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Saturday, August 28, 2010

oven-roasted zucchini cutlets, or deconstructed zucchini parmesan

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the first week of kindergarten

We’ve just finished Meredith’s first week of kindergarten at Rabbit Creek Elementary School! What an exciting week it’s been! We walked her to the bus stop on Tuesday morning, and she boarded the bus with our third grade friend and neighbor, Zoey. (More on Zoey, our marvelous bus-helper, in a later post.) Meredith bounded off the bus in the afternoon, face shining with joy, announcing “I LOVE school! I want to go EVERY day!” I’m so thrilled that kindergarten is already so exciting and fun for her… thank you, wonderful Ms. Rakos!! I was pretty sure she would LIKE school, but I am practically beside myself with joy that she LOVES it!

Of course Dan and I tried to pry as much information from her on the walk home—and thankfully, she was happy to oblige. This is a change from her reports on her beloved pre-school, about which she would generally respond “Oh, I don’t know—I forget!” During the past three years, we were reduced to asking “Who got to be the candle-snuffer today?” since that seemed to be the one thing that 1) we knew to ask and 2) she was willing to recount.

But this year is different.

First off, she announced the biggest surprise: “Guess what color the inside of the bus is?  WHITE!” (I guess she thought the inside would be yellow, like the outside?) We’ve been regaled nightly with the “loose tooth song” (although Meredith has yet to experience a wiggly tooth of her own). I have gotten a full report on the different seating tables: yellow puffins, red foxes, blue bears. (I think I’ve got them right.) I have heard about journal time (“It’s ALWAYS in the morning, Mom!” she reported on the second day) and counting the days with tally-marks. Then, the story of their exciting Thursday in Gym class: “We did SQUADS, Mom! And I was on Squad 6!” I remembered squads from my own days at Rabbit Creek—in fact, Meredith and I share a common Gym teacher, the amazing Ms. Steen—but when I asked Meredith what they did in their squads, (like maybe a relay race or something?) she gave me a blank look. “No, Mom, we did SQUADS!” She told me about practicing lines and drawing apple trees in Art class on Friday, and how one student in her class drew black apples, but she preferred the more conventional red…

It’s more fun than I could have imagined to hear her describe her school experiences. She has her first library day on Monday…  I can’t wait to hear about her adventures with the librarian, Ms. Kean!

Thank you, Rabbit Creek Elementary School, for such a fantastic beginning to Meredith’s school year!

Now that I have a bit more time during the day to cook, while Meredith’s in school, a recipe like this with a little more prep time is more feasible. There are lots of sweet Alaskan zucchinis at the farmers markets these days… please, take advantage of them while you can—even if it’s raining on market day!

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oven-roasted zucchini cutlets, or deconstructed zucchini parmesan

This recipe is very loosely based on one for an eggplant parmesan in Cooks’ Illustrated (January 2004), but you don’t have to make the whole recipe—the zucchini slices are good just on their own (as pictured). You can dollop each slice with your favorite tomato sauce, though, if you like, to make a fun deconstructed zucchini parmesan. (I’ve included two very easy and yummy recipes for tomato sauce, below—one with fresh tomatoes, one with canned.)

It’s much more fun doing this recipe with another person—there’s quite a bit of dredging and drenching to do. You won’t be surprised to learn that I always make a double batch of this because it’s so yummy, and the cooked slices freeze well! I have to admit that my favorite way to eat these, other than hot, fresh and crispy right out of the oven, is in a sandwich with mayonnaise, thinly sliced red onion, and lots of lettuce.

3 or 4 large zucchinis, cut crosswise on a slant into ½” thick ovals
6-8 slices of bread (you know my preference: whole wheat sourdough)
½ to 1 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup flour
3 eggs
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
spray vegetable oil (or regular vegetable oil)

1. Put the zucchini slices into a large bowl and toss with a tablespoon of salt, then let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours in a colander. Drain off the liquid in a colander, and rinse under water. Dry the slices between kitchen towels to remove as much liquid as possible.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grind bread slices in food processor to make fine, even crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a pie plate and if your parmesan isn’t grated very fine, grind it up with a few pulses, too. Add cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the crumbs and mix together.
3. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large ziplock bag; shake to combine.
4. Beat eggs in second pie plate.
5. Place 8 to 10 zucchini slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat zucchini. Remove zucchini slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on wire racks on your counter. Repeat with remaining zucchini.
6. Put 2 heavy, rimmed baking sheets (preferably non-stick) in the oven and let them preheat for 10 minutes or so. Remove them one at a time from the oven, spray or brush thoroughly with vegetable oil, and load the zucchini on the sheets in a single layer. Bake until zucchini is well-browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping slices after 20 minutes.
7. While the zucchini bakes, if you’re going to serve the zucchini with tomato sauce, make the fast fresh tomato sauté or the marinara sauce. (You can make the marinara the day before, if you like. Just reheat before serving.)
8. Serve each person several slices of zucchini, overlapping slightly, on plates with little bowls of the tomato sauté. This is especially nice alongside a green salad.

fast fresh tomato sauté
This recipe is based on one from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.

3 cups of sliced, quartered, or diced tomatoes
1 shallot or ½ a small white onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
small handful basil leaves, slivered, or 1 teaspoon thyme, minced (whatever fresh herbs you have hanging around, or growing in a pot on your deck—oregano, maybe?)
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

1. Toss the tomatoes with the onion or shallot, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. You can let the mixture marinate for up to 2 hours or use it right away.
2. Just before you’re ready to eat, heat a skillet and when hot, add the tomatoes. Swirl the pan around to warm them through, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some pepper. They should just warm up and release their juices, not fall apart.

marinara sauce

4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
two 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, or diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Coarsely chop the tomatoes if using whole ones.
2. Saute the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant (30 seconds or so). Add the tomatoes and cook the sauce until nicely thickened, about 30 minutes.
3. Crush the oregano between your palms as you sprinkle it into the pot. Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste. If you want a smoother sauce, put some of the sauce into your blender, or use a hand-held immersion blender to puree some of the chunks out of the sauce.


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