Golden Zucchini and Parmesan

October 9, 2008


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I am fully aware that not everyone shares my passion for zucchini. But some people do, and for those sophisticated palates, I have something simply remarkable (or remarkably simple) to present. And for those wary of delicate yellow squash and its green equivalent, this dish just might convert you. Let me open by asking: how can you resist anything inspired by the vegetable mavens Patricia Wells and Ina Garten? I' ve recently learned that the culinary heroines are dear friends: big, perfect, beautiful surprise. I am seriously jealous of their bond, and eager to recreate their mutual, edible delight in my own kitchen. Both Patricia and Ina have inspired me with their appreciation for the basics: a little bit of hot butter and / or oil, some good produce to sauté or roast and a few diaphanous pieces of parmesan on top for salty good measure. This combination inevitably produces decent dishes every time. But there are a few lessons I' ve learned along the way, especially where fragile, watery slices of summer squash and zucchini are concerned. Here is one of the most essential things: zucchini has a great inclination and talent for steaming itself. Because the vegetable is so full of water, it is apt to perspire and wilt in the pan if you' re not careful. This may be why so many people are not wildly fond of the stuff: because most people get limp, rubbery, wet slices. Say goodbye to over-cooked yellow squash and hello to crisp, browned and buttery slices. Here is the secret: do not lay down more zucchini than your pan can handle. Every slice must have its own little space on the hot plate. If the squash overlaps, it will surely begin to steam itself. In addition, I would recommend adding some onion to the dish—but if you add them while cooking the zucchini, you' ll inevitably use up precious skillet real estate, running the risks of soggy squash. Caramelize your onions beforehand and mix them in with the sautéed veggies at the end. This dish has to be done in batches. In lieu of keeping your first rounds warm under aluminum foil (which will surely lead to wilt) lay them flat on a cookie sheet and let them sit in a warm oven until you' re ready to serve them. It may seem involved, but it' s definitely worth the effort.

I recommend using both yellow squash and zucchini for added color—I made this as a side dish for a dinner of about 10 and used 4 of each. Adjust the recipe to any sized group.

Caramelize onions. * In the meantime, slice squash and zucchini into diagonal discs, about ½ inch thick. * When onions are finished, add more butter and oil to sauté pan. * Lay squash and zucchini slices down on skillet, without overlapping. * Add salt, pepper or other seasonings you like—a few fresh thyme leaves work well. * Sauté until golden, then flip with a spatula. * Repeat. * When finished with the first batch, lay slices flat on baking sheet in warm oven. * Repeat entire process until finished. * To serve, mix zucchini and squash with onion and lay thin slices of fresh, Parmesan cheese on top.

NB: These photos show grated cheese as well as zucchini and squash that were tossed with onions before cooking.

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