Our zucchini plant continues to produce bountiful and frightfully large zucchinis, firmly securing its place as the star of the season in our garden. Yesterday as we were leaving the house for work, we noticed two monstrous zucchinis that, if we're not mistaken, were just little babies last week.
People complain about large zucchinis, but we couldn’t bear to not use them. We set about thinking of things that would work because of their abnormal size rather than in spite of it. We settled on a zucchini parmesan (because the girth of the zucchini was that of an eggplant), and a lasagna where the noodle sheets are substituted, or at least supplemented, by zucchini thinly sliced on a mandoline. We'll get to the lasagna soon, but last night we tried the parmesan idea. It may be hard to find enormous zucchinis at stores or farmers' markets; but if you happen to have a plant in your back yard or received one as a “gift,” this is a really delicious way to take advantage of the size.
There's nothing revolutionary about this recipe. Just a breaded and fried burly zucchini with a couple other fresh ingredients, topped by plenty of parmesan and mozzarella cheese. If you have a unique specimen of produce, I think it's worth going the extra mile here by making your own bread crumbs and tomato sauce. We used some sauce we made from last year’s tomato season. Because we made a few different kinds of sauce last year and then did not label any of the containers, we really can’t be sure what we used!
Whatever it was, it was fairly basic, and we let it simmer on the stove while we prepared the bread crumbs and fried the zucchini, and then seasoned it before adding to the casserole. However, if you're pressed for time, I can't imagine it would taste all that bad if you used Panko bread crumbs and some canned tomato sauce (if you must, I like Hunts). If it's summertime, you could also probably substitute a bunch of thick cut fresh tomato slices for the sauce.
Monster Zucchini Parmesan
1 giant zucchini
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups flour, seperated
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1½ cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade
olive oil, for frying
2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1½ to 2 cups tomato sauce, preferably homemade
If making fresh bread crumbs: process about 5 or 6 slices of bread in a food processor until you have crumbs that are small, but not too fine. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250˚F for about 10 or 15 minutes (keep an eye on them). Reserve.
Wash zucchini, remove ends and slice evenly into ½ inch thick coins. Beat eggs in a wide shallow bowl. Place 1 cup of flour in a different shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl (like a pie tin), combine ½ cup flour, garlic powders, paprika, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, and bread crumbs, stirring to mix ingredients well. Dip sliced zucchini into flour, then beaten egg, and then into the bread crumb mixture.
Peel garlic. Pour olive oil into a non-stick skillet (form a thick layer, about ¼ inch) and heat on medium high, adding whole garlic cloves. As the garlic cloves become golden, crush them into the oil using the tines of a fork, but before they brown, chop them and set them aside.
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Place a few zucchini slices at a time into the hot oil (don't overload the pan). Turn zucchini over as they become golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes per side depending on the heat of your oil. If the zucchini are sputtering and popping when you put them into the oil, turn your heat down. When the zucchini slices are golden, remove to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle lightly to taste with salt and pepper if desired. You may need to dump out the oil and clean the pan if it gets too dirty with burnt breading.
Brush a casserole dish with olive oil and arrange zucchini on bottom. Sprinkle with a layer of Parmesan cheese and a layer of mozzarella. Add some chopped basil and reserved sautéed garlic, then finish with a (light) layer of tomato sauce. Continue to make layers of zucchini, cheeses, and sauce until all ingredients are used, ending with mozzarella. Sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs, if desired, or just leave some basil and mozzarella on the top.
Place in oven at 350°F for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Cool several minutes before serving.
Serves about 4