When summer starts and squash starts flooding the produce section, plan on making this zucchini boat recipe. We wanted a recipe for perfectly cooked zucchini boats filled with a rich, gently spiced lamb stuffing.
To balance the distinct flavor of the lamb, we chose a trio of contrasting elements: sweet dried fig, buttery pine nuts, and aromatic ras el hanout.
Savory Stuffing with Dried Figs + Nuts
When you mix ground meat, nuts, and dried fruit, this is considered a picadillo in Spanish cooking that makes its way into Latin America featuring in Mexican cooking too. Sometimes you might find raisins with pecans and olives, but in this recipe you’ll find our sweet Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Dried Mission Figs and pine nuts with a spice blend that has it lean more toward North Africa.
Spicing Up Zucchini Boats
Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend that includes coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and more. Spiced ground lamb boosts the flavor appeal in a zucchini boat recipe. Ras el hanout is a beloved spice blend that means “head of the shop” and typically reflects the best spices that spice shop has to offer, all mixed together. If you’ve never heard of or seen ras el hanout before, you can find it in most spice shops or online.
Making the Most of Meat, Mixing in Grains
After browning the lamb, we poured off all but a small amount of the fat to keep our filling from tasting too greasy; to offset the filling’s meaty texture and add a mild, wheaty chew, we incorporated a small amount of bulgur. Bulgur is often available in several cut sizes. Fine cut bulgur can be “cooked” by pouring boiling water over it and steaming—similar to couscous. In the zucchini boat recipe below, we suggest using a medium cut size that needs to be cooked in a method along the lines of rice.
Tips for Full Flavor
We took several steps to avoid overcooked and flavorless zucchini: We scooped out the seeds to reduce moisture; we roasted the unstuffed zucchini cut side down to achieve a flavorful sear and give the vegetable a head start on cooking; and we returned the zucchini to the hot oven—packed with our robust filling—for a final burst of heat before serving.
Sauce is a final flourish for stuffed zucchini boats. While you don’t have to make the recipe for cucumber yogurt sauce below, it’s another way to add in more flavor. If you don’t have fresh dill handy, use the rule of thumb when substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs of 1:3, so the 2 tablespoons of fresh dill becomes 1 teaspoon dried dill weed. Then again, you can always just spoon on plain Greek yogurt too.
Lamb + Fig Stuffed Zucchini Boat Recipe
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 4 (10 ounces each) zucchini , halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt + Pepper
- 8 ounces ground lamb
- 1 onion , chopped fine
- 4 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur , rinsed
- 1 cup Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs , stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (6 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts , toasted
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1 cucumber , peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and shredded
- Salt and Pepper
Make Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lowest positions, place rimmed baking sheet on lower rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Brush cut sides of zucchini with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay zucchini cut side down in hot sheet and roast until slightly softened and skins are wrinkled, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove zucchini from oven and flip cut side upon sheet; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add lamb, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook,breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer lamb to paper towel–lined plate.
- Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from saucepan. Add onion to fat left in saucepan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and ras el hanout and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, bulgur, and figs and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until bulgur is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
- Off heat, lay clean dish towel underneath lid and let pilaf sit for 10 minutes. Add pine nuts and parsley to pilaf and gently fluff with fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pack each zucchini half with bulgur mixture, about ½ cup per zucchini half, mounding excess. Place baking sheet on upper rack and bake zucchini until heated through, about 6 minutes. Serve.
Make Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
- Whisk yogurt, oil, dill, and garlic together in medium bowl until combined. Stir in cucumber and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to1 day.)