Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Ripe Olives and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Olives are one of those foods that people usually have a definite opinion about. 

You know, the kind of food that, upon the mention of them, people either drop everything they are doing to proclaim their love for all things olive or they glare at you in disbelief that you even mentioned the word in their presence. 

People love to have a definite opinion about a food when they  haven't even given the food a fair chance. Usually, when people have that strong of a negative opinion about food, they haven't had it in the right dish. 

Whichever category you fit into, olive lover or olive hater, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. If you're an olive lover, I don't need to convince you. If you're an olive hater, I think this recipe might begin to persuade you to give them a try once in a while.  

Olives are a great versatile ingredient to keep in your kitchen as a pantry staple. They serve two purposes: 1. they can add an extra layer of flavor and texture to your recipes; and 2. olives contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, 0.25 mg of vitamin E per serving, 0.49 mg of iron per serving, 60 IU of vitamin A per serving, and 0.5 g of fiber per serving. 

This recipe combines California Black Ripe Olives with other key Mediterranean flavors from peperoncinis, pine nuts, arugula, lemon, and red pepper flakes. This recipe gets a protein boost from the chickpeas and quinoa making it perfect for a meatless main meal. 

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3-4 medium zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups arugula

1-2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons pine nuts

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup California Black Ripe Olives, roughly chopped

1/2 cup peperoncinis, chopped

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Optional Breadcrumb Topping:

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small pot, combine quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 18 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. 

2. While the quinoa cooks, prepare the zucchini, make the arugula pesto, and prepare the breadcrumb topping. To prepare the zucchini, cut off the ends and  slice in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the inside leaving about 1/4 inch rim of zucchini flesh. Place zucchini on a lined baking sheet.  Drizzle zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. To make the arugula pesto, pulse arugula, garlic, and pine nuts together in a food processor until finely chopped. With the food processor running, gradually pour in olive oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place in a small bowl and set aside. 

4. To make the optional breadcrumb topping, combine breadcrumbs and olive oil in a small bowl and mix until breadcrumbs are coated in olive oil. 

5.  When the quinoa is done cooking, combine quinoa, olives, peperoncinis, chickpeas, lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes , if using, and arugula pesto to taste, I used about 1/4 cup. 

6. Spoon filling into zucchini. Cover baking sheet with foil and bake for 30 minutes, covered. After 30 minutes, uncover, add breadcrumb topping to the top of zucchini, if using, and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes, uncovered.