By Tommy C. Simmons, an enthusiastic cook
Photograph by Tommy C. Simmons
My daughter-in-law, Jenny Simmons, gave us one of the spiral slicing kitchen tools, and we were eager to try it on fresh zucchini. It works fine and in no time at all we had a bowl full of zucchini spirals to use in a recipe.
Thanks to Virginia Willis and her squash recipes featured in the July issue of Southern Living magazine we incorporated the zucchini spirals in a Zucchini Noodle Salad. We also tried her recipe for Zucchini Rice Gratin. Since I made a few changes to the gratin, I'll share how I changed the dish.
The salad recipe is on the magazine's website at southernliving.com. I do suggest cutting back on the lemon zest when you make the salad dressing – it's a bit tart for my family's palate.
Zucchini Rice Gratin is good choice for an all-vegetable dinner entrée.
Home kitchen-tested recipe
Zucchini Rice Gratin
Serves 10. Recipe adapted by Tommy C. Simmons from an original recipe by Virginia Willis featured in the July issue of Southern Living magazine.
2 tbls. olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tbls. all-purpose flour
2 lbs. fresh zucchini, roughly chopped
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. Italian seasoning blend
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tbl. softened butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and set aside.
Heat olive oil in large skillet and sauté onion in hot oil until golden. Stir in garlic and stir to cook through for about a minute. Add flour to skillet and heat to slightly toast the flour and make a light roux.
Stir in chopped zucchini, milk, rice, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning blend, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Pour into greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and rice is soft. Check at 30 minutes because some ovens cook hot.
Remove from oven and take foil off, sprinkle top of gratin with Italian seasoned breadcrumbs that have been combined with 1 tablespoon softened butter. Return to oven and up temperature to broil to toast the breadcrumbs. Watch the browning, it goes fast. Serve immediately.
Testing note: It's important to cover the zucchini and rice as it cooks in the oven otherwise the rice doesn't steam properly and dries out and gets crunchy on the edges of the baking dish.
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