How to Make a Fabulous Zucchini Dinner

zucchiniSpring is officially here and with spring come different vegetables to eat, cook and enjoy.

I want to share one of my absolute favorite vegetarian dishes with you.  It’s fairly easy to make, but after tasting it, your friends and family will think you are a gourmet cook- it is that good.

But first, a story.

My beloved grandfather, Grandpa H, was a cook in the navy during World War 2.  He cooked for an enormous amount of people day in and day out.   As a little girl I loved listening to the stories about the grueling schedule, the massive quantities of food made and the different meals he made as a navy cook, like roasting 100 turkeys for Christmas dinner or making dozens of cinnamon rolls (from scratch!)

The experience in the navy combined with working in high end restaurants in San Francisco, CA gave him an edge and special knowledge of working with food for the rest of his life.

Grandpa H.  could go to a restaurant, eat a meal and figure out the cook made it.  He could discern what spices were used.  He figured out the method and the ingredients.

Grandpa didn’t tell anyone his insight into a restaurant meal; if he liked something he went home and made it.  If he didn’t like something, he would just change it.  And it would taste great, better than the restaurant.

The following recipe was developed in just this manner.  The restaurant serving Baked Zucchini has long since closed its doors- probably several decades ago.  And to be honest, I don’t know the name of the restaurant.

So now I call this recipe, “Ed’s Baked Zucchini” in honor of my grandpa.

Ed’s Baked Zucchini

Budget Friendly:  Yes, especially if the vegetables can be bought at a Farmer’s Market

Complicated:  Medium, but doable for the novice home cook

Dishes Required:  Medium

Time:  An hour plus baked time.  However, once you make it a few times, it’s a fairly easy to put together and I’m confident you can do the prep work in about 25 minutes.  (my time to do it now).

First, you want to gather all your ingredients.  It’s easy to forget something as the mixing, sautéing and preparing begin.

Ingredients

4 Large Zucchini (the bigger the better)
6 slices of bread (whole wheat bread works really well) cubed into small pieces
1 onion
2 heads of garlic
2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
2 eggs
¼ salt for sauté
½ Tsp. Salt
¼ Tsp. Pepper for sauté
2 Tsp. (heaping) Italian Seasoning
½ cup Monterey Jack Cheese
Parmesan cheese
Paprika

Instructions

Cut the ends of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise, like a loaf of bread.  Set a large pot of water (Dutch oven size) on the stove to boil.  Add the zucchini and put the lid on.  Wait for the water to boil and then stick a fork into one of the spears of zucchini.  It should be firm but easily pierced.  (It takes about 25 minutes for this.   Another way to know the zucchini are almost done – the whole kitchen will fill with the fresh aroma of zucchini, much like fresh corn when it is boiled).

While the zucchini is boiling, chop the onion and garlic until they are in very small pieces.  In a small sauté pan, place 2 Tbs. of butter or olive oil and the onion and garlic.  Add the salt and pepper.  Allow the mixture to sauté for about 7 to 9 minutes.  The onions will become light brown and quite fragrant.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cubed pieces of bread, the cheese, the Italian seasoning, ½ tsp of salt.  Add the sautéed onions and garlic.

By this time, the zucchini should be done.  Drain the water and have a 9×13 baking dish ready (you may need an additional 8×8 depending how long the zucchini are).

Take the zucchini and scoop out their soft fleshy insides and add it to the mixing bowl.  The zucchini are HOT.  I typically hold the hot zucchini with one hand wrapped in a hot pad (just toss the hot pad into the wash when done).

Place the shells of the zucchini in the 9×13 baking dish.

Mix together everything in the mixing bowl.  Add in the eggs.

Spoon the mix into the zucchini shells.  Top with crumbled parmesan cheese.  (My family used Kraft Parmesan Cheese for years).  Lightly sprinkle paprika on top.  (optional- it is nice for color)

Bake for 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

This is one of my all-time favorite spring and summer recipes.  The process sounds complicated but it is more labor intensive (chopping an mixing) than difficult in technique.   To cut down on the work, grab a friend or family member for help.  Between two people, the chopping, mixing and dishes will be done in no time!

And then you can get on to the best part- the eating!

Don’t let the “vegetarian” aspect of this meal fool you.  It’s a fairly filling dish.  All that is needed is a lovely side salad.  Add a strawberry shortcake for dessert and it’s the perfect menu for a weekend meal.

Melissa AuClair works by day as a skin care and cosmetic consultant and a blogger and writer moving towards a location independent lifestyle by night.  You can follow her on Twitter @melissaauclair or on her blog http://www.launchyourcreativelife.com/blog 
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Melissa lives online at http://www.launchyourcreativelife.com where she blogs about her journey to a location independent life and how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies. She is enthusiastic about all things entrepreneurial, having coffee with friends, helping creatives build a lifestyle around their art and sending snail mail.

Website: http://www.launchyourcreativelife.com