19 August 2014

The Zucchini Project: Julia Childs' Zucchini Tian

This isn't my first post attempting to address the love/hate relationship gardeners have with zucchini.  We grow it because we know we won't fail (a nuclear bomb might not kill the zucchini plants in my yard), but we quickly grow tired of the squash these prolific plants produce, from mid-summer well into fall.  When I don't plant zucchini seeds, I still end up with more than I crave thanks to neighbors who just can't seem to kick the habit. But you know what?  It's fresh food, pesticide free and straight from the garden.  So I'm not going to complain anymore. And neither should you.

I have posted a few recipes utilizing zucchini in (sometimes) creative ways this year and in years past, and they are referenced below for your reading pleasure.  But just so you can see that I'm not cheating here, I'm going to come up with a new recipe to use zucchini/summer squash every week that we still have them growing in the garden. Lord help me.

Today's recipe is an adaptation from a Julia Childs classic. The zucchini flavor (yes, it does exist) really stands out amidst this gooey, bubbling, comforting casserole that can stand on its own or pair as a hearty side dish to meats.  Mine adds a little acid and some herbs along with some added crunch on top to create a slightly more interesting bite.

Julia Childs' Zucchini Tian (with liberties)

Serve 6-8

2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and grated
1/2 cup plain white rice
1 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm liquid: zucchini juices plus milk, heated in a pan (watch this closely so that it doesn't curdle)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (save 2 tablespoons for later)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Place the grated zucchini in a colander over a bowl to catch liquid. Toss with about a teaspoon of salt, mixing thoroughly. Let the squash drain 3 or 4 minutes, or until you are ready to proceed. Just before cooking, squeeze dry with your hands. 

While the shredded zucchini is draining, drop the rice into boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil exactly 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, cook the onions over medium heat in the oil for about 10 minutes until tender and starting to brown. Stir in the grated and dried zucchini, herbes de Provence, and garlic. Toss and turn for 5 to 6 minutes until the zucchini is almost tender. Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, and remove from heat.

Gradually stir in the 2 1/2 cups warm liquid (zucchini juices plus milk, heated gently in a pan -- don't let it get so hot that the milk curdles!). Make sure the flour is well blended and smooth.

Remove from the heat, stir in the blanched rice and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Add black pepper and more salt, if necessary, to taste. Turn into buttered baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes at 425F or until tian is bubbling and most liquid has been absorbed. Remove from oven, squeeze the lemon evenly over the top, scatter the breadcrumbs and remaining cheese evenly over the top, and return to oven to cook another 10 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Past zucchini recipes from DFT...

“Fried” Squash Pasta

Mock Apple Cobbler

Summer Squash “Lasagna”

Zucchini Fritters

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