I know I’m not the only one with a glut of zucchini these days. Every week I get at least one bag of it from the CSA panier, and I’m trying not to cook it the same way twice. They are beautiful specimens, just the right size with lovely mottled dark green skin. So far I’ve made muffins (I can do better), dunked raw spears into homemade ranch dressing (which reminds me that I have yet to make that fried chicken liver salad I’ve had my eye on), grilled slices of it to accompany aged Gouda cheeseburgers on homemade brioche buns, and made a LOT of pasta sauce. And all of that has been very good – well, except for the muffins, which were edible but nothing to write home about – but I wanted to make a meal out of these tasty vegetables, rather than relegating them to side dish territory.
“Casserole” is a word that for some reason has not-so-good connotations. “Zucchini Bake” sounds a little dumpy. Lasagna it isn’t, even though one time I put some no-bake lasagna noodles in between the layers of zucchini planks, with delicious results. I guess “Strata” may best describe this concoction of mine, considering it is a layered, baked dish. But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Names aside, it comes together like this: slice some zucchini lengthwise and lay them down in a baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, minced garlic, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Top with paper-thin slices of pancetta and some caramelized onions. Repeat. Finish with a layer of zucchini planks and top with a couple of sliced tomatoes (which you are probably long on as well).
Throw the dish in the oven and forget about it for an hour or so. (Well, you might want to give it a half-turn after about 30 minutes, if your oven is anything like mine.) When the tomato slices are starting to look a little roasty and the zucchini has drawn itself a nice, hot bath, put some slices of fresh mozzarella on top and return the dish to the oven until the cheese has melted.
It occurred to me while I was baking my first zucchini strata (oh, you can bet there were more) that all that zucchini liquid could be put to good use. I could have put breadcrumbs or even slices of bread between the layers to soak it up. But as I ate, mopping up the flavorful juice with hunks of Really Good Bread, I thought it would almost be a shame not to have that saucy component. There was the aforementioned variation with the lasagna noodles, which left plenty of liquid for my bread-dipping enjoyment. It also had prosciutto, basil and goat cheese, which I’m telling you because I don’t want you to feel limited to my choices of zucchini accompaniments. You don’t need a recipe, just slice up some zucchini, layer it with some other stuff you like, and bake. Serve with bread. It’s that simple.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.