Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cucumber Cool

Now is the time to eat watery foods. In the sweltering heat of summer, when the body sweats like mad, the universe sends out foods full of water to refresh us: cucumbers, zucchinis and other summer squashes, melons of all kinds and berries.  So it's medically correct to indulge!

Did zucchini, so here comes cucumber recipes to keep you well watered. Hot climates offer lots of them. And the best news is you don't need to turn on your stove to heat up the place for something good to eat.

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
serves 4
1/3 c rice wine vinegar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp water
2 English cucumbers or 4 slicing cucumbers,
1 sm yellow onion, thinly sliced into half moon rings
10 large mint leaves, chopped
1 Serrano chili very thinly sliced into strips (seeded first)
6 sprigs cilantro, finely shopped
2 tbsp roasted chopped peanuts

Half cucumbers lengthwise and then thinly slice into disks.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and blend well.
Add cucumbers, onion, mint, chili and cilantro and toss to blend.
Let the salad sit 15 minutes to marinate.
Garnish with chopped peanuts and serve.

Lebanese Fa'atoush
This is the ordinary salad on every table every day in the Levant, including Israel. 
There are as many recipes for it as there are cooks making it, so you don't have to stick to this one. It's actually a tad idiosyncratic in that the bread isn't fried first and it uses a buttermilk dressing. The most basic recipe is simply chopped cucumbers, radishes, scallions, tomatoes and fried day-old bread dressed with olive oil and maybe sumac.

scant 1 cup Greek yogurt and 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk—or instead 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
2 large stale flatbreads or naan (9 oz bread in total)
3 large tomatoes, cut into 2/3” dice
3 oz radishes, thinly sliced
3 Lebanese or Persian cucumbers peeled and chopped into 2/3” dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1⁄2 oz fresh mint
scant 1 oz flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp dried mint
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
3⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sumac or more to taste for garnish

If using yogurt and milk, start at least 3 hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of homemade buttermilk, but less sour.
Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yogurt mixture or commercial buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine.
Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and garnish generously with sumac. 

Cold Cucumber Soup 

2 large European cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds), halved and seeded—1/2 cup finely diced, the rest coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup loosely packed dill
1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons loosely packed tarragon leaves
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Fresh ground white pepper
1/2 red onion, finely chopped

In a blender, combine the chopped cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Season the soup again just before serving. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the finely diced cucumber, red onion and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

Chopped Middle Eastern Salad with Tahini and Za'atar
A variation on fattoush from Ottolenghi
serves 4

6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
2 mini-cucumbers, trimmed and cut into 1cm dice
1 red pepper, seeds, stalk and pith removed, cut into 1cm dice
5 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on an angle
15g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
200g feta, cut into 4 rectangular blocks (optional)
4 tbsp tahini
2 tsp za’atar
Put the chopped tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl for 20 minutes. Discard the resulting juice and put the tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, spring onions and coriander in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, oil and half a teaspoon of salt, and stir gently to combine.
To serve, arrange the feta (if using) on four plates and spoon the salad on top, making sure some of the feta remains visible. Pour a spoonful of tahini over each portion and finish with a sprinkle of za’atar.

Bhutanese Hogay

A salad without dressing. 
Serves 4

1 English cucumber (the long skinny ones wrapper in cellophane)
1 sm red onion, peeled and finely diced
½ cup crumbled Feta or farmer’s cheese or Ricotta salada
½-1 small hot red pepper, seeded and minced (depending on your preference)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Peel cucumber and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and cut the halves in half.  Cut crosswise to make bite-sized pieces. Put into serving bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Add salt to your taste. Serve.

