Stuffed Summer Squash with Dill and Feta

The garden’s been in a tizzy these days. It’s popping out summer squash like there’s no tomorrow, and I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the sheer quantity of squash heading into the kitchen. I have a great recipe for summer squash fritters in my cookbook, and we’ve definitely been making a ton of those lately, but I wanted to whip up something that involved less grating and frying, and a memory popped into my head of the stuffed summer squash my parents would make in the summer when I was a kid.

My dad used to grow these comically huge zucchini (he’s since stopped growing them because they “took up too much space in the garden”), and my poor mother was left to figure out how to cook and make use of these vegetable monoliths. She realized they could be easily hollowed out and stuffed with all sorts of other good stuff from the garden, like diced tomatoes, oregano, onions, garlic, raisins, and rice among other equally tasty tidbits. After that realization, stuffed zucchini was a summer staple for the Kosmas household of yesteryear. And this year, I brought the stuffed summer squash back from retirement and introduced it to the Kosmas-Flores household, where it was very much appreciated and enjoyed.

You can use any kind of summer squash for this dish, whether it’s patty pan, rond de nice, or a plain old zucchini. Zucchini tends to have the most innard space for stuffing though. I recommend using medium-sized summer squash, so that you can get a decent amount of filling in them, but not such a huge squash that it won’t easily fit in a casserole baking dish. This recipe makes enough filling to go inside the squash, plus some to put in the pan, nestled around the squash, to keep everything in place and prevent any zucchini from tipping over and spilling out their precious contents. To keep the filling in the pan from drying out, I recommend adding a splash of broth or stock to the pan to keep it nice and moist as it roasts.

Oh! And I used ground turkey in the stuffed summer squash filling, but you can feel free to substitute your preferred ground meat, or swap it for cooked lentils if you’d like to keep things vegetarian. My biggest recommendation, though, is fo make sure to sprinkle it with more fresh dill and feta right when it comes out of the oven before you serve it. There’s something about the contrast of the fresh, wet, salty feta with the bright herbaceous dill and the soft steaming summer squash that’s just heavenly. Hope you enjoy it, my friend!

Ingredients

  • 5 medium-sized summer squash
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 fresh cayenne peppers thinly sliced, (can substitute any fresh hot pepper, such as jalapeno, adjusting quantity to your heat-liking)
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 4 ounces tomatoes chopped
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 8 ounces feta cheese crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Instructions

  1. For round summer squash, such as ‘rond de nice’ and ‘patty pan’, cut the top 1/4 off the squash and use a metal spoon to scoop out and compost the soft seedy pulp. For long summer squash like zucchini, lay the zucchini on it’s side and cut the top 1/3 off length-wise. Use the previous instructions to scoop out and discard the seedy pulp. Set the squash aside in a medium casserole baking dish, and preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and transparent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to coat, and continue sautéing until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the cayenne peppers and stir to combine. Cook until the peppers softened, about 5 minutes more, then add the ground turkey and cook until it’s nearly cooked through, breaking it apart with the end of your wooden stirring spoon as it cooks. Add the tomatoes, rice, paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, the basil, and half of the dill and stir to combine. Add 6 ounces of the feta (3/4 of it) and stir until *just* evenly mixed throughout.
  3. Spoon the filling into the squash in the pan, and then spoon any additional filling into the pan around the squash, creating a little nest of filling around each squash. Add the chicken stock to the pan, place the pan in the oven, and bake until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork and the skin is very slightly wrinkled, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining dill and feta, and serve immediately.
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