Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tomatoes and zucchini

We have certainly enjoyed the season’s produce at my house this summer — eating fresh peaches, blueberries, tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers, zucchini and snap beans.

I’ve bought produce at both of Wilson’s farmers markets, and we’ve appreciated the kindness of neighbors and friends who have shared the bounty of their gardens with us. It’s a good thing they like to share because our puny little backyard garden was a complete failure this summer.

Some of the vegetables and fruits have been prepared the traditional way for dinner at our house these last few weeks, but I’ve also been trying a few new things. One of my favorites — and my husband’s as well — is a layered vegetable dish that combines ripe tomatoes and zucchini. The dish reminds Reggie and me of a very favorite dish — tomato pie. But this recipe comes without the pie crust, which only adds fat and calories as we all know! (That being said, I’m including the tomato pie recipe here again because it is just so very delicious.)

This new super-easy vegetable dish can be adapted to your own tastes, but I used Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese with the casserole I made and added fresh basil to my layers. Instead of a heavy crust, I sprinkled Italian bread crumbs on my layers.

The preparation time for tomato zucchini bake is quick and basically involves slicing tomatoes, zucchini and sweet onions then layering those ingredients with a little salt, pepper, oregano and cheese. Don’t go heavy on the cheese; the vegetables are the star of this dish!

But I will say that the browned mozzarella is absolutely delicious to me!

You can make enough for just one person, or bring out the big casserole dish and make a large casserole for a crowd. As long as you have the tomatoes and zucchini, you’re good to go.

I’m glad I made enough for leftovers the next day because they were delicious as well!

Lisa’s Tomato Pie
  • One frozen or refrigerated pie crust
  • 3 to 4 medium, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions
  • Olive oil
  • 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced fat)
Slice tomatoes and season with salt and pepper; drain juice for an hour or so before using.*

Cook pie crust for 10 minutes at temperature recommended on package. Prick the crust before baking.

While the crust is cooking, saute onions in a little olive oil.

Once crust is cooked, remove from oven (adjusting oven temperature to 375 degrees) and sprinkle a little of the Parmesan cheese on the crust. (Keep in mind that the Parmesan cheese will also be used in the pie’s layers, so don’t use too much.)

Layer tomato slices over cheese. Add a layer of basil, sautéed onions and a little oregano. Repeat layer, omitting basil this time.

Mix mayonnaise and Mozzarella cheese and spread on top of pie. Top with remaining Parmesan.

Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until top is lightly browned and juice is beginning to bubble through.

Let sit for 20 minutes before cutting.

* Here’s how I drained my tomatoes: I cut the tomatoes into relatively thin slices, not paper thin, but thin. I placed them on a cooling rack that I positioned inside a jelly roll pan to catch the juice. Then I sprinkled salt and pepper on the tomato slices and let them drain. After an hour or so, I put the tomato slices on paper towels to soak up more liquid. If you only seasoned one side of your tomato, be careful to place it seasoned-side up on the paper towels so the salt and pepper won’t rub off. Quite a bit of liquid was removed from my tomatoes, and my pie was certainly not runny. But I also waited to cut the pie until it had cooled for at least 15-20 minutes, based on a reviewer’s suggestion, which also helped it firm up. For the other dish in today’s paper, I just placed the tomatoes between layers of paper towels to soak up the liquid.

Tomato and Zucchini Bake

I’m not putting specific amounts for this recipe because it can be adjusted based on how much you need. I used two medium to large tomatoes and two small to medium zucchinis and made 4-6 servings. I probably used less than a cup of Mozzarella cheese and maybe 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan.
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Zucchini, sliced
  • Vidalia or sweet onions, sliced
  • Butter for sauteeing onions
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano (or Italian seasoning if you prefer it)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Italian bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tomatoes on paper towels and blot to dry or layer between paper towels to soak up extra liquid. While they dry, sautee onions in a little butter.

In a casserole dish, layer tomatoes, overlapping, zucchini slices and sauteed onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper as well as oregano. If you have fresh basil, add a chopped leaf or two to the layer. Top with a sprinkling of cheeses and bread crumbs. Do not use too much cheese or bread crumbs. These ingredients are supposed to enhance the vegetables, not overpower them. Repeat layers at least once.

Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden brown and casserole is cooked through.

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