Tuesday, January 21, 2014

31 Days of Green: Day 21 Zucchini

Zucchini is such a great vegetable to keep around the kitchen. It cooks up quickly and is great by itself or added into any recipe to bulk it up. My husband loves sautéed zucchini with sesame seeds as a quick and simple snack but zucchinis culinary uses don’t end at a simple sauté. It can be used in desserts, eaten raw on a salad, and even turned into noodles. 

My favorite is definitely noodles, although the deserts are a close second! Zucchini is abundant in the summer. Anyone that has planted zucchini in their garden has probably found themselves with a pile of the beautiful green torpedoes on their kitchen counter. So besides cramming it into every dessert you can think of, try making this easy lasagna recipe with healthy zucchini in place of the pasta. Zucchini is loaded with antioxidants, copper, and manganese; just to name a few of its nutritious attributes. It is also a great way to trade a low nutrient food, like pasta, to something lighter and better.

Zucchini Lasagna

Gluten Free
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini, about ¾ pound
2 cups pasta sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese or kefir cheese*
1 cup finely shredded mozzarella, divided
1 egg
2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
Garlic and Italian Seasoning to taste

Remove the ends of the zucchini and slice long ways down the center so that you have two long halves. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and, using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into strips by pressing the peeler firmly down and running it along the length of the zucchini. Don’t worry if some of the pieces break, you just want to make sure you have thin slices. Once the zucchini is all in strips place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake on 350oF for 10 minutes. Just long enough to get some of the liquid out of the zucchini. In the mean time mix the ricotta, egg, chopped spinach, half a cup of mozzarella, and spices in a bowl. Once the zucchini is done oil a baking pan (I used 9x13 but I think a smaller one would give more layers) with a little olive oil and line the bottom with the zucchini. Next do a layer of sauce, and then a layer of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the zucchini, sauce, ricotta until you are out of ingredients. I got two layers of each in my big pan. Top with the remaining half-cup of mozzarella and bake on 375 for 30 minutes until the top is crisp. Serve warm.

Thinly slice the zucchini
Lay the zucchini out to bake

Top layer of baked zucchini with sauce
Add a layer of cheese/vegetable mixture
Top with shredded cheese

Notes and Substitutions

  • *To make kefir cheese, use homemade or store bought plain kefir. Layer a few pieces of cheesecloth over a deep bowl and pour the kefir over it. Let the kefir sit, loosely covered, for about 8 hours until a lot of the whey has strained out. It should be thick like sour cream. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • I used homemade sauce that was pretty thick so you may not need quite 2 cups.
  • You can add any veggies to the ricotta mixture, spinach was great but broccoli or mushrooms would also be good. I would give them a quick roast first.

Do you like zucchini noodles? What is your favorite way to eat zucchini?

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