Creamy Cucumber Salad (with sour cream)
serves 5

1½ lbs cucumbers (2 English cucumbers or 7-10 small ones)
½ medium purple or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp fresh or frozen dill, chopped
¾ cup sour cream (reduced fat is ok)
½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from ½ small lemon)
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, pressed
½ tsp sea salt and pinch black pepper, or to tast

In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup sour cream, ½ Tbsp lemon juice, 2 pressed garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp dill, 1 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Stir and set aside while prepping salad.
Slice cucumbers into thin rounds or half rounds if using large cucumbers. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add thinly sliced onion. Just before serving stir sauce into the salad and mix to coat cucumbers. After adding sauce, the salad will stay fresh for about 2-3 hours if refrigerated.
Cucumber Salsa 
 2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Off to cataract surgery so no posting for a week. To fill in, here's a few quick recipes for the produce at high tide in farmers' markets right now.

Cauliflower Couscous with Lemon Basil Sauce

For the basil-lemon sauce
10 large (about 1 cup loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
Zest and juice of 2 lemons, preferably Meyer
1/2 c fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
For the couscous
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 medium cauliflower, stalks and stems discarded, florets finely diced
1/4 tsp chili flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c Basil-Lemon Sauce
2 tbsp fresh basil in chiffonade

For the sauce
Combine basil, lemon zest and juice, oil, and honey in a blender. Purée and transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 7 to 10 days.
For the cauliflower couscous
Over high heat, melt butter with the olive oil in a sauté pan or wok large enough to hold all the cauliflower. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and chili flakes. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Blend everything. Cook until cauliflower is soft and looking like couscous, maybe 10 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp of the lemon sauce and cook another 10 minutes. Adjust salt to your taste. Add 2 tbsp. of the lemon sauce and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
Top with the basil chiffonade.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

More on Zucchini because there's always more zucchini

Here are four more worldly-wise and ridiculously recipes to make ten, number of perfection. 
Also to show that zucchini is everywhere. Lots of cooks know how to make it tasty.

Korean Cod and Zucchini Fritters
These are separate fritters served in the same bowl.

1 1/2 lbs firm white fish fillets (cod, snapper, sole), skinned and boned
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut into thick rounds
1 c plain flour or for a crunchier taste chickpea flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Corn, canola or peanut oil, to fry
Sea salt and ground white pepper

For the dipping sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1½ tsp rice wine vinegar
½ tsp toasted sesame seeds

Slice the fish into ½cm-thick slices, about 6cm long. Spread them out on a plate and season. On a separate plate, do the same with the sliced courgette.
Put the flour and beaten egg into two separate bowls and position beside the stove top.

Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to a large pan warm over a medium heat. In batches, coat the fish and zucchini slices in flour, then dip into the egg mixture, and transfer to the hot oiled pan. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden, remove to a heatproof dish and keep warm while you fry the rest. Add more oil as you go, if needed. (Keep the heat at medium: if it is too high it will burn the outside before the inside is cooked; if the heat is too low you will end up with soggy fritters.)
In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce and serve immediately with the fritters.

Italian Verdure al Forno (roasted young vegetables)
Absolutely farm fresh vegetables are a must for this, and the reason for it.. Baking slowly causes them to release their natural sugars, making the dish heavenly. Trust Italians to perfect simplicity.
Serves 4

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ lb baby carrots (about 8), peeled, trimmed slightly, leaving on a bit of their stem
¾ lb fingerling potatoes (about 4) or new Yukon Gold potatoes about the size of a golf ball, halved
1 lb small red onions (3-4, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 lb young zucchini (about 5), split in half lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 tbsp dired
Pinch of saffron crumbled in a mortar with ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
¾ lb ripe tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350º.
Lightly oil a 9 x 12" or similarly sized baking casserole. Arrange the carrots, potatoes, onions, and zucchini in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and the garlic, basil, oregano, saffron, salt, and sugar. Stuff the rosemary sprigs in between the vegetables. Lay the tomatoes on top and season again with salt and pepper. Pour the remaining olive oil over the vegetables or oil to taste.
Bake about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hour until the tomatoes look melted and the potato and carrot can be pierced easily by a skewer but are not breaking apart. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serve with a roasted chicken, grilled butterflied leg of lamb or a rich rice pilaf.

