Zucchini Au Gratin


Ingredients
1 large or extra large zucchini squash
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
a pinch of nutmeg [optional but delicious!]
a pinch of allspice
a pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
2-3 TBSP fresh chopped spinach
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 buttery crackers, crushed [I used honey cornbread crackers]

Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and slice your zucchini into discs. No need to break out a mandolin to get them super thin, you'll want them sliced around the same thickness as you'd slice a cucumber for a salad.note: When working with squash as delicate as zucchini, it helps to take an extra step in the cooking process to remove the excess water that pours outta these green gems. The last thing we want to do is eat a mushy, supremely soggy casserole, so my favorite trick is to blanch the zucchini slices and follow it up with an ice bath and a light sprinkle of salt to draw out the moisture tucked away in the squash. It's a small step but made a huge difference in the texture of the casserole. Had I plopped the zucchini in raw, it would have given up all the moisture into the baking dish. The same also goes for overcooked zucchini. So blanch, ice bath, pat dry, and lightly salting is where it's at. Here's how:
  2. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil with enough water to just cover the zucchini discs. Once the water hits a rolling boil, toss in the zucchini slices for one minute, remove with a slotted spoon or drain in a colander, and immediately plunge them into the ice bath to shock the vegetable and halt the cooking process. Next lay them flat on a layer of paper towels, pat the exposed side dry, and sprinkle with about 1/8 tsp of salt, evenly distributed, to draw out the moisture. Let the discs sit while you move on to the onions and cheese!
  3. Grab the now-empty pot you used to blanch your zucchini and bring to medium-high heat with a tsp of olive oil or butter. Saute the onion and garlic until tender and translucent. Add 1/2 cup of grated cheddar along with the milk, chopped spinach, paprika, garlic powder, nutmeg, allspice, and a pinch of salt since you'll be patting some of the salt off the zucchini. Stir well and remove from heat. Stir in your egg and set aside.
  4. Next give your zucchini discs one last paper towel pat to remove any liquid the salt may have drawn out. Line a shallow baking dish [I used a pyrex pie pan] with the sliced zucchini and pour the cheddar-onion mixture over the center. Top with 1/2 cup of fontina and an extra 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes, to taste, along with some crushed cracker crumbs. Ritz crackers tend to work great as did the Milton Honey Cornbread crackers I used, anything crumbly and buttery! To keep gluten out of the equation, grab some GF crackers or breadcrumbs or simply skip 'em altogether.
  5. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350F for around 15-18 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove the foil and set the oven to broil on high for an additional 3-5 minutes to give the cheese that extra-golden crust to it, but be sure to keep an eye for it to prevent charring.


Original Recipes visit: Zucchini Au Gratin @ peasandcrayons.com

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