Friday, July 20, 2012

Monster Zucchini and Basil Strata Recipe

This is a tasty casserole or side dish made with those inevitable monster zucchinis!

(For Phase One Fridays I highlight Phase One recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites.  When my neighbor Mike showed me a monster zucchini hidden among the zucchini leaves in his garden, I knew it was time to feature this really delicious way to use those huge zucchini.  

People who haven't grown zucchini themselves may see the title Monster Zucchini and Basil Strata and wonder if monster zucchini is a new zucchini variety, but anyone who's had a garden knows about those monster zucchini that hide under the leaves.  You don't discover them until they're so big that it seems like the only thing to do with them is make Zucchini Bread or Zucchini Muffins.  I'm not a fan of monster zucchini, so I try to watch my plants and not let them get too big, but when the garden is winding down I always have a few that get out of control.  When I discovered an enormous zucchini recently I decided to update this recipe that I first made in 2005 with a monster zucchini that greeted me when I got home from a trip.  This recipe does have a few eggs to hold it together, but I'd consider it a casserole or side dish and it's one dish made with monster zucchini that really is very good.

Part of the trick of using monster zucchini is to trim away the big seeds, which aren't really good to eat once the zucchini gets this big.  Large zucchini also have a tougher skin that needs more thorough cooking to make it tender.  This recipe takes both of those things into account.

Start by cutting the zucchini in half crosswise to get two manageable size pieces.  Then cut each half of the zucchini lengthwise into fourths (or sixths if it's really enormous.)

Cut away the seeds on each piece, leaving about 3/8 inch of the white flesh.

Then cut the strips into small pieces like this.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Then add the zucchini and saute 2-3 minutes.

Add the Spike Seasoning (or any all-purpose seasoning of your choice) and chopped basil and saute for 2-3 minutes more.  Season with salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.  (The zucchini will be barely starting to soften.)

Spray a 10" x 12" casserole dish with olive oil or non-stick spray and then arrange the zucchini and mozzarella cheese in a single layer.  (Don't use a smaller dish; you want the zucchini peeking above the egg/cheese mixture.)

Beat the eggs with the 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan.

Pour eggs over the zucchini and sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan.  (I can be finicky, so I use a fork to get the zucchini evenly arranged in the dish!)

Bake 35-45 minutes or until the mixture is well set and lightly browned on top.  Serve hot.

Monster Zucchini and Basil Strata
(Makes 8 servings, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from a blog that no longer exists.)

1 monster zucchini, 14-16 inches long
(or use several smaller ones but don't cut out seeds and saute for a shorter time)
2 T olive oil
1-2 tsp. Spike Seasoning
(or use any all-purpose seasoning that's good on vegetables)
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese (I used low-fat Mozzarella)
6 eggs
2 T milk, half and half, or cream (I used 2% milk)

1/2 cup + 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan or Asiago  (If you only have finely grated Parmesan I would use a little less)

Preheat oven to 400F/200C.  Use a 10 X 12 glass casserole dish for this and spray with olive oil or nonstick spray.

Wash zucchini, then cut off ends and cut in half crosswise to get manageable sized pieces.  Cut each half into fourths (or sixths) lengthwise. Use a spoon or small knife to scrape away the seeds and most of the white inside, leaving about 3/8 inch of white attached to the skin. Then cut each strip crosswise into pieces about 3/8 inch wide.

Heat olive oil in large nonstick frying pan, add zucchini and saute 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add Spike and fresh basil and saute 2-3 minutes more, seasoning the zucchini with salt and fresh ground black pepper. (Zucchini should be barely starting to soften.)

Put zucchini into casserole dish with the Mozzarella cheese.  Combine eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan or Asiago and beat well. Pour egg mixture over zucchini and cheese and gently stir so it's well combined, with some zucchini pieces "peeking" out of the egg. Sprinkle the other 1/2 cup Parmesan or Asiago over top. 

Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the mixture is well set and slightly browned on top.  Serve hot.

The flavors in this dish are similar to Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake, which is the recipe I would probably use if I had regular-sized zucchini.

