Three Sisters Stuffed Zucchini

Traditional Native American agriculture grew over the centuries upon three staples:  maize, climbing beans and squash.  These "Three Sisters" were planted together in mounds, with the maize providing a support for the beans to climb and the squash creating a microclimate on the ground, which held moisture in and kept weeds out.  In this elegant system, the plants complement each other both botanically and nutritionally, and, not coincidentally, taste awfully good together.

Here in Florida, corn is in its prime, and I've been contemplating making a Three Sisters salad of corn, beans and squash.   Then I stopped by my favorite produce stand and saw these beauties.  I cannot resist a round zucchini or hold back the urge to hollow it out, stuff it with various savory goodies then slip it into the oven and wait for the magic to happen.

I'll make a salad some other time.

As I've assaulted, stuffed and baked various squashes over the years, I've learned that, although a tomato sauce is my topping of choice, baking them in a covered dish with water, not sauce, is the only way to achieve the tender courgette I crave.  To the Three Sisters filling, I added another New World delight, turkey sausage, and made the tomato sauce on the stove top while the zucchini baked.

Three Sisters Stuffed Zucchini
(Click here for printable recipe.)

2 Tbs olive oil
2 lbs zucchini
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
1 lb ground turkey sausage
2 ears of corn (a minimum of 1 C kernels sliced off)
15 oz can black beans, rinsed
15 oz can diced tomatoes, liquid reserved
2 Tbs corn starch
29 oz can tomato sauce

To prepare round zucchinis for stuffing, either treat the same as standard long zucchini and cut off ends, then slice in half top to bottom and hollow out centers to create boats, or slice off only the top about half an inch down from the stem, then hollow out from the top.  (The boats, whether from long or round zucchinis, will hold almost the entire batch of filling, unlike the upright round zucchinis, but I am a sucker for those little hats!)  Use either a melon baller or spoon to remove the inside, leaving about a quarter inch thickness, then finely chop the zucchini's innards, reserving the shells for stuffing.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, chopped zucchini and seasonings, including garlic.  Stirring occasionally, cook mixture until soft.  Add turkey sausage and continue to stir while browning.  Once all pink is gone, stir in corn, beans and diced tomatoes.  Whisk corn starch into the reserved juice from the tomatoes until completely dissolved, then stir mixture into skillet.  Continue to stir while cooking until juice begins to bubble, then turn burner down to low heat.

Gently fill hollowed zucchinis with mixture.  Filling may be mounded in flat boats, but only fill upright zucchinis to top, then cover with stem hats.  Arrange filled zucchini in a baking dish, then carefully fill bottom of dish with half an inch of water.  Cover dish with aluminum foil, then bake for 45 minutes.

While zucchinis are baking, mix the can of tomato sauce into the remainder of the stuffing.  Cover skillet with a lid and allow to simmer over low heat until the zucchinis are done.

Serve baked zucchini with grain of choice, topped with tomato sauce.  I used quinoa, since it was also a Mesoamerican staple.  The combination was delicious.

Stuffed zucchinis...with hats!


Paula said...

Call me ignorant but I've never seen nor heard of a round zucchini before this post! I learned something new today and found a great recipe so thank you!

Unknown said...

I too never have seen a round zucchini. Times are moving fast even in the food growing processes. This site has great recipes.

Aline Rowe
recipe club

Libby said...

I've only seen them on occasion at a single produce stand myself, and I get very excited when they show up! I believe they are an heirloom variety rather than a newer hybrid. From what I understand they are too delicate to ship well, but I did find some seeds online, and they look easy to grow if you have a garden.