Nepali Mixed Vegetable Curry 
serves 4-6

6 small (new) or 3 medium potatoes (not bakers)
1/3 cauliflower or 1 stalk broccoli with florets
2 onions, peeled
½ lg. carrot or daikon, peeled
1 japanese or small italian eggplant
 1 zucchini
2 green chilies or ½ lg. pastilla chili pepper
3 roma tomatoes
1 cup peas or corn (frozen is okay)
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic and
1” ginger
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cracked black pepper
3 tbsp. cooking oil or ghee
¼ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
1 cup water
Coarsely chop the onion and tomatoes separately. Finely chop the chilies, leaving seeds in. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized cubes. Slice the carrot or daikon and eggplant or squash into thin disks. Cut the cauliflower into small florets or if using broccoli, slice the stalk into thin disks and cut the florets apart. Mince the garlic and ginger.

In a medium saucepan or casserole, heat the oil or ghee. Fry the onion until it’s soft and golden. Add the cumin and coriander seeds, chilies, garlic, ginger and turmeric, stirring to combine. Add potatoes and stir fry until they are slightly brown.  Add all remaining ingredients except the cilantro leaves. Cover and simmer on low until all vegetables are tender—10-12 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.  Chop the cilantro leaves and put on top to serve.

French Ratatouille with Variations
This is arguably the quintessential Provencal summer dish, an olive oil stew of onions, peppers, zucchini and eggplant seasoned with basil, parsley and oregano. Here's the basic recipe, followed by my southwestern variation that uses smoky poblano and bright red bell peppers instead of green ones, red onion instead of yellow, adds tomatilloes and uses peppery cilantro instead of basil.

Classic recipe from Julia Child

1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, if necessary
2 cloves mashed garlic
1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled and seeded (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper to tastePeel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.
One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in the hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.
In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.
Slice the tomato into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.
Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

Variation: Serves 6-8
1 lb firm eggplant (any kind will work except the small Thai egg-like eggplant)
1 lg Poblano pepper, roasted and skinned 

3 lg tomatilloes, roasted 
½ cup olive oil 
1 tsp cracked or freshly ground black pepper 
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 bay leaf 
Optional: pinch ground chipotle pepper (for smoky flavor) 
1 lg red onion peeled and cut into thin disks 
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips 
1 tsp salt 
¼ tsp ground coriander 
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves 
¾ lb zucchini (2-3 sm/med), cut into ¼” thick disks 
1¼ cup chopped tomatoes with juices (boxed is ok
(Roasting here means in a toaster or regular oven at 450 degrees for 5-8 minutes (less time in the smaller toaster oven) until the skin cracks and starts to char.)

Wash the eggplant. Slice it into thin disks and if the disks are much larger in diameter than 1”,cut the disks in half. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with ¼ tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil. Cover and roast 10 minutes at 425º. Seed the peppers and cut into thin strips, nothing longer than 2".

In a medium heavy gauge casserole or large saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add black pepper, ½ tsp oregano, optional ground chipotle and bay leaf. Sauté 30 seconds. Add onion disks in a layer and top with garlic, poblano and red peppers. Do not stir. Continue to sauté 3-5 minutes until onions are soft. Sprinkle 1 tbsp chopped cilantro on top.

Lower heat to simmer. Add eggplant as a layer. (Pieces might be two deep if the pot is not wide.) Sprinkle on ½ tsp oregano, ground coriander and ¼ tsp salt. Add 2 tbsp chopped cilantro. Cover pot and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add a layer of zucchini and half the remaining chopped cilantro. Pour tomatoes into the pot. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt over the top layer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until zucchini starts to soften.
Slice roasted tomatilloes into thin disks or any small pieces you can manage. Add to the pot as the top layer. Cover and simmer 3-5 minutes until zucchini is soft (not mushy) and the juices are bubbling. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. Add remaining salt if desired.

Serve hot, at room temperature or cold, garnished with the remaining chopped cilantro leaves. To make this into a full meal, serve over squares of fried polenta.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Here comes Zucchini

The vegetable so prolific, its name is plural.  What to do with all of it? How to do it so people are enchanted by plain old zucchini.  Try these easy, very tasty recipes.

