Saturday night, Ryan and I had a date night. Sure, we got out to eat probably once a week or so, but there are few times when we really set aside a night as an actual date night. What’s the difference? The amount of effort that goes into it. You see, usually when we go out it’s because we were out running errands all day and don’t feel like cooking, and our dinner usually consists of some kind of bar food or other equally unimpressive chain restaurant equivalent. (Not that there is anything wrong with queso, wings, and beer; it just doesn’t exactly scream romance or haute cuisine, ya know?) Despite our love of food, we rarely eat at any place that would warrant the approval of true foodies.
This weekend, however, we felt we had to step outside the box. Ryan called me early in the week to tell me that there was a taping of a 10th anniversary special of “Good Eats” on Saturday evening, and he asked if I was interested in going. Alton Brown is from the Atlanta area, and, I believe, does most of his tapings locally. I’m not sure where his studio is, but I always recognize my local Whole Foods and various Publix grocery stores when he shoots his shopping scenes. In fact, we ran into him once while shopping at Pier One. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was him until he had already passed. Such is life. Honestly though, I’m not a huge fan of Alton Brown. Blasphemy, I know. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love the concept of his show. I admire his demonstrations, MacGyver-ness, and ability to make learning about the why’s and how’s fun. However, I’ve tried a few of his recipes with nothing but FAIL, and ever since I read an article about him in the local newspaper, I can’t shake the feeling that he is sort of full of himself and obnoxious. As much fun as the show on Saturday was, it sort of cemented my opinion of him as a person. All was redeemed by the presence of Ted Allen through the entirety of the taping though!
Since the main component of our date night centered around food, we felt like the actual dining experience should also be of the more interesting variety. In other words: no chain restaurants or fries allowed. We decided to venture into the downtown area of a very small town and try Henry’s Louisiana Grill. When we first got there, we were a little nervous because the hostess asked us if we had reservations. (Note: there are very few restaurants around here that require or even accept reservations.) Now, this place does not look like the type of place that would serve good food let alone take reservations. Luckily, since it was quite early and it was only the two of us, we were able to be seated without reservations.
Never judge a book by its cover; that’s what your mother always told you, right? Well, this is the perfect example of the truth in that statement. This tiny little restaurant may not look like much, but it sure does exceed all the expectations I had and rave reviews I had heard. We started with the Seafood Fondeaux. As soon as the first bite was in my mouth, I let out this guttural sound that could only be interpreted as “this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten”. Ryan agreed, and we decided that between our recent trip to Illinois and the amazing Cajun restaurant we were enjoying, we have been exposed to more amazing food in the past couple weeks than in the entire year before that.
In my mind, those kinds of amazing meals really only come from restaurants. Maybe it’s because they take care of preparing the meal, serving it to you, and then cleaning up afterwards. There is an ease to it all that allows me to fully enjoy the food without thinking about how much work went into it or how messy the kitchen is. When I said this to Ryan, he surprised me. He said, “Well, that stuffed zucchini you made gave me the same reaction.”
Two weeks ago, on a Thursday, which is when Ryan has class until 11pm, I made stuffed zucchini. I figured, since I was on my own for dinner, I could make something that I wasn’t sure Ryan would like. The recipe made two servings, and, if I decided he wouldn’t like it, I could eat the rest leftover, or I could send it with him to work if it turned out well. The next day, I sent it with him. I think he was a little hesitant about trying it, just as I was hesitant about sending it with him, because he didn’t eat it that day. On Monday I got a text message that said, “OMG the zucchini is AMAZING. Every bite I take is better than the last.” I know he usually enjoys most of the food I make, but this was, by far, the best reaction I had ever gotten from a meal I prepared. He carried on about it for the rest of the afternoon, and I felt about as proud and accomplished as I ever have.
I have to agree that this recipe was quite delicious even though it’s not something I was sure about when I started; it’s amazing what I’m willing to try when I have ingredients in the fridge that need to be used up. There were 2 zucchini and half a pound of ground turkey in my fridge just waiting to be used, but I had no idea what to do with them until I (re)found this recipe browsing through my delicious bookmarks. I strayed from the original recipe a little by adding extra seasonings to the turkey in an attempt to make it more like turkey sausage. The filling was amazing; I am considering never buying sausage again and just using this mixture in its place. It wasn’t incredibly spicy but did have a nice kick to it. I also added some Asiago cheese because, well, why not? The one thing I was most concerned about was the texture of the zucchini; I know Ryan likes zucchini, but he is also picky about the texture of it since it can go soggy pretty easily. Luckily it turned out perfectly – tender but not overdone. I’m surprised to have found yet another vegetable-centric recipe that Ryan not only likes but loves! It was a little time-intensive because you have to cook the meat and veggies then let it cool down before adding the egg and cheese; then there is still the baking time. With praise like I received, however, it was well worth it.
2 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon light butter
½ small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine
8 ounces lean ground turkey
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon fennel seed
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Asiago cheese, shredded
1 egg white
4 teaspoons seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400.
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4″ thick. Arrange in a baking dish. Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini in small pieces.
In a large saute pan, melt butter and add onion and garlic. Cook on a medium-low flame for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add chopped zucchini and season with a pinch of salt, cook about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook until it reduces. Add ground turkey and season with salt and pepper, cooking until turkey is white, breaking up in smaller pieces. Add remaining spices; mix well and cook another minute.
Place turkey meat in a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool. When cooled, add cheeses and egg white; mix well. Using a spoon, fill hollowed zucchinis with stuffing, pressing firmly and top with bread crumbs. Place chicken broth in bottom of the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Watching closely, broil for last minute or two of bake time to get a crunchy, golden top.
Source: Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
2 servings | 7 POINTS
[Note: I do want to take just a minute to make a comment about WW POINTS information. I calculate the POINTS in the online Plan Manager/Recipe Builder based on the ingredients I used in each recipe. I noticed that the blogger I got this recipe from listed the POINTS as much lower. While I did add a few different things to the recipe, even as written I was not able to get the POINTS total that she did, and I’m sure there a number of factors that could contribute to this difference. I encourage anyone who is on the WW program or tracking WW POINTS to calculate the POINTS for each recipe they make based on the exact ingredients they use for the most accurate POINTS total.]