I have to admit, I do not have much of a green thumb.
When it comes to gardening, I am not the one to turn to for a gorgeous, overflowing bounty of fresh produce. That’s more my husband’s domain. I swear, he was just meant to be a gardener.
And of all the summer vegetables, our hands-down favorite is zucchini.
First off, the plants are really strong and they grow to be huge in our yard. You can learn more about growing your own here on our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
Second, they are versatile to work with in the kitchen. You can use them in everything, from sweet to savory recipes, including this tasty vegetarian dinner entree that totally screams summertime.
I don’t know about you, but lately, we have really been trying to eat healthier. And I’m not just talking about cutting down portions and not ordering takeout as often.
We are making constant, continual efforts to create creative, healthy meals at home. It’s one of those changes that we’ve always been meaning to make, but haven’t found the motivation to do so – until we finally stepped on the scale recently.
Neither of us had realized that we’d let ourselves get a little too lax lately, not in a quantifiable way, at least… (Once you get into your 30s, your metabolism really isn’t what it used to be, let me tell you.) Now it’s time to make conscious choices that are good for us!
I’m sure you’ve heard of zucchini boats before, but these “boats” are a little different than what you might imagine. Instead of each summer squash being sliced in half and carving out the goodness in the center, presenting the fillings on top of thick slices allows you to use all of the vegetable.
That way, you aren’t wasting any of your lovely summer produce.
This is one of the new, healthier meals that we’ve added to our weekly menu rotation, and I love it because it’s meatless. The combination of the zucchini with mushrooms, bell peppers, seasonings, and mozzarella is so straightforward. But when you take a bite, I promise you will think it’s a much more complex recipe, since it’s so full of flavor.
Got picky eaters in your house? With any luck, you might be able to convince them that these “boats” are akin to their favorite pizza, with gooey, melted cheese on top. A wonderful way to eat your veggies, if you ask me!
The peppers and mushrooms that are sauteed together provide textural heartiness that contrasts well with the light and soft roasted zucchini. This is the kind of recipe that really highlights the vegetables and their natural flavors, which is something I can’t seem to get enough of in the summertime.
In my opinion, dishes like this one offer one of the best ways to go low-carb and meat-free, without feeling like you are missing something on the plate.
It’s such a refreshing and hearty dish, you won’t miss even miss the meat! And if you’re looking for a vegan or lactose-free option, you can swap out the mozzarella for dairy-free cheese.
The only question is, will you be growing all of the vegetables for this dish in your own garden this summer? I’m hoping my husband says yes, when I ask him to plant it all and take care of it this year, and next year, and the year after that…Print
Zucchini mushroom pepper “boats” with mozzarella are a simple and satisfying way to make the most of your fresh summer produce this year.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 2 medium zucchini squash
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 5 baby bella or 7 cremini mushrooms, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with the melted coconut oil.
- Slice zucchini vertically to make 3 or 4 slices from each one. Lay slices (skin side up for end pieces) in the prepared pan in a single layer without overlapping. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, remaining salt and pepper, and red chili flakes. Saute for about 10 minutes, until golden and soft. Remove from heat.
- Remove pan from oven, flip squash slices over carefully, add mushroom mixture on top of each, and top with mozzarella slices. Broil for 5 minutes on high, until melted and bubbly on top. Serve immediately.
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Stovetop/Baking
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: vegetarian, zucchini, mushroom, mozzarella, pepper
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Dice Mushrooms and Peppers, Slice Cheese, And Measure Remaining Ingredients
Thoroughly wash the mushrooms, and remove any dirt. Pat them dry with paper towels, remove the stems, and dice them.
Remove the stem and seeds from half of a red bell pepper and dice it.
Thinly slice 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Preheat your oven to 375˚F.
Melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Use the oil to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Step 2 – Slice and Bake Zucchini
Slice the zucchini vertically into 3 to 4 slices each. Add the slices to the prepared baking pan in an even layer, without any overlap.
Sprinkle the slices evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Place the pan in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.
Step 3 – Cook Mushrooms and Peppers
While the squash is roasting, melt the remaining coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, bell pepper, remaining salt and pepper, and red chili flakes.
Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden and soft.
A large pan is key here, so you can lightly brown the vegetables, rather than steaming them like you would if they were crowded into the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Step 4 – Top with Mushroom Mixture and Cheese
Flip the slices of zucchini.
Top each evenly with the mushroom mixture, then place a layer of thinly sliced mozzarella on top of that.
Step 5 – Broil
Broil for 5 minutes on High. The cheese should be melted and bubbly on top. Serve right away.
Feel Up Your Vegetables Before You Pick Them
I couldn’t resist throwing that in for a little chuckle there… Seriously though, do you know how to figure out if a zucchini is ripe?
Here are some tips to make sure you get the right ones, whether you are choosing them from your garden or the produce section at the grocery store:
- Make sure the zucchini is a uniform green color.
- Select squash that are fairly firm and not too soft. These should be a little more flexible than a cucumber, but not by too much.
- Avoid soft summer squash. Overripe options and those that have been picked too long ago will rot quickly. If they’re softening on the vine in your own garden, pick and eat them right away!
- Avoid any with bruises, cuts, or marks on the skin. Once the skin is broken, they will go bad pretty quickly. When picking from your own garden, cut away any damaged portions and use these right away.
Size is the one thing that is totally up to you. Different cultivars will develop to different sizes, so check your seed packets so you’ll know what to look for in your own veggie patch, or strike up a conversation at the local farmers market to find out what’s available.
Some people like the flavor and texture of the smaller ones, whereas others like the subtle sweetness of larger ones. Bigger squash are better for this recipe if you’re going for that boat effect, but smaller ones could also be used to create more of a standard casserole with smaller pieces of vegetables throughout.
Looking for even more fresh and delicious zucchini dishes to use up the season’s bounty? You’ve come to the right place! Get started with these for your next dinner:
- Raw Zucchini and Feta Salad
- Zucchini Ribbons with Vegan Pesto Alfredo
- Light and Lemony Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Zucchini and Tomatoes
Do you grow your own summer squash, or do you defer to the local greengrocer for your produce? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you try it.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on May 19, 2014. Last updated: May 20, 2021 at 16:42 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.