Food You Can Eat: “Stuffed Zucchini With Plenty of Cheese” 

This is best served with "margs"

Doesn't this look heavenly? It looks like the symbol for Pisces, which I am.

Every Cinco de Mayo (which is tomorrow, 5th May) I try to make something that Americans think might be Mexican but really isn’t, or at a stretch is Tex-Mex when made the American way. My own little twisted habit, and I have many. Since this year it falls on a Friday I wanted to do something Pescatarian. I don’t like the idea of not putting beef or chicken into the usual standards, tacos, enchiladas, etc., so I thought I’d go with cheese quesadillas. Boring, though. Then I came across this.

This, friends, is from a 1986 advertising campaign from the American Dairy Farmers National Dairy Board. What’s interesting about American agriculture is that in many ways how it works mirrors what goes on in those dreaded European Socialist countries, a combo of cartels and lavish financial support from the state. Where we differ is that in Europe there are way more family farms (and dairies), whereas in America two or three very large and very wealthy conglomerates control a huge portion of what is consumed from domestic sources. So while France, for example, may be propping up the incomes of hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions, we’re spending way more to enrich the executives and shareholders from a very small slice of the population. It is American Exceptionalism!

The ad tells us:

Perhaps the most uniquely American cheese is mild, mellow Monterey Jack. Smooth enough to melt over fresh steamed vegetables, and delicate enough to enhance corn muffins.

Oh, they got that right, but I like Monterey Jack cheese so I have no complaints. What else?

If you prefer wild to mild, taste what happens when jalapeno and red peppers are blended in with Monterey Jack to create a zingy, more colorful variety that’s perfect for Mexican dishes.

They really should have put “Mexican” in quotes but it was 1986, Morning in America. “Mexican” cuisine really same into its own in the 1980s, with all sorts of chain restaurants offering nachos and “guac” and salsa and Taco Bell. I think I had my first burrito in the late 1980s, and Better Half and I used to go to a restaurant that served nothing but fajitas, which seemed very trendy at the time. Then, in the 1990s, I made him come with me to Mexico City, much against his will, where I was like Anthony Bourdain, consuming everything in sight. Not one single bout of food poisoning or Montezuma’s Revenge, but I have a cast-iron stomach. Poor Better Half did develop a sinus infection, from the altitude and the smog, but luckily the pharmacies had all sorts of great remedies so I was able to keep him medicated and sleeping in the hotel room while I went out and ate even more food.

Ah, memories. Anyway, I know that Butcher has generously provided us with zucchini recipes in the past, but here’s another one.

Ingredients

3 medium-sized zucchini

2 tablespoons of butter

1 cup of chopped fresh mushrooms

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano, crushed

4 ounces of shredded Monterey Jack

2 tablespoons of chopped pimento

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Cook whole zucchini in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes, or until tender; drain.

Cut in half length-wise.

Optional: For the zucchini curl, cut a thin horizontal slice from top of each zucchini half, cutting to but not through each end; roll up.

Scoop out the centers, leaving a 1/4-inch shell: chop center portion and set them aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet; saute mushrooms about 3 minutes or until tender.

Stir in flour, oregano; remove from heat.

Stir in Monterey Jack cheese and pimento; stir in the reserved chopped zucchini.

Heat mixture through.

Preheat broiler.

Fill zucchini shells, using approximately 1/4 cup filling for each.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Broil several inches from source of heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Note: Stuffed zucchini may be assembled in advance, covered and refrigerated up to 4 hours. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes instead of 3 to 5.

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12 Comments

    • And Monterey Jack! It kind of is the Kraft cheese product singles of the cheese world. It melts well, keeps forever, and even the “spiced” version is mild enough for any palate. Someone I know very well (me) has been known to prepare a little Monterey Jack cheese and crackers platter for breakfast while his cellmate is at the gym doing the exact opposite of what I would do. Faithful Hound is also a huge fan, but he’s even more omnivorous than I am, and I could probably present him with three-month-old dead protein and he’d devour it with great enthusiasm.

  1. I have no problem with mushrooms, but I’m a bit surprised a marketing organization like Dairy Board uses them instead of a less polarizing ingredient like breadcrumbs or, I don’t know, smashed Fritos.

    • It was the 80s and suddenly we were all eating mushrooms. When I was growing up (here we go again) there was a pizza hangout in my hometown that only served two types of pizza, cheese and pepperoni. That was enough for us. I had occasion to go back circa 1987 and my mother and siblings and I went there for old time’s sake and they had added mushroom pizza to the menu. They didn’t actually have menus; you were supposed to know what you were doing, but I noticed a couple at a nearby table eating mushroom pizza so I asked about it. So that now made three options.

      • An addendum: I just remembered that when the lockdowns ended whenever, 2021 or something, one of my sisters went to the pizza hangout and it was mobbed. She knew what she wanted, she was probably brought there in infancy. A couple at the next table asked for a menu and to her astonishment the waitress produced one! They now have five or six versions of pizza, she reported. The bar still serves drinks in miniature versions of a Tom Collins glass, that hasn’t changed. They have expanded their beer offerings to include “foreign” brands of dubious provenance, like Heineken and Corona, so that’s also new, but that beer is also served in those small Tom Collins glasses. And they got rid of the air hockey game in the back and the charming phone booth, from which many a man, I’m sure, drunkenly phoned his wife to explain that he was working late and would not be home for dinner on time.

  2. I love Monterey Jack, but here in the western U.S., most restaurants go to pepper Jack, which does not do anything for me.

    Also, I’m curious what role the flour is fulfilling in this recipe. 

    • It’s usually a thickener or a binder. I’ve come across Italian recipes that recommend adding a little flour to a sauce so that it won’t come out so runny. Or you could just put the sauce on simmer to boil off the liquid but adding the flour can reduce the sauce prep time by up to an hour.

    • One of my earliest culinary memories is the day my mother presented us with broccoli in a cheese sauce. I think it was probably a frozen supermarket special and heated up in the oven, because my mother didn’t acquire a microwave until some time in the 1980s. The cheese sauce was revelation to me.

    • cauliflower/brocolli cheese is considered a meal here

      i mean i consider both delicious in their own right…..but omg….drowned in cheese sauce….heaven

      just one brocolli and one cauliflower and a fuckload of cheese sauce….its like…veggi fondue

      and…after dins i can go hand feed the bun buns the off cuts at the kiddy farm

      never stops being cute

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