Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini, Two Ways: Mexican and Mediterranean

Mexican and Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini... a delicious result of my indecision.

Change is still in the air, hovering at a polite distance rather than hitting me full in the face in the form of frustratingly full cardboard boxes and lack of internet. While two weeks sans internet was inconvenient, especially in the blog department, it was not all bad. I certainly read a lot more. And we even ate dinner at the table while gazing thoughtfully at the mountains through one of our many windows.

Yes, change is good. Mostly. Moving always seems to result in eating out more, and even though I managed to cook dinner the night we moved in, I have found myself mostly falling into bad eating habits.

The truth is, I love perusing food blogs for inspiration and, in that respect, I felt rather lost without the internet. I also did not do much grocery shopping, so we have been subsisting on concoctions made of pantry odds and ends.

Remember my giant 39 cent zucchini? Well, I felt it did not deserve the hodgepodge treatment I have been giving lesser vegetables these past couple of weeks. Also, I just was not inspired to deal with it.

Then lovely reader Laura Neff wisely suggested I ought to stuff it. I had never stuffed a zucchini, normal sized or mammoth, but this seemed like a good idea, especially considering its monstrous girth. Luckily, even though I had had it for three weeks, it was as good as new.

In typical Libra fashion, however, I could not decide which flavours I was craving. So I made two recipes at the same time. Both versions have the same quinoa base, but I jazzed them up in different ways. Version One combines flavours that are vaguely Mexican: quinoa and black beans are kissed with lime, cilantro, cumin, chili and hot sauce with a touch of cinnamon. Version Two is similar to my Mediterranean Quinoa Salad: I added Kalamata olives for a salty bite, along with fresh basil, Italian parsley and oregano. I am happy with how they both turned out, but if you are using a normal zucchini, I would halve the recipe and pick one version, as this was somewhat time-consuming.

A disclaimer: Jack was not really a fan of this meal. It brought back childhood memories of stuffed zucchini, a dish he was never fond of. Also, the stuffed zucchini he knew was filled with meat, so he felt like the quinoa did not really cut it as the main protein. I, however, found this to be a thoroughly satisfying meal, served with a simple salad of tomato, purple cabbage, onion, arugula and radicchio. So please read the ingredients and decide if this sounds like your bag.

Ah, it’s good to be back!

The tamed beast, all fancied up with Mexican and Mediterranean trimmings, respectively.

Ingredients:

* The following is enough for both the Mexican and Mediterranean versions, enough to fill a very large zucchini with a little left over. If you are not stuffing a massive zucchini or feeding a small army, halve the ingredients in this section, pick a version, and add the additional corresponding ingredients. I divided this into two bowls.

1 very large zucchini (mine was bigger than my whole forearm. You could use a few smaller ones instead.)

1 1/2 cups dry quinoa (or brown rice, or other grain of choice)

1 1/2 large white onions, diced

2 ripe field tomatoes, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced small

7 cloves garlic, minced

12 mushrooms, finely chopped if there are mushroom haters in the house

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. I used 3 cups of salted water. Be careful not to overcook!

While quinoa is cooking, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium low heat. Add onion and fry, stirring, until softened, around 10-15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Add the diced field tomatoes and 1 tsp. salt. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes become a little saucy. Add the minced garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms, cooking until the veggies are softened to your liking.

While veggies are cooking, trim and halve the zucchini. Scoop out seeds with a spoon, and discard if they are large and squash-like. If not, add them to the veggie mixture. Carve as big of a “moat” in the zucchini as you deem necessary to hold the quinoa. Brush both sides with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Divide quinoa into two large bowls, if you are in fact crazy enough to make two recipes. Distribute the veggie mixture evenly and stir to combine. If halving the recipe, just combine everything into one bowl and choose your adventure (Mexican or Mediterranean).

Monster of a zucchini stuffed with hearty Mexican-flavoured quinoa and black beans.

Mexican Stuffing Ingredients:

1/2 recipe quinoa (above)

1/2 recipe sauteed vegetables (above)

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 a bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. chili powder

tiny pinch cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Mexican hot sauce (Cholula or something similar. I used Salsa Huichol.)

Pepper

Directions:

Mix everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and add more as necessary.

This beast is stuffed with quinoa studded with salty Kalamata olives and peppery fresh Italian parsley and basil.

Mediterranean Stuffing Ingredients:

1/2 recipe quinoa (above)

1/2 recipe sauteed vegetables (above)

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

dash cayenne

1/2 tsp dried oregano

splash balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and add more as necessary.

To Bake:

Fill hollowed-out zucchini halves with desired quinoa stuffing. You can pile the stuffing pretty high, as it does not move while baking. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. To kick it up a notch, once baked sprinkle with Daiya vegan cheese and broil until melted.

Yum yum!

Mediterranean Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini. Even better with Daiya!

Serves 8, approximately. If making the whole batch, I would follow Laura’s suggestion and freeze it in slices. Too lazy to do this, I am pawning mine off on friends. Excellent served with a simple green salad with oil and vinegar dressing. 

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