Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

To me, summer and zucchini go hand in hand. Growing up, my mom always had a garden that seemed to produce endless amounts of zucchini. During one particularly bountiful summer we gave zucchini away to all of our neighbors, then piled the next crop on our front lawn with a sign: “FREE.” When even this did not get rid of all of the zucchini, my brothers and I were told to anonymously drop off the veggies on our neighbors’ front porches – I guess so they couldn’t refuse to take it! I mostly remember being feeling nervous that someone would catch us and tell us to take the zucchini back home!

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The tricky thing about zucchini is that you have to eat it fresh. Unlike other summertime favorites, it doesn’t freeze, can, or get made into any kind of sauce very well. So, if you have a lot of it, you can get creative and bake it into things – bread, muffins, cookies… This summer my mom even brought us zucchini brownies. (I’m just guessing, but I think the chocolate to zucchini ratio was pretty high.) My husband and I tend to treat it as an actual vegetable and eat it grilled or in stir fry. Probably because I am fairly lazy about baking.

But my favorite way to eat zucchini is one of the main ways that we ate it growing up – dredged in an egg wash, coated with savory Parmesan bread crumbs, then fried on the stove in a bit of oil. It’s a bit of a messy process and takes a little time, but it’s basic and un-fussy. No need to worry if each slice is evenly coated or if the edges of some pieces get a little dark; it’s part of the “rustic” charm.

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My mom served it as a side dish with anything, but I like to eat it with a thin spaghetti and marinara sauce. I don’t mind keeping this dinner vegetarian, but you could easily sautee chicken or toss in some meatballs, if you are cooking for someone who requires meat for dinner.

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Throughout this zucchini season, this has been a weekly family dinner. (The baby even gets in on the zucchini fun, although his is pureed and without the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.) What’s your family’s favorite way to eat zucchini?


Crispy Parmesan Zucchini
(Serves 4. Or 2. It’s kind of addicting, so make a lot.)

1 large or 2 small/medium zucchini, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 eggs, beaten

salt

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of butter

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of olive oil

You will need to cook your zucchini in batches. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and get an oven-safe dish ready to keep the fried zucchini slices warm while you continue to cook. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish, along with a pinch of salt. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and Italian season in another shallow dish. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg mixture, then, using your fingers or a fork, coat with the breadcrumb mixture. When the pan is hot (the oil will be glistening), placed the coated zucchini slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Flip each zucchini slice when the bottom is lightly browned. By the time you get about half of your pan full (depending on the size of your skillet, of course!), the first zucchini placed in the pan will be ready to turn. Removed the zucchini from the skillet when both sides are browned and the zucchini is tender. Keep your cooked zucchini warm in your preheated oven. Before you begin your next batch of zucchini, quickly scrape the bottom of your skilled with a spatula to remove most leftover burnt breadcrumb bits. Then add more butter and olive oil as needed before you begin your next batch. Repeat this process until all of your zucchini is cooked.

 

 

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One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

So it’s been a while since I’ve last blogged. We’ve continued to enjoy our CSA bounty, and I will work to catch up on all the good things we’ve been eating. My hiatus happened because we’ve been busy with all the wonderful things that make summer so fun, including my sister-in-law’s wedding…

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And this…

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Which apparently includes learning to crawling, sprouting two bottom teeth, and pulling up on everything he can possibly reach.

When I finally got around to writing about a blueberry dessert we tried, the post was deleted when when I attempted to publish it. (WHY??) This was sufficiently discouraging, but I’m willing to give it another go.

Anyway, with all the hectic-ness of summer, quick, easy, dinners are always my favorite. Usually that involves me my husband throwing some chicken on the grill. But with this week’s CSA delivery came all the ingredients I needed for a simple one-pot pasta: tomatoes, onion, basil. If you don’t like to wash dishes, but you like pasta, you should give it a try. I’m not Italian, so maybe this is horrifying if you’re Italian. Otherwise, it’s convenient. And tasty.

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Basically, the steps are this. (1) Put all your ingredients in a pot. (2) Boil, then simmer for 12-ish minutes. (3) Serve and eat. (I know, right?!? Why is this not on my weekly menu?)

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In reality, you might want to be a little more discerning with your pasta. Because you are making your sauce and your pasta all at once, the chances of them actually ending up properly cooked at the same time are not great, but after an attempt or two, it’s fairly simple to figure out.

You’ll want to pay attention to the time it takes to cook the pasta that you’re using. For instance, I used penne pasta that was supposed to take 7 minutes to be al dente. Had I remembered from the previous time that I made this, I would have waited for the sauce to reduce for 5-7 minutes, then added my pasta to cook for the remaining time. I highly recommend this. The stock and tomatoes will take about 12 minutes to reduce (if you use the amounts that I used… longer if you double the recipe), so plan to put your pasta in accordingly. It didn’t ruin our dinner to put the pasta in for the entire time, but the pasta was definitely overcooked.

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This was the first time I’ve ever tried heirloom tomatoes, but, basically, they’re tomatoes. The heirloom part is because they are grown from “passed down” seeds, supposedly from at least 1940. However, there are different types of heirloom tomatoes, so this isn’t necessarily the case. They tend to look funky and come in a variety of colors. Ours were that perfect combination of sweet and acid that you always hope tomatoes will have, and I would have preferred to eat them raw, simply because store-bought tomatoes are never this good. Later, I realized that I should have set aside 1/2 cup or so of the tomato, to stir in at the end, giving the sauce a chunkier texture and keeping some of that fresh tomato flavor.

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It would also be easy enough to throw in some spinach, zucchini, or steamed butternut squash, also towards the end of the cooking time, to add some more flavor and variety. I didn’t follow a recipe for this one, but there are several out there, if you take the time to look.

Enjoy! I’m off to turn some of our excess zuchinni into baby food for the little guy!


 

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Serves 2-3 people

2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)

1 small to medium onion (about 1/2 cup)

1 clove crushed garlic

1 bunch basil (I used Thai basil, from our CSA box)

1 tsp. dried oregeno

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you’re keeping it vegetarian)

1 Tbls. olive oil

2 cups penne pasta (Mine cooked in 7 minutes… check the box! And adjust your cooking time accordingly.)

grated fresh Parmesan cheese

In a medium to large pot or stock pot, combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper, and chicken stock. Drizzle with olive oil. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until the tomatoes and stock begin to reduce. Add in the pasta. Stir and cover the pot. Continue to stir every 2 minutes until the pasta is cooked and about 2 inches of liquid remains in the pot. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.