Welcome to Cooking Skool, a four-week series designed for young cooks. Each week serves up three themed recipes and how-to videos. Your kitchen guide is LNP | LancasterOnline food writer Kim O’Donnel, who walks you through every step of the way. Together, we’ll try new things, get creative and learn some math, science and history in between. Belly up to the counter and join us for our kitchen adventure!
In this third week of our series, we are taking things to a new level; we are making dinner. For many of us, dinner is the main meal of the day, when we gather as a family to talk about the day and refuel after work or school.
You may notice that some of this week’s recipes involve a few more steps. We are building upon our one-pot-and-pan skills and taking on maybe two pans and learning some new techniques. None of it is difficult, but maybe this week, you grab a partner to join you in the kitchen. After all, two sets of hands are more fun and gets dinner on the table in a flash.
On this week’s menu: Homemade chicken strips, beans and rice and zucchini boats.
Maybe they’re more like canoes, but the idea behind this recipe is that zucchini make great edible containers, which means we can hollow them out and stuff them for dinner. You can put all kinds of things inside — corn, black beans, tomatoes, rice, leftover ground beef, or just cheese and breadcrumbs. If you like this method, you can try it with bell peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
- Zucchini is a type of summer squash. Summer squash are part of the cucurbit (pronounced “CUE-ker-bit”) plant family, which means they are related to cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelon. Most zucchini are green, but you may see some that are yellow or striped.
- The zucchini grows on a vine and in hot weather can become enormous. I have seen one as big as a baseball bat!
Small spoon; sharp knife; sheet pan; silicone brush; bowl for filling.
The trick is to cook the zucchini so it’s tender before stuffing. We do that one of two ways: by placing it under the oven broiler or on the grill.
Most ovens have a broil setting, which blasts very high heat from coils located on the roof of the oven. (Sometimes the heat comes from the bottom.) It cooks food very quickly and can give a charred appearance, like on a grill. Keep your eyes peeled on the zucchini as it cooks to make sure it does not burn.
You get two boats from each zucchini, an amount I recommend per person if serving as a main course. I prefer medium zucchini— between 6 and 8 inches — for this recipe.
No silicone brush in the house? No problem. Place a few tablespoons of oil in a small bowl. Dip your fingers into the bowl and slather the zucchini with the oil.
Makes 4 main-course servings.
- 4 medium zucchini (about 6 inches in length)
- Oil for brushing
- Filling options: reserved zucchini pulp; 6 to 10 cherry tomatoes, halved; 1 cup corn kernels; 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans; 1/2 cup grated cheese of choice; 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
With a sharp knife, remove both ends of the zucchini. Carefully cut in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop the pulp from each zucchini half. Set aside for the filling, if using.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Pour a few tablespoons of oil into a small bowl and brush the inside of the zucchini with oil. Place on the pan, oiled side up, and sprinkle with salt.
Prepare for broiling: Make sure that the top oven rack is about 6 inches away from the broiler coils. Shut the oven door and adjust the temperature to the broiler setting. (No broiler? Ask an adult to preheat a gas grill to 350 F and cook cut side down.)
Place the pan in the oven and broil until the zucchini begin to brown at the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
Carefully remove from the oven and let cool while you work on the fillings. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F.
If using a few items for filling, consider stirring together in a small bowl before placing in the boat. If using cheese and breadcrumbs, place on top so they can brown. Be careful not to overstuff.
Bake the zucchini boats until warmed through and the tops are golden, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.