Seafood-Stuffed Zucchini Baskets

Zukkīni no Surimi-Zumé

American summer gardens are often overrun by a bountiful zucchini crop. Here is another, and quite different, way of using that bounty. Serve these seafood-filled “baskets” with grilled chicken or steaks, or by themselves as part of a buffet or picnic basket.

Ingredients

  • 3 slender, straight zucchini with bright, blemish-free skin
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Seafood Paste

  • 2-3 large shrimp, about 3 ounces in their shells
  • 3 ounces bay scallops
  • 1 teaspoon shiro miso (light fermented bean paste)
  • 2 teaspoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  • soy sauce for dipping, optional

Method

  1. Slice away the stem end of the zucchini, and use the piece to rub the cut edges together in a circular motion. This is the Japanese method of eliminating some of the vegetable’s bitterness. Rinse away the white foam that forms. Trim off the other end of each zucchini. Cut each zucchini into four or five 1½- to 2-inch lengths, for a total of 12-15 segments.
  2. Using a melon bailer, scoop out the seeds from each segment of zucchini, being careful not to poke a hole through the bottom. Lightly dust the inside of the scooped-out zucchini “baskets” with cornstarch.
  3. Peel and devein the shrimp; cut them into small pieces. Place the shrimp and scallops in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse/process to blend. Add the bean paste and pulse/process again. Mix the cornstarch with the rice wine, add this to the seafood paste, and pulse/process to incorporate well.
  4. Fill the scooped-out portion of each zucchini basket with the seafood mixture. Pack it smoothly and level with the top.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or wok to about 370 degrees. Test with a bit of the seafood mixture: It should sink ever so slightly, rise immediately, then sizzle and puff slightly on the surface, coloring slowly. Deep-fry the stuffed zucchini, three or four at a time. Fry for about 1½ minutes, turning once or twice during that time. (You can test for doneness by spearing the center with a sharp toothpick; it should come out clean.) Drain the zucchini well.
  6. Serve three to five baskets per portion, with a lemon wedge. Some Japanese prefer serving fried foods with ponzu, which is a sauce made from equal parts of citron (lemon) juice and soy sauce.

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