Zucchini casserole

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Here is a quick recipe that’s bound to please the entire family, even people who are not too much into zucchini. It’s easy to make, full of flavor, and diet friendly if you control your calories. If you don’t, you can always eat the full pan all by yourself, and nobody will hold it against you. Bonus, it’s packed with protein although it’s a vegetarian dish. Perfect for meatless Monday!

Before I guide you through the steps of the recipe, I have a confession to make. The first time I heard the word casserole I was very confused. See, in French, a casserole is a saucepan –or simply, a pot–, where you boil water or make soup. Certainly not a dish baked in the oven. We have a word for that, we call it a “gratin”. Which is a word, I believe, that exists in English too. So it made me want to know more, as I’m always curious about linguistic oddities.

Consulting the Online Etymology Dictionary, I found out that the term is used in English since the beginning of the 18th century, and comes from a Middle French word casse, which refers to a sort of pan. The Littré dictionary, which is one of the standards of French language, says it’s a roasting pan or a drip pan. According to other dictionaries, such as the Dictionnaire d’étymologie française, d’après les résultats de la science moderne (1888) (Dictionary of French etymology, according to the results of modern science), it’s a skillet or a frying pan with a long handle. All agree that it was supposed to be used on a fire. Olivier de Serres, who published in 1605 an agronomy treatise, Théâtre d’agriculture et mesnage des champs, speaks about boiling sugar with water “dans une poesle ou casse bien nette, sur un feu de flamme” (in a pan or clean casse, on a burning fire). Whatever the original casse was, the word casserole must have meant a small casse, and was a cooking implement used to cook on the fire. By a whim of fate (and an improvement in the settings of individual kitchens, which most often didn’t have any oven in Medieval times) the dish migrated from the stove to the oven. Where it is baked au gratin, of course!

By now you must be bored by my linguistic ramblings, so here is the recipe, which requires only a few ingredients: zucchini, eggs, Parmesan cheese, butter, oats, Maïzena, and a few seasonings.

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First, grate your zucchini with a grater or a food processor, and put them in a colander. Sprinkle the zucchini with coarse salt and let them render their water as long as you can. Remember what I said in the post about Zucchini noodles? The same holds here. You want to squeeze as much water as possible out of the zucchini, to avoid ending up with a soupy casserole.

While the salt is doing its thing to the zucchini, grate the cheese and put it in a bowl. You can use Parmiggiano, Pecorino or Grana Padano, whichever variety you prefer, but please use it freshly grated, not pre-packaged. The zucchini will thank you. In the cheese, mix a little corn starch and some oats. I prefer to add oat bran, since it contains less carbs and a bit more fiber, but regular oatmeal would perfectly work and won’t alter the taste. The corn starch and oatmeal give the crust a touch of extra-crispiness.

Whisk your eggs with a fork, and add the zucchini that you have squeezed as hard as you could with your hands to drain them from their water. Then put black pepper (preferably freshly ground), a little ground cumin, and mint. I had only dried mint this time, but fresh mint is even better. Combine everything together.

Coat your pan with a little butter to prevent the dish to stick – and to give a great buttery taste to the casserole, of course!

Pour the zucchini-egg mix in the pan, and sprinkle the cheese-oats-Maïzena mix evenly. Bake in the oven until the crust has reached a nice golden color (about 30 mn).

You can serve it with salad greens, or a piece of meat if you want a light meal packed with even more protein.

I served it with roasted chicken thighs and a side of tomato salad. Yummy!

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Ingredients for 4 pers.

1 kg zucchini
4 eggs
100g Parmesan cheese
2 tbs. oat bran (or regular oatmeal)
1 tbs. corn starch
1 tbs. butter
1 tsp. dried mint (or 1 tbs. fresh mint)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs. coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preparation: 15 mn.
Cooking time: 30 mn.

Macros per serving: 256 kcal., protein: 22, carbs: 13, fat: 16

Grate the zucchini and transfer them in a colander. Sprinkle 1 tbs. of coarse salt and toss evenly. Let them drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Grate the cheese, add the corn starch and the oat bran, mix well. Beat the eggs, squeeze as much water as you can from the zucchini and add them to the eggs. Add a generous amount of pepper, the mint and the cumin. No salt is needed, the one you added to the zucchini before should be more than enough. Stir well. Coat your baking pan with a thin layer of butter, to prevent the zucchini and eggs to stick. Put the mix of zucchini and eggs into the pan.

Distribute the cheese mix evenly on top, and bake in the oven at 180-200°C for 30 mn, or until a golden crust forms. Let it cool a little before serving, to allow the juices to be reabsorbed into the dish.

Bon appétit!

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