I’ve been married to my husband for two and a half years (and we dated for more than two) and I still have no concrete, comfortable name for my momma-in-law. Of course, she has a legitimate name. Her name is Sharon. But that’s too…normal…for me. If we’re gonna be BBOPs (brothers-in-law, did I get this right? BBOP? Best buddy ol’ pal?), then we need cool, I-really-know-ya names for each other. For me, it’s easy: Jessa. I love that nickname and love that just about everyone calls me that. But for her? Hmm. Shar Bear? Too soft. Mom? Too Cosby. Meme? Too…early. I think the closest thing we have right now is Mamacita. So, for the rest of this post, I will refer to my momma-in-law as Mamacita.
Mamacita is a warrior among men. Fo’ real. She’s married and raised four crazy boys. First of all, how do you cook for five raging, bottomless pit men…everyday? My fridge is constantly stuffed to the brim as it is. And what does a school morning look like? Sheesh. I have trouble getting my tired ol’ body out of the bed every morning and I’m just one person. Lordy, I hope when I have kids I develop these super mom powers like so many women have (To those women: you’re awesome. I don’t see how you do it. You have the hardest job in the world). Even today, when those four boys are grown, dinner still sometimes consists of flying grapes and licked plates and random snickering, all the while, Mamacita is quietly enjoying the conversation and meal. Warrior among men, people.
Several Christmases ago, Mamacita created a cookbook to give out as gifts. It was a compilation of family recipes, some created by older generations, others simply favorites from various cookbooks. One of the recipes in the book, somewhere down the line given credit to Southern Living, is for zucchini boats. It was one of my husband’s favorite dishes as a child and was often thought of, in his mind, as the main course. It has the same concept as a deviled egg. Cook. Remove middle. Mix middle with other yummy things. Return middle. I think zucchini boats are gonna stay in the family for a while. Thanks, Mamacita!
adapted from Southern Living
yield: 8 boats prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 25 minutes
1/2 lb fresh spinach
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
5 drops hot sauce
1 tbsp shredded Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350º. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the spinach with just a touch of water. Cover. Cook until soft and wilted, about 2 minutes. Lay the spinach on paper towels and, when cool enough to handle, gently squeeze out the excess water. Roughly chop and set aside.
Place the zucchini in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cool, and trim off the stems. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and seeds, leaving 1/4-1/2 inch wall. Chop the pulp and drain the same way you did with the spinach.
Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat and add the onion, along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in the cream and milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly. Add spinach, zucchini pulp, cheese, and hot sauce and stir until evenly heated and combined.
Place zucchini shells in a greased baking dish. Fill shells with spinach mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
I forgot to mention that Mamacita is a garden master. Have a question about how to raise a plant? Ask Mamacita. Need to know about the migration patterns of a Monarch? Ask Mamacita. To my readers who are birds: Mamacita’s backyard is a rich, flowing paradise of never-ending seed and sturdy perches and fat, juicy earthworms and endless drinks of cool water. Go live there.