I just made this dish for company. I was inspired by the recipe by Sarah Pflugradt MS, RDN, LDN, for Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini Cups in Food and Nutrition Magazine. However, instead of stuffing the cups with beef and rice, I wanted to try a plant-based, whole foods approach. I planned to use the inside of the zucchini, plus more vegetables, seasonings, chopped walnuts, and then wasn’t sure how to best make the ingredients stick together. Inspiration struck on a walk, when I decided to try lentils. Not just any lentils, but red ones, which easily cook into a creamy consistency. And the result is delicious! I think the walnuts and mushrooms make these hearty and savory.
Scooping the inside of the zucchini cups was fun, but a little challenging if your goal is to make them as photo-worthy as Food and Nutrition Mag. I used a melon baller. I think this would be a good way to use up extra zucchini if you are swimming in it.
I cooked the lentils and vegetables in a rice cooker first. This allows the lentils to soften and partially break down. The vegetables soften as well. Then, I stuffed the zucchini and simmered them in a skillet with enough water so they wouldn’t burn. I imagine they could be baked in the oven too, but I advise covering with foil so they don’t dry out.
Using lentils as a binder adds fiber, protein, folate and a little iron without the fat of oil or cholesterol of eggs. I really like cooking them because they don’t have to be pre-soaked like dry beans. Definitely easier to use for a weeknight meal!
Whether you are having a celebration at your home or want to bring something healthy and different to an office pot-luck or your friends’ or family’s gathering, try this!
Lentil and Walnut Stuffed Zucchini Cups
- 3 zucchini, sliced in 1½-inch pieces
- 6 cremini mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup celery with leaves, diced
- ½ cup onions, diced
- 5 baby carrots, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup red lentils, raw
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
- A dash each of black pepper and salt
- ⅛ teaspoon rosemary, dried
- Scoop out the middle of each zucchini piece. Chop the inside of the zucchini roughly. Place chopped zucchini, mushrooms, celery, onions, carrots, garlic, lentils and water into a rice cooker. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
- Mix in the walnuts, salt, pepper and rosemary. Allow mixture to cool slightly for easier handling.
- Using a tablespoon or teaspoon, stuff the zucchini cups with the filling. Mound the filling onto the top.
- Fill a large skillet with about a half of an inch of water. Add the filled zucchini cups. Cook over low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes. The zucchini should be soft.