These zucchini fritters or pancakes if you prefer, may be my new favorite summer find. Nothing beats the heat like earthy Greek food and this recipe has the usual cooling suspects: mint, feta, lemon juice, yogurt--all working for zucchini. The recipe actually calls for deep frying the fritters but I've been baking them at high heat for a similar, less greasy effect, less messy and cooler in the kitchen. You can make them bite-sized to pass around with cocktails, slightly larger to go with baked fish, or lunch sized. You can serve hot or at room temperature. You serve them with Greek yogurt or better yet, tsatsiki.

2½ lbs zucchini, grated
1 red onion, grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2-3 tbsps fresh mint, finely chopped
2 eggs
1½ cup feta cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps parsley, finely chopped
oil for cooking

Use a grater to grate the zucchini and place them in a colander with some salt. Squeeze them with your hands to get rid of the excessive water. Leave them for 30 minutes and squeeze them again.
   Into a large bowl add the other ingredients and mix well with your hands, until combined and the mixture is firm enough to make balls or patties. Add breadcrumbs as needed.
    To fry: In a pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil into medium-high heat.
  Dip a tablespoon in some water and spoon out some of the mixture into the hot oil. Repeat this procedure until the surface off the pan is comfortably filled. You should dip the spoon in the water every time, so that the dough doesn’t stick on it. Fry the kolokithokeftedes for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until nicely colored. Place them on paper towel, to absorb the extra oil.
        A healthier alternative is to bake patties. Preheat the oven to 425º, oil the bottom of a baking tray and form patties with your hands. Place on the baking tray and brush the top with some olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 until all patties are nicely brown. Serve hot or room temp with fresh cold yogurt or tsatsiki.

Moving into a more Spanish mode, with a recipe I published last year. It's great with roasted chicken or boiled lobster.
Zucchini flan
1 ½ pounds zucchini, thinly sliced
 Salt and pepper
4 eggs
2 ½ cups milk or half-and-half
 Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tsp chopped thyme
 A few torn basil leaves
2 tbsp butter for greasing baking dish
4 oz grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Cheddar

Heat oven to 375º. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add zucchini and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and spread zucchini out to cool on a towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Beat eggs and milk with 1/2 tsp salt, then add nutmeg, thyme and basil leaves.
Butter a 2-quart low-sided baking dish, and arrange blanched zucchini over bottom. Scatter cheese over zucchini, then pour in custard.
Bake for 30 minutes or until custard is still a bit jiggly, but an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before serving.

From England
Spring/summer Vegetables with Lemon Bechamel
½ lb podded broad beans, fresh or frozen
1¾ lb baby blue and Yukon gold potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 leeks, cut in half lengthways, then into 1/2” pieces
7 small zucchini, cut in half lengthways
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
¼ lb sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, roughly shredded
For the lemon béchamel sauce
2 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
2 ½ tbsp flour
1½ c whole milk
2 egg yolks
3 strips shaved lemon skin, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ c Parmesan, finely grated

Start with the béchamel. Put butter and flour in a small saucepan on a medium-low heat. Stir for two to three minutes, until the butter has melted into the flour and the mixture comes together into a paste. Gradually add the milk to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth and combined, then add the egg yolks, lemon skin and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Whisk six to seven minutes, until thick and smooth, then take off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and half of the Parmesan, and cover with Saran wrap. Make the film to touch the surface of the sauce so it prevents a skin from forming.

Heat the oven 425º. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and blanch the broad beans for a minute. Scoop out the beans with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until the tip of a sharp knife goes in easily, then drain.
Drain and peel the beans. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and lightly crush them with the back of a spoon. Mix in two tablespoons of oil, a third of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and spread out on a large, high-sided roasting tray or ovenproof dish that you’re happy to bring to the table. Roast for 10 minutes, until just starting to brown.

Mix the leeks with a tablespoon of oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt (a large pinch) and plenty of pepper. Stir through the potatoes and roast for five minutes. Mix the zucchini, asparagus, sugar snaps and garlic with a tablespoon of oil, ¼ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Stir through the potatoes and leeks until everything is evenly distributed and roast for another five minutes.Sprinkle the broad beans over the top, spoon on the béchamel (discard the lemon skin at this stage) and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Roast for a final 10 minutes, until golden brown on top, sprinkle over the tarragon and mint, and serve at once.

