Sunday, August 08, 2010

Baked Zucchini

One of the perks of where I work is having access to a garden. Since I live in an apartment with no patio or balcony, the only thing I can grow are houseplants. Fresh fruits and veggies...not so much. Due to the heat, humidity and excessive rain this summer, the garden is wildly out of control. Seriously. Last year there were no tomatoes due to a blight. This year, there are tons of them. The plants are so heavy with fruit that they've collapsed those round wire stakes you use to hold them up. You can pick a handful in the morning, then go out again at night and pick a bunch more.

Zucchini has also gone crazy. We maybe had ten all last summer. This year? We've had at least three times that so far, and more growing every week. The acorn squash are also going nuts. I can't wait for those to be ready to harvest! There are also green peppers, green beans (I've had a few handfuls of those as well), eggplant, cucumbers, and raspberries (sadly, already done for the year). Look at how huge these zucchini are:

Having all this zucchini means you need to have ways to use it up. I've brought a few home for neighbors, as well as a couple huge ones for myself. I decided I did not want to fry it, as my mom always did. It's massively time-consuming, fatty, greasy, and heats the kitchen to about a thousand degrees. Not what you want when the temps are flirting with 90F and you're trying not to run the air conditioner (aka the energy hog). The boss' wife make a savory zucchini soup, but keeps forgetting to give me her recipe. So, I decided I wanted to try to bake some, and went online to see what I could find.

First, it helps to know what you want to make with it, or what you have in the cupboard. Simply typing in "baked zucchini" will net you a gazillion recipes. Not kidding. So I tried "zucchini and chicken" -- but didn't really care for the recipes I was finding. Remembering I had a can of tomato sauce in the cupboard, I tried "baked zucchini and tomato sauce." Bingo! I found a few recipes I liked, but the easiest by far came from Of course, me being me, I had to make a few substitutions. *grin*

First, the ingredients:

4 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced (make sure your slices are thin, not thick!)
1 lb. sliced Mozzarella cheese (I used shredded, worked just fine!)
1 (15 oz.) can of tomato sauce (use low-sodium sauce to make a healthier dish; you could also substitute in stewed tomatoes)
1/4 can water (I used another 8 oz. can of sauce instead)
1/4 c. salad oil (any kind of cooking oil will do)
1 tsp. each of salt, pepper, and oregano (I axed these and used 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash Original instead -- no salt or MSG, but plenty of flavor)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oil in bottom of an oblong baking pan (I used a 9x13 cake pan). In a small bowl, mix seasoning into tomato sauce. Wash zucchini and cut into thin slices. It's important not to get the slices too thick or it will take longer to cook.

Layer sliced zucchini, sauce and cheese just as you would lasagna. You can cut the slices of zucchini to fill all the empty spaces in each layer, or to better fit corners. I ended up with four layers. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until squash is tender.

Remove from oven and serve it up. This dish is great alone, or paired with beef round steak, chicken, or served over spaghetti. It's ideal for feeding an entire family, but can also be frozen in single serving containers for those living alone.

Mmm...doesn't that look good?


Alice Audrey said...

You're making me miss the days when I had a garden with all the zucchini I could handle.

Shelley Munro said...

The year before last my hubby grew so much zucchini I forebid him to grow it the next year. I didn't want to look at another zucchini, let alone eat one.

Your dish looks tasty, though. I like zucchini and corn fritters and also ratatouille.

Nina said...

That looked really good!

I didn't know you had access to a garden. Or did I just forget? Head is full of mucus and I think I blew out my brain through nose earlier so thinking isn't a priority right now. :)


Heather said...

Alice: Hehe...sorry! When are you coming to town? I'll save you one. ;)

Shelley: Right now I can understand your feelings about zucchini. There's only so much cooking, baking or preserving one can do!

Nina: Thank you! And yes, we have a garden out here at work, which currently resembles a jungle, especially with sprawling bean plants and tomato vines everywhere. I think I need to suggest broccoli for next summer.

Bingo Games said...

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Jana said...

I like fried zucchini. Of course. But this looks good, too. :-)

Heather said...

Bingo: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed your visit.

Jana: Oh, trust me -- this is really good. I think you should make some for your parents. ;)