Usually, when I collect recipes, I pick main dishes. Then, when I cook, I pair the main dish with a fresh vegetable and maybe a starch or grain. Nothing exciting, fancy, or clever. Just simple stuff to fill up the plate with added nutrients.
Then I decided I was bored with those things. So I started a Pinterest Board I call "Veggie and Side Dish Yums" and started searching out more creative sides. This is a recipe I pinned in there several months ago, even before the Summer Squash Series was a thing.
This Cooking Classy recipe couldn't be easier. But it's creative and whimsical, too. And it tastes good. For that reason, I love it. Not to mention, it's so easy to customize with regard to yield. I usually only use two small zucchinis for my family of four, but one day I realized I only had one zucchini in the crisper, so I sliced it into four pieces and it worked! And today, since I had some leftover zucchini slices (in rounds), I made bite-sized pizzas. If you're feeding a crowd/bringing something to a pot-luck/serving appetizers/have a big family, by all means, make a lot. If you just need a side dish for your family of four or a relatively healthy after-school snack, cut the recipe back. This is one of those things that you don't truly need the recipe to execute, except maybe for the idea and cook times. Once you learn it, you're good to go.
I'm going to share it the way I usually do it, for a side dish for 4. But feel free to visit the recipe linked above if you need to feed a crowd.
Zucchini Pizza Boats
Yield: 4 boats (1 boat per person as a side dish)
2 medium zucchini or yellow squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup marinara sauce (I use the Contadina Pizza Squeeze because it's easy to work with)
1/2-2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mini pepperoni slices (I use the Hormel baby ones)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or silicon liner. Set aside.
2. Cut each zucchini into halves lengthwise. (If you prefer thinner zucchinis, you can also cut those halves in half again, also lengthwise, to get four thinner boats.) Use paper towels to pat dry the cut portion. Place on prepared baking sheet.
3. In a small dish, stir together olive oil and garlic then brush lightly over tops of zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Sprinkle tops with mozzarella cheese. (The original recipe also uses Parmesan cheese on top of the mozzarella, but I always forget to do that step.) Top with pepperoni slices (as per original recipe, place them toward the center of your boat since the cheese melts and spreads).
(That's an open-face "Italian Sloppy Joe" next to the boat. It was tasty. You can find the recipe here.
I substituted ground chicken for ground beef, and provolone slices for mozzarella, but otherwise followed the recipe.)
You'll notice in my pictures that this time I used a yellow squash (which I cut into four quarter inch slices instead of in half) as well as some zucchini rounds I had leftover from the flatbread I shared yesterday. Those made adorable little bite-sized "pizzas." When I make the full-sized boats, I usually bake them for almost the full 18 minutes. I went with 12 minutes this time (for my photo shoot run) because of those thin rounds. At 12 minutes, the rounds were just a tad less firm than I would have preferred (they might have been ready at 10 minutes), and the quarter inch thick squash was crisp tender (perfectly fine, but my preferences are slightly more tender-- those would've probably been perfect for me at 14 or 15 minutes.)
These are a popular side dish at my house. My younger daughter ate a boat and three bites herself!
Definitely try these. Easy. Tasty. Cute. Healthy-ish. It's a squash miracle!
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Thanks to all for your thoughts.