Don’t know how the weather has been by you, but it’s been raining cats and dogs here for days. I have been freezing at work, drinking whole bathtubs full of steaming tea in order to keep warm. At the end of the day, am glad to be back home, after making my way there through the rain. There, it is warmer and more comfortable and I can move about as much as I like in order to keep from going cold.
In winter, I eat a lot of oven-baked dishes. I think it’s easy and very effective cooking and one can dabble around the apartment or make a quick salad while waiting for miracles to happen in the oven. Plus, the apartment will smell wonderful.
One of my favorite dishes made in the oven is zucchini casserole, based on my mom’s recipe. I don’t know where she learnt how to make it, but it’s probably my favorite vegetarian dish by her. She has been making it forever and I always enjoyed it.
When I moved out, I had to start making my own, and deviated from my mom’s recipe. Both versions have their advantages and disadvantages. My mom pre-cooks the zucchini and then lets them sit in the colander for a bit. I don’t, I put the raw zucchini straight into the oven and am done with the whole affair. Because of this extra preparatory step, my mom’s casserole is very to the point and never ever soggy. It’s something you can serve to guests as it’s pretty.
In my casserole, the water shed by the zucchini ends up as a soupy leftover at the bottom of the dish. Sometimes the zucchini will continue to shed water on my plate, but I really don’t mind. I wouldn’t serve my version to guests though. But, while my mom’s casserole is not soggy, the zucchini are a little overdone. But I mean: how could they not be? Zucchini is probably the quickest vegetable to cook, no? My zucchini are al dente, and I feel this is conducive to the vitamin level in this otherwise rich dish. There’s also another difference in our approaches, I don’t appreciate the taste of egg yolk, so use two egg-whites instead of one whole egg. My mom usually uses Gouda for her casserole; I do, too, but only for the middle layer and then use mozzarella to top my dish off. I’ve also been known to use emmental and parmiggiano cheeses or even Appenzeller, so feel free to play with this recipe and use whatever cheese suits you best.
four to five mid-sized zucchini
2 egg-whites (or one whole egg)
100 ml milk (I used low-fat)
2 tbsp parsley
salt, pepper (and nutmeg, if you are a fan) to taste
100g cheese (e.g. mozzarella cheese and old gouda), grated
Clean the zucchini, cut off both ends and cut the zucchini into round slices, each one and a half centimeters thick. (If you want to make my mother’s version of this dish, cook the zucchini in boiling water for a few minutes, pour into a colander and let sit for half an hour, allowing zucchini to drain their liquid.)
Heat your oven to 225 °C.
Grease your baking dish, cover the bottom of the baking dish with a zucchini layer two or three slices thick, placing each slice neatly next to the other, leaving little no room between the slices. Cover the zucchini with a thin layer of Gouda, about half of the cheese required for this recipe. Cover the layer of cheese with the rest of the zucchini. If need be repeat this process until all the zucchini has been used up. You may require more cheese, but I urge you not to overdo it, this is a heavy dish, but it’s supposed to taste light.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the milk, the parsley, the salt, the pepper (and the nutmeg, if you are a fan) and pour over the contents of the baking dish.
Cover dish in aluminum foil and bake for ten to fifteen minutes. Carefully take out dish of the oven, sprinkle the rest of the cheese evenly onto the dish and let bake (without the aluminum foil) for another ten to fifteen minutes until the egg has coagulated and the cheese is golden brown.
Before I ate gluten-free, I used to accompany this dish with bulgur. It was a delicious combination. This time I had whole grain rice on the side.