2014 will forever be remembered as
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the year of the zucchini
If you're someone who's guilty of sneaking excess produce from the garden onto your neighbor's front porch, or into the gym bags of veggie lovers at exercise class, perhaps your mammoth-sized produce would be more graciously accepted if
it included a recipe
I have many to share, but this one, I believe, has become our zucchini favorite
“Alla Parmigiana” refers to the method of baking fried slices of vegetables, in layers, covered in a light yet rich tomato sauce with interspersed chunks of fresh mozzarella, and generous amounts of grated parmesan.
Eggplant (Parmigiana di Melanzane) is undoubtedly the veggie of choice in this dish considered to be one of Italy's most famous. What a surprise to learn its origins are still a topic of debate.
The name infers that it's cooked “Parma-style” and therefore hails from the Emilia-Romagna region in the north. “Alla Parmigiana” also refers to Parma's most famous cheese, parmesan, which is frequently included. However, those from the south also place dibs, due to their abundant use of eggplant.
While eggplant may reign supreme, zucchini is certainly a close second.
If one were to make a traditional version of zucchini parmesan, the slices would first be dipped in an egg/flour batter before being fried. While tradition certainly has its place, I'd encourage you to try a grilled approach. Not only does it lighten up the dish, but also allows the flavors of the other ingredients to really shine through
A few words on reducing the moisture in the zucchini slices, as it seems there are a few common ways to do it
1. Lightly salt the slices before putting them into a 350-degree oven for about ten minutes (or until they start to turn brown). Pull them out and pat with paper towels
2. Sprinkle them with kosher salt (about 1/2 tsp per pound of zucchini) and set them in a colander for 30 minutes. Then rinse and blot them dry with paper towels.
Since the zucchini tends to be watery, keep an eye when it comes to the other ingredients. For example, make sure to drain and pat dry your fresh mozzarella before using. Thin layers of tomato sauce can be your friend
If all else fails and your dish is still a bit on the watery side when it should otherwise be done, let it continue baking in a moderate oven for 5 or 10 minutes longer. It'll get there
~ Adapted from Food & Wine
Zucchine Alla Parmigiana (Zucchini Parmesan)
- 4 cups Tomato Basil Sauce (see recipe below)
- 6 medium-sized zucchini
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, cut into ¼" slices
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 12 oz fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced
- 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 handful mint leaves
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare and Grill the Zucchini
- Preheat the grill
- Slice the zucchini length-wise, about ⅓" thick (they'll need to be sturdy enough to hold up on the grill)
- Sprinkle the slices with 1 tsp kosher salt and set them aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse them well, pat dry with paper towels, and brush with olive oil.
- Grill over low to medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. (You can also use a grill pan)
- Assemble the Dish
- Preheat the oven to 400° F
- Prepare a 9x9 baking dish or something roughly the same size (I used a 10" round cast-iron pan)
- Ladle enough tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan to make a thin layer
- Cover with a layer of zucchini, then mozzarella slices, egg slices, Parmesan, basil and mint leaves, and a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper.
- You may want the last layer to be zucchini before being covered completely with the last of the tomato sauce and Parmesan.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Let stand for 15 or 20 minutes before serving.
This is by far the best tomato sauce, especially when it's summertime with tomatoes at their peak of ripeness and the basil is fresh from the garden. Though it's a recipe for soup, let it simmer on the stovetop until it's reduced to the consistency of a sauce
~ Inspired by my Brother and Adapted from Ina Garten
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup/Sauce
- 3 lb ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (~ 2 onions)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 oz) can plum tomatoes, with their juice
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 quart chicken stock (or water)
- Roast the Tomatoes
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Toss together the tomatoes, ¼ cup olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes
- Make the Sauce
- In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock.
- Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. (If making a sauce, let the soup reduce down until it's thicker like a sauce would be)
- Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings.
- Serve hot or cold.