Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not By Bread Alone

Tomorrow is the natal day of NoHandle, my dear brother who sometimes, including today, is a guest blogger here. Happy Birthday a day early NoHandle. He and I were close as children (except for when he was taking delight in teasing me) and I was always interested in and a bit in awe of his passion for electronics, such as ham radio. I still remember that when he went away to college that I offered to be the one to help clean his room because I was willing to take each dustpan of stuff swept from the floor and extract the transistors, radio tubes and bits of coated wire and save them for him for his return. Now we live too far away from each other to visit very often, but through the ease of the Internet, another magical (to me) electronic device, we can share our passion for cooking. He is an excellent cook and this time has given us another imaginative use of the seasonal favorite, zucchini, this time giving that excellent if prolific vegetable a chance to play at being another vegetable. Read on!

Not by Bread Alone

My last post talked about Zucchini bread as a vehicle to deal with the bounty of the fruit that seem to engulf us every year. The season is declining, but I wanted to talk about another aspect of this abundance, overly large fruit, and how to deal with that.

A number of years ago my uncle Ray (I usually call him my obscure relative, because he is my mom's half-sister's husband. But practically speaking, he's my uncle.) brought me a zucchini from his garden that must have eluded his attention for quite a while. If you garden, you've had that happen too. It was so big that its seeds were well established, the squash bigger than my forearm. I hadn't cooked zucchini before, at least one that large, and I was somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed. My inspiration was eggplant, for which the Italians (he's one) have a politically incorrect nickname, and he explained that too. What I did was substitute zucchini for the eggplant in Eggplant Parmesan. First I extracted the seeds, then sliced the rest long-ways, and layered the strips with spaghetti sauce, topped with cheese, both mozzarella and Parmesan, and baked.

When another similar but somewhat smaller renegade appeared in my garden recently, I decided to replicate that earlier recipe. BTW, the one in the picture is smaller yet; you can use them too, it just may take more than one. 

The best recipe I found online (thanks Kraft) also included sliced mushrooms, and that sounded good to me, so I used that to re-inspire my efforts. In this case, the seeds weren't a problem so I simply sliced the zucchini using a mandolin, set to about a 1/4 inch thickness, not even peeling, and stacked them up to assemble the dish. 

I put a layer of them down in a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking dish, covering the bottom, and topped them with sliced mushrooms, and sprinkled them lightly with jarred spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce works too, and is about the right amount; almost any sort will do.

 A word about mushrooms though. I chose the largest whole white mushrooms I could find and sliced them about as thick as the zucchini, but by hand. I could have used pre-sliced mushrooms, but they are smaller, thicker, and wouldn't cover as well. You could slice Portobellos too, they are nice, and are what you see in the photos here.

Continue alternately stacking zucchini strips, sliced mushrooms and sauce until you run out of zucchini (about three layers). Go gently with the sauce, it doesn't take as much as you might think. Bake until the veggies are tender. 

Finally, sprinkle liberally with  mozzarella, and top that with the Parmesan. I used more than the recipe called for because that is the signature of the dish, after all. Then back to the oven to melt and brown the topping. You can also just put the cheese on before baking, and get a nice browning.

Serving is a matter of cutting across the vegetable strips and moving carefully to a plate. You can serve four to six people with a single zucchini, depending on how much they like their veggies. If there aren't that many of you, the leftovers are great too.

1 lb. large, (or if larger, seeded) zucchini, up to 1.5 lb., sliced about 1/4 inch thick
½ lb. large mushrooms sliced
1 cup of your favorite spaghetti or pizza sauce
1 cup of low-moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (10-12 ounces)
½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (not the ground stuff) better quality helps; I used a Reggiano.


Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the vegetables and sauce in the dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Top with the cheeses. Return to the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or so, until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Cut into portions and serve immediately.

1 comment :

  1. Ah, 'tis the season. I've been making eggplant cutlets - actually breaded and fried thickly sliced eggplant - and it works well in sandwiches with Parmesan or mozzarella or just on its own with a bit of tomato sauce. While I HOPE not to find any gigantic baseball-bat zucchini (that's the politically correct name we called them), at least it's good to know that they're still edible!