I love the Spring/Summer season. The in between both seasons, where the weather can’t decide which it wants to be…. warm yet not TOO hot, birds chirping, flowers full blooming and love in the air time of year. (*I do NOT love that it is also extremely rainy and allergy season, ‘hachew! Sniffle, sniffle’).
Along with all those wonderful things, that make me want to skip through a field of dandelions while singing “I am sixteen, going on seventeen”, comes some seriously scrum-didili-umptious produce.
Can you say zucchini flowers? Squash blossoms out the wa-zoo. Plump, perfectly unblemished bluberries (that don’t cost you an arm and a leg).
Fields and fields of ripe, red strawberries. Husks of golden corn begging to be grilled and slathered in butter.
And these delights… vibrant, green, white speckled, tender, nutritious beauties of a vegetable. Zucchini!! Yay!
This time of year is what I want my Heaven to look like. Colorful, Fresh, Delicious, Plentiful….. Yes!!
With this love of spring/summer produce also comes a bad habit of mine. I purchase WAY to much produce. I can’t help it.
Blame it on the farmers market, placing everything sooo delicately in bins, having a spot light from heaven shine on each and everyone, beconing me to scoop them up and say “I’ll take 5 of each”!
Needless to say, I had a surpluss of zucchini.
For my own consumption, I will large dice them and saute them with some garlic flavored olive oil in my trusty cast iron skillet, then sprinkle them with a little lemon zest and freshly grated parmesan. But, that isn’t a recipe, it’s too simple (though delicious), and not blog worthy.
Originally, I was contemplating doing something light and fresh with them…. then I developed a very strong craving for something a weeee bit hearty, yet still healthy, and involving my plethora of zucchini.
So I thought of this. It certainly DID satisfy all of my stomach’s desires… and then some. Light, because I oven baked them instead of frying & I used part skim mozzarella and ricotta.
Hearty, because it is Italian and contains cheese. Fresh, because I used organic, ripe zucchini. On top of all that, I had some homemade marinera in the fridge, so really this was an easy peasy throw together. Yatzi!
The crunch of the panko and the decadence of the cheese made it feel like I was seriously indulging, all while getting a great serving of vegetables, calcium, AND eating relatively healthy. I almost felt like I was cheating… it was that good.
They are just as scrumptious on their own, as a “chip” of sorts.
When I originally pulled them out of the oven, I automatically knew half of them did NOT stand a chance of making it to the stack formation step.
I used some of them as a ‘scoop’ with salsa… delish. Dolloped a little marinara and pesto on a few… excellent tasting.
I dipped some of them in fat free ranch dressing…yummm. Point being, even if you don’t feel like an Italian stack of zucchini parmesan love, eat ’em plain, dipped, or dolloped… they are still equally delicious.
Give this a chance and as always let me know how it turns out. 🙂
- 3 Medium sized Zucchini
- 1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
- ¾ Cup Egg Whites
- 1 ¾ Cups Panko Bread Crumbs
- ¼ Cup Parmesan – roughly chopped or grated , plus more for garnish (optional)
- 6 Fresh Basil Leaves – roughly chopped (about 1/4th Cup), plus additional for garnish (optional)
- 2 Cloves of Garlic – roughly chopped
- 16 oz . Block Mozzarella – sliced thin horizontally (forming large, thin squares)
- 15 oz . container Ricotta
- Marinara Sauce - warmed ( https://www.nospoonnecessary.com/marinara-sauce/ ) or your favorite jarred variety
- Salt and Pepper – to taste
- Pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – as needed
- Slice Zucchini into coins, about ¼’’ thick. Place coins in a colander inserted into a bowl large enough to hold colander (to catch the water that will be released from the zucchini. This step is important to ensure the zucchini gets crisp in the oven and doesn’t turn to mush.) Generously season zucchini with salt and toss gently. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Pat zucchini dry with a kitchen or paper towel.
- Place Garlic, Parmesan, and Basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for about 30 seconds. Add Panko Breadcrumbs, season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Pulse an additional 3-4 times to incorporate; transfer to a shallow bowl. (If you don’t own a food processor, or simply don’t want another bowl to clean, mince the garlic and basil VERY finely).
- Place Flour in a separate shallow bowl and season generously with salt and pepper
- Place Egg Whites in another shallow bowl and beat slightly with a fork to aerate.
- Start the breading process:
- Dredge the zucchini slices in Flour. Shake off excess.
- Dip into the Egg Whites, using your hands or a fork to flip over to fully coat.
- Drop zucchini into panko mixture and press to adhere crumbs to zucchini.
- Transfer to sheet of parchment paper
- Repeat until all the zucchini is coated.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight) to allow the coating to fully adhere to the zucchini (this is not absolutely necessary, but it is highly recommended).
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Remove breaded zucchini from refrigerator and place on counter to remove chill while oven is preheating.
- Insert a wire cooling rack into a full sheet pan; sprayed very liberally with cooking spray. Transfer Zucchini slices to rack.
- Drizzle the zucchini very lightly with olive oil (alternatively you can use PAM spray).
- Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, until crisp in texture and golden in color on the top. Remove pan from oven, flip Zucchini over (gently, if you did not spray the grates of the rack generously, you will need to do this very delicately. DO NOT rip them away from grates…. Finesse them gently… be patient. It is not their fault you did not adequately oil the grates… don’t punish them for your mistake!) Likewise, DO NOT overcook these, they are going to go back in the oven for a few minutes after assembling the Napoleon Stacks.
- Cook an additional 15-18 minutes, until cooked through and lightly golden in color. Set aside to rest for at least 5 minutes.
- While Zucchini is resting; drop oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- Place a piece of parchment on a new (not hot) baking sheet… Start assembling Zucchini Napoleon Stacks:
- Spread 1/3 of the largest breaded and baked zucchini coin slices on the parchment, evenly spacing them.
- Top each with 1 tsp ricotta cheese.
- Add a touch of chopped basil.
- Drizzle with 1 tsp marinara.
- Top all that with a slice of mozzarella.
- Repeat exact steps once more. (creating a stack of two)
- Top the stack with another breaded zucchini coin.
- Rip a SMALL (¼’’ x ¼’’) piece of mozzarella from your squares (optional). Place in center of stack. Put a long tooth pick (sandwich length) through center of zucchini stack to help stack stay in place.
- Bake about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
- Remove Toothpicks. Garnish with chopped bassil and marinara.
- Serve immediately.
You can certainly reheat these; I recommend doing so in an oven, preheated to 325 degrees, for 7-10 minutes.