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Susan S. Yeske: Recipe of the Week--Fresh zucchini and tomatoes in a casserole

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Summer is the season for fresh vegetables, and there are plenty to choose from.
 
Local farmers are harvesting all of our favorites including corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, Swiss chard, beans, peppers, carrots, cabbage, and the often maligned zucchini.
 
Zucchini, the first cousin of yellow squash, gets a bad rap, mostly from home farmers who have an abundance of the vegetable and don’t know what to do with it. Or, worse still, they have allowed them to stay on the vine too long and the resulting zucchini are large and flavorless with tough skin and too many large seeds.
 
Zucchini that are harvested young are tender and have more flavor and nutrients. They can be eaten without peeling or removing the seeds, and are versatile in both sweet and savory dishes.
 
While sautéed zucchini may not appeal to everyone, and using zucchini in cakes and quick breads seems like a way to cover up the flavor, there is one perfect pairing that enhances both vegetables: zucchini with tomatoes.
 
Mostly likely the idea to combine the two originated in Italy, which is credited with creating the zucchini in the 19th century through cross-breeding squash plants brought from the Americas.
 
Tomatoes have been part of the Italian culinary culture since the 16th century when they also came from the Americas, so it makes sense that chefs would put the two together.
 
With good olive oil, a little onion and some Italian seasonings such as oregano, and tomatoes and zucchini quickly become a sautéed dish that can be served with pasta, rice, quinoa or scrambled eggs. Add some cheese and it’s even better.
 
Zucchini also can be served raw with dip, sliced and baked with cheese and seasonings, stuffed with ground meat or bread stuffings, added to soups or chili, baked into muffins or used in salads.
 
Zucchini also is nutritious and high in potassium and minerals.
 
This recipe from food.com for a casserole combines zucchini with tomatoes and cheese for a side dish or vegetarian entrée.

Zucchini Casserole

6 medium zucchini (thinly sliced)
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 large fresh tomato (chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)
1teaspoon Italian spices
1tablespoon olive oil
1teaspoon garlic salt
 
Heat oil in large skillet. Add zucchini, onion, tomato and garlic. Cover and cook until desired tenderness, about 10 minutes. Drain.
 
Stir in tomato sauce and seasonings.
 
In a 13x9-inch baking dish, place a layer of the zucchini mixture, then top with shredded cheese. Continue layers until pan is full, ending with the remaining cheese.
 
Bake uncovered in a 350°F oven for 25 minutes. Top with shredded parmesan or Romano cheese, if desired.
 
Serves 8.

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