 For a taste of India
Aloo Dum with Zucchini
(Serves 2)
2 ¼ lbs potatoes, diced,
2 tbsp oil,
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped,
1 onion, sliced,
1 red chili, finely sliced, or pinch of dried,
½ tsp turmeric,
1 tsp cumin,
Pinch of salt,
1 lb chopped tomatoes,
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
Few sprigs of fresh cilantro

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until just starting to get soft. They should resist a fork slightly – you'll carry on cooking them later. Drain.

Heat oil in a large pan and add onion, garlic and potatoes. Add the spices and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to soften the onions and crisp the edges of the potatoes.

Add zucchini, pour over the tomatoes and simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro. Add a dollop of plain yogurt if you want to cool it down. 

Mexican Zucchini Strata
 Here is a dream come true: a very tasty, inexpensive, unusual and easy way to use zucchini! The components of this surprisingly flavorful and rich dish, my version of a Diana Kennedy original, can be made ahead and assembled to bake just before you’re ready to eat.  It’s best fresh from the oven.

Serves 6-8

3 medium/lg zucchini (1½ lbs)
  tbsp corn meal
2½ tbsp butter
6 oz shredded cheese (Jack, Muenster or Mozzarella, like that) room temp.
3 large eggs, separated,
¼ tsp salt
4 Poblano peppers
1 medium onion
3-4 tbsp corn or olive oil
2 lg or 3 medium ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
½ tsp sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Heat oven to 350º. Use ½ tbsp butter to butter a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle on the corn meal

Core and seed the Poblano peppers, then slice them into ½” wide strips that aren’t longer than 3”.
Slice the onion into the thinnest rings possible.

Heat the oil in a small covered skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, lower heat slightly and cook without browning 3 minutes or until onions start to soften.  Add peppers and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time so nothing sticks.

While this is happening, puree the raw tomatoes (skins on is okay) and garlic.
Add to the pepper pan with the sea salt and continue to cook over medium low heat about 15-20 minutes until the sauce is not watery. Cool as much as possible.

While this is happening, slice the zucchinis as thinly as you can. Put them in a pot of boiling salted water and cook until just tender, maybe 3-4 minutes. Do not get them soft or mushy. Drain well and cool as much as possible.

Whip the egg whites into very stiff peaks. Add ¼ tsp salt and then the egg yolks, one by one, beating to keep the whites stiff. 

Cut 2 tbsp butter into tiny bits.

To assemble the strata or layers:
Make an even layer of zucchini on top of the cornmeal.
Cover this with ½ the tomato pepper sauce.
Cover this with 2 oz, or 1/3, of the cheese.
Cover this with 1/3 of the beaten eggs.
Sprinkle a few butter bits on top.

Repeat this format one more time.
 For the third layer:
Make a layer of zucchini.
Cover this with the remaining egg mixture.
Sprinkle on the remaining butter bits.
Top with the remaining 2 0z cheese.
Sprinkle the top very very lightly with cinnamon.

Bake at 350º about 30 minutes until the eggs are set, the cheese is melted and the top is nicely browned.  Eat right away.

And finally, the all-American favorite that's easiest of all to make
Zucchini PIe
 serves 8
4 cups cubed zucchini (that's maybe 3 large zucchini)                             
1 sm onion, peeled and diced                     
4 large eggs                                                
1 tsp dried oregano leaves                          
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped                       
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
 ¼ tsp salt
 ½ cup corn oil
 1 cup Bisquick
1/8 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 350º.  Heavily butter or oil (olive oil is okay) a deep-dish 9” pie plate or square baking dish. Mix everything together in a large bowl and pour it into the greased pan. Bake one hour at 350, or less if using a convection oven.  Serve warm with roasted meat or grilled fish, or as a lunch entrée with crusty bread and a tomato salad. Can be reheated in a microwave.