South Beach Suggestions:
With low-fat mozzarella and milk, this recipe would be a good side dish or main dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet or any type of low-glycemic eating plan.  As a main dish, I'd pair this with something like a Perfect Lettuce Salad or Mediterranean Salad with Hummus Dressing.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

Ten More Interesting Ideas with Zucchini:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Meat, Tomato, and Mozzarella Stuffed Zuchini Cups from Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled Zucchini Pizza Slices from Kalyn's Kitchen
Val's Kid Friendly Broiled Zucchini with Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen
Roasted Zucchini with Green Onions, Feta Cheese, and Basil from Kalyn's Kitchen
Cheesy Zucchini with Garlic and Parsley from Kalyn's Kitchen
Crisp Zucchini Fritters from No Recipes
Gluten-Free Zucchini Chips with Lime-Mint Dipping Sauce from Gluten-Free Goddess
Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries from Confections of a Foodie Bride
Zucchini Risotto from Andrea Meyers
Zucchini-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms from Herbivoracious
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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  1. Sounds delicious. I can't wait to try this one.

  2. Tried this last week and substituited goat cheese - was all I had. It was quite good, but I really believe that zucchini needs a sharp flavor with it, so I'm making it again tonight with an aged sharp cheddar! Very simple and quick to make! LOVE IT! Thanks!

  3. I would love it i know...have tried spanish omelets and frittata with zucchini and this one loaded with cheese will be great.

  4. Sangeeta. thanks. This dish has a lot more zucchini than eggs, so it's a different texture than an omelet or frittata, but very tasty.

  5. Monster zucchini! Yep, they require special treatment for sure. Sadly, some folks won't pick zucchini when they are at the right size and then they are disappointed with the results when using them. Even the baby zukes you can get early on are especially wonderful. Looks delish, Kalyn--thanks!


  6. Shirley I knew an elderly woman who let all her garden produce get way too big: zucchinis, summer squash, green beans, cucumbers, everything! And then she couldn't figure out why I thought garden grown veggies were so much better!

    I agree that very small zucchini are really special, but this is a good way to use the ones that are too big for most recipes!

  7. What a compelling recipe for the garden monsters hiding away under a canopy of leaves! I adore that you have found a recipe to celebrate the end of summer's prolific bounty.

  8. Thanks Deb. This is the time of year when I forget about the garden and discover these monsters!

  9. Love this! I'm definitely saving this away for when we have a garden next year!!

  10. Thanks Marie, glad you like it!

  11. Oh yes, I know those monster zucchini well. They show themselves when you least expect it and last for days! This is a wonderful way to use all of the zucchini and basil that are hanging around in my garden.

  12. Dara, so true! I seem to find them just when I'm thinking that I've been keeping up with the garden.

  13. Great post... and very timely, i just passed one of those monsters at the store and wondered what could be done... Hope it;s still there

  14. Hope you get a chance to try it; really very good, especially considering you're using zucchini that might get thrown away!

  15. Sounds delicious!! Always looking for new zucchini recipes! Thanks for sharing! I will defiantly be trying this.

  16. I used one of those fancy julienne stip cutters last night and cooked it off with onion, fresh tomato, garlic and herbs. There was plenty left (darned huge zucch's) that I'm going to sub that for tonight's side dish. Bravo.

  17. I love that - Monster Zucchini. The first time I came across the spongy interior of an overgrown zucchini, I wasn't sure if it was edible or not. It definitely had a strange texture. This is a great way to use up all the summer squash I've been getting in my CSA Box. Thanks for the idea!

  18. Great recipe! It's true what they say, "Don't turn your back on the zucchini!" All of my zucchini have been monsters this year. None less than 10" long and as big around as a softball! The grandaddy this year was 16 inches long and as big around as a two liter bottle of soda! I grated it all and put it in the freezer for fritters, bread, and casseroles.

  19. I saw some but did not buy any at the farm market today. Monster Zucchini is a great name for it!


  20. I have zucchini coming out of my ears- this is a great recipe!

  21. I used this in my September Real Food Meal Plan. Thanks!


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