Cheesy Zucchini Casserole
August 4, 2015 7 Comments
This recipe came about when my ten-year-old Nicholas rejected the first two ideas I proposed for using the enormous zucchini we got in our farm share: (1) “Nooo! We still have zucchini bread from last time!” and (2) “Nothing with tomato sauce unless it is a pizza.” Hmmm… I remembered a casserole recipe from some magazine that I made a couple of times in the 1990s but threw out in the transition from recipe cards to our recipe binder because it called for canned soup and saltine crackers and we just weren’t keeping those things on hand anymore. That casserole had corn in it; Nicholas likes corn, and we have a huge bag of frozen organic corn. (By the way, zucchini and corn are two vegetables that are important to buy organic to avoid genetically modified organisms.) Instead of the soup, we could use cheese to hold it together. What other farm produce did we need to use up? Garlic scapes and the dill from a couple weeks ago that I’d hung up to dry.
[UPDATE: I made this again in December using frozen zucchini and corn left over from Thanksgiving. See the note at the bottom for help with frozen zucchini–it did turn out well, but it required some techniques I learned from previous mishaps in other recipes!]
I didn’t measure anything, but I can tell you approximately what you’ll need to make a 10″x15″ casserole:
- 1 medium-sized zucchini (If you have a giant one, grate the whole thing and freeze excess in appropriate portions for future recipes.)
- 2 cups corn kernels (If they’re frozen, just measure the 2 cups and set out at room temperature to thaw while you prepare the rest of the food. It’s okay if they still feel icy when going into the oven; they’re small and will cook well enough in the end.)
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 7 garlic scapes, or 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp. dried dill
- 1 tsp. dried tarragon
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper (Black pepper would be fine if you don’t have white.)
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese (You can grate extra cheese and freeze it, too, or just set it aside for another meal requiring grated cheese.)
Cut zucchini in quarters lengthwise and remove the most egregious seeds. Grate the zucchini. I like to use the food processor when I’m grating any significant quantity of food.
Rinse the processor parts or grater, then grate the cheese.
Put half the oil in the casserole dish and tilt so that it coats the bottom. Put handfuls of zucchini into dish and pat down to form a layer about 3/4 inch deep.
Dice garlic scapes/cloves. Place in a small pan with remaining oil and all the herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until sizzling. Turn off the heat and mix in as much corn as you can fit into the pot. Spoon out onto surface of casserole, aiming for even coverage, and then add any remaining corn.
Top casserole with grated cheese.
Bake uncovered at 350F until edges are starting to brown, 15-25 minutes.
Both Nicholas and his fifteen-month-old sister Lydia loved this meal, and so did I! He was reading stories to her while I was grating the food and assembling the casserole, but as soon as the aroma of its baking was detectable, Lydia was in the kitchen shouting, “Tzeece! Nommy!” Since she seemed so hungry, I tried giving her some bits of cheese and other foods that were ready to eat, but she really was not satisfied until she had her bowl of casserole and had finished blowing on it so she could eat it with her hands. Only the bit that fell on the floor was wasted, as she carefully retrieved morsels from the table and her lap to savor them. I think that munching the cheese with her four teeth is what got her to chew the corn kernels rather than swallowing them whole as she usually does.
I’m going to make this again–possibly within the next week–and we still have plenty of frozen zucchini for zucchini bread later!
What if the zucchini was frozen?
You’re going to need more of it than you think! I used 8 cups, and I think 6 cups would be the minimum needed to cover the bottom of the casserole dish.
Thaw the zucchini at least enough that you can crumble the shreds apart. It’s okay if it still feels a bit snowy. Crumble it into a colander and press it down so that excess water drains off. A lot of water comes out of zucchini when it is frozen and thawed! If you leave this water in the casserole, it will be soggy.
If your zucchini is still frozen in clumps when you’re ready to assemble your casserole, this is the best way to thaw it: Place it in a plastic colander, set the base in a small microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it for 1 minute at a time. After each minute, crumble off as much zucchini as you can, press down, and then pour out the water from the bowl.
Once the zucchini is thawed and drained, you can put it into the casserole dish and proceed with the recipe.