Tuesday, 9 December 2014

4. Baked Zucchini and Cheese

4.  Baked Zucchini and Cheese

     This is a simple, but very tasty vegetarian dish which can be served alone or as a side dish with chicken filets, lamb chops or sausages. I prefer to use mature Cheddar for this dish but Parmesan is slightly more piquant and Mozarella will bring a milder flavour.  
     I am a glutton for this Italian vegetable, whether sliced and cooked on its own, as a chopped addition to pasta, pizza, omelette or soup - or grated raw in a lunchtime salad.  It is best eaten when between 6 and 8 inches in length, while the seeds are still soft.  Larger zucchini can be deseeded and stuffed with ground beef or pork and baked.   
    The zucchini squash originated in the Americas but was developed and cultivated from the late 19th century in northern Italy, from where it spread throughout Italy and later Europe and America.

The yellow/orange blossoms of the zucchini are also a prized delicacy in Italy.   I have not seen the flowers for sale in any greengrocers, but as Jamie Oliver has a recipe for zucchini flowers stuffed with feta cheese dipped in a beer and flour chile and fried, I assume they are seasonally available at London's Borough Market or elsewhere.  I remember enjoying them cooked as a delicate sauce for a pasta dish very many years ago in Minori, a tiny village on the Amalfi coast, where I was staying as the guest of a local family.  It was an unforgettable moment and, sadly, the only occasion I have savoured such a delicately fragranced pasta sauce. The  memory lingers still. 

Ingredients. (makes 4 side dish servings)  
4 medium, fresh Zucchini, topped, tailed and sliced in half lengthwise
;  4 Tomatoes, thinly sliced; 1/2 cup mature Cheddar cheese, grated
;  1-2 tsp dried Rosemary and Thyme; 1 tbs light Olive Oil
;  1 pinch Sea Salt;  ground Black or Szechuan Pepper to taste.
Method.  Prep; 10 mins. Cook: 20 mins.                                                            
Pre-heat oven to 350F, (175C).  Brush both sides of the zucchini with olive oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Lay slices of tomato on each zucchini.Mix cheese and herbs together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in middle of oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  Place under the grill for a further 5 minutes to crisp and brown the cheese.  
                                                                                                                      Stuart Buchanan

Further Reading

Health Diaries  8 Health Benefits of Zucchini.
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers  Jamie Oliver's zucchini flower recipe.
Borough Market   London's finest food market.
Stuffed Zucchini A piquant recipe from Taste of Home. 
Zucchini Blossom Sauce A delicious recipe for a pasta sauce.

 Food for thought:   The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.   
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
La physiologie du Gout 1825                                                                                                                      

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