Zukes Not Nukes

Although you might think there are four seasons in the calendar year, I’m here to tell you there’s a fifth: mud season.  Most of the snow has melted, and the frost line is disappearing beneath the soil.  The sun is just beginning to have some warmth in it and the robins are back in full force.  We anxiously await evidence of  something, anything growing.  We are ready to till and get our first crops in the ground.  But the mud!  There is literally no safe place to walk that doesn’t present the challenge of having your Wellies sucked off your feet.

Our dogs Willow and Nante smell spring in the air and run wild around the yard like children at recess.  We love seeing them so joyful, until they bring their muddy legs and paws into the house making confusing circles of happiness over the slate kitchen floor.  It’s useless to mop; we would spend most of our waking hours cleaning up after them.

When we walk the farm this time of year, we are itching to get going and overwhelmed when we comprehend how much work there is to do.  You have to take the attitude that ‘slow and steady wins the race’; or you’re licked before you start.  We notice how the scent on the air has shifted.  There is a smell to the land after the snow pack has melted; it is the smell of possibility.  Our winter plans are anxious to be put into action.  Each new season holds promise; the promise of growth, the promise of hard work and the promise of humility.  After all, farming is an act of faith.

The following recipe is not difficult to make, yet the flavors contrast each other in such a way that you will find yourself putting it on frequent rotation.  The savory Ras el Hanout (recipe in the previous blog for Moroccan Almonds) combined with lamb and dried apricots works amazingly well.  See if you don’t agree.

img_4146

STUFFED ZUCCHINI WITH LAMB, DRIED APRICOTS AND PINE NUTS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 zucchini (8 ounces each), halved lengthwise and seeded (I find a melon-baller works best for this)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

img_4148

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Adjust your oven racks to upper-middle and lowest possible positions.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Brush cut sides of zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay zucchini cut side down and roast for about 20-25 minutes or until they are slightly softened and the cut sides are slightly golden.  Remove from oven and flip cut side up on baking sheet; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add ground lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Break up meat as you cook, until browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.  Add onion and saute over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and ras el hanout and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in broth, rice and apricots and bring to a simmer.  Cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

img_4149

5.  Fill zucchini halves with mixture.  Place baking sheet on upper rack in oven and                 bake until heated through about 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with pine nuts and chopped         parsley.  Serve with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce (recipes follows).

CUCUMBER- YOGURT SAUCE:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 half English cucumber, grated on large holes of box grater
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Whisk yogurt, oil, dill, and garlic, together in medium bowl until combined.  Stir in cucumber and season with salt and pepper.  Serve along side stuffed zucchini.

img_4155

“I am a weak, ephemeral creature made of mud and dream. But I feel all the powers of the universe whirling within me.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: