Parmigiana di Zucchine

Zucchini, Parmesan Style

In thinking about zucchini, it occurred to me that there was no reason one couldn’t cook them alia parmigiana, like eggplant. Basically, that is what this dish is, with some changes I thought suit the zucchini. I have eliminated oregano; instead of baking the dish with uncooked tomatoes, I first made a light tomato sauce with olive oil, onion, and parsley; finally, I enriched the grated Parmesan with beaten egg. Its taste is neither superior nor inferior to eggplant parmigiana: It is different, perhaps more polished and urbane.

Ingredients

  • pounds zucchini, soaked in water for 20 minutes
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons onion chopped very fine
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1⅔ cups canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
  • An oven-to-table baking dish of any standard size
  • 10 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Method

  1. When the zucchini have soaked the recommended amount of time, wash them in several changes of cold water, scrubbing their skin with your hands or with a stiff brush to dislodge all grit.
  2. Trim away both ends from each zucchini and cut the zucchini lengthwise into slices ¼ inch thick.
  3. Put enough vegetable oil in a skillet to come ¾ inch up the side of the pan. (The oil will be discarded later, so it would be more economical to use a small skillet and fry the zucchini a few at a time in several batches.) Turn on the heat to high. When the oil is very hot, slip in as many slices of zucchini as will fit very loosely. Cook them on both sides until they become colored a light golden brown. Using a slotted spoon or spatula transfer the zucchini to blot on a plate lined with paper towels or to a draining rack.
  4. When all the zucchini are done, discard the oil in which they were fried, wipe the skillet clean, and put in the olive oil and chopped onion. Turn on the heat to medium.
  5. When the onion becomes colored a pale gold, add the parsley, stir once or twice, add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and several grindings of pepper, stir well, and turn down the heat to medium low. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the oil separates from the tomato and floats free.
  6. Turn on the oven to 400°.
  7. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Set aside tablespoons of the grated cheese and beat the rest into the eggs.
  8. Spoon a little bit of the tomato sauce into an oven-to-table baking dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Cover the bottom with a layer of fried zucchini, cover the zucchini with mozzarella slices, spread some sauce over the mozzarella, and top with some of the egg and cheese mixture. Repeat the procedure, building up layers in the same sequence. Top with a layer of zucchini lightly daubed with tomato sauce, sprinkling over it the remaining tablespoons of grated cheese.
  9. Bake in the uppermost level of the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow to settle out of the oven for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving. It is also excellent when served at room temperature.

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