all seeds inside, so my only option was to use it in a stuffed recipe.
The skin should be dark green, smooth, and free of blemishes. If the skin looks slightly shriveled, it most likely wasn’t freshly picked.
You can store zucchini unwashed for one to 2 weeks in a plastic bag or reusable produce bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Don’t wash or cut it up until you’re ready to use it.
Key Flavors in Middle Eastern Zucchini Boats Recipe
Second, let’s talk about spices because this recipe is all about the seasoning blend. If you are unfamiliar with zaatar, it is a Middle Eastern spice blend of dried herbs like oregano, marjoram, thyme, and spices like cumin and coriander with sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. Sumac is key to this spice blends unmistakable tanginess. I first encountered it on a salad at my local Lebanese take-out spot and have been hooked ever since.
Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is the second key flavor ingredient. Combined with water, lemon juice, and some chives for color, the tahini drizzle adds extra brightness and tanginess tieing together the zucchini boat with all zaatar seasoned stuffing ingredients.
I must admit the stuffing with some of the tahini sauce is delicious enough to simply eat on its own. But, but … zucchini!
This recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly. Just omit the feta to turn this delicious summery dish vegan as well as whole30 compliant.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 2, 1 lb. zucchini
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1/3 cup diced fresh cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon zaatar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Trim the ends off the zucchini, then slice in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh and seeds, leaving a ¼ inch around the edges to create the hollowed out “boat.” Discard flesh and seeds.
- Place the zucchini halves on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cooked chickpeas, diced cherry tomatoes, diced red bell pepper, minced parsley, minced garlic, diced onion, crumbled feta, lemon zest, zaatar and olive oil. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill each zucchini half with the stuffing. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the zucchini is cooked through.
- Whisk together the tahini, water, lemon juice, minced chives and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Drizzle some of the tahini mixture over the top of each zucchini boat before serving.
Photos by Renato Ghio
I have a lot if the stuffing leftover. Can it be frozen?
Yes, I think it can handle being frozen. You could also store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days and use it as a side dish to another meal or simply eat on its own as a lunch.
I had no chickpeas, and actually I confused this recipe with this tomato sauce covered ground beef zucchini boat I loved from at an Iranian deli.
So I used ground beef, zaatar, extra sumac, lemon juice in the meat mix, no tahini because I would’ve liked to have had some, but I didn’t. Also, onions, peppers, lots of garlic, and to hold it together, I thought, I added rice. But actually, the rice separated it on the boat so we’ll see how it holds. They are cooking right now. I did add feta, and everything goes better with feta.