From the recesses of our memories, tiny sparks occasionally escape like little butterflies, seemingly insignificant. They are awakened by a sound, an aroma, a flicker of color or light, a flash of a partial dream from the previous night’s slumber perhaps. How often I have sensed these flickers and flashes with such fondness and often joy, many of them attached to a food experience from long ago. It is that way with today’s post on AUNT LIZZIE’S BAKED ZUCCHINI WITH TOMATOES.
When I was very young, many of my summer vacations were spent on the North Shore of Massachusetts, known as Cape Ann. My Aunt Lizzie and Uncle John had a place there where all the family would gather for endless days and nights of lazy shell collecting, ball playing, swimming, night time beach barbeques, etc.. There were always plenty of cousins to play and roam the beaches with. It was an easier simpler time – no rules, no shoes, and not a lot of hovering parenting!
Usually before we embarked for the beach, I spent time at Aunt Lizzie and Uncle John’s small farm in Weston, outside of Boston. Uncle John had chickens and an “egg route”. I went with him daily to deliver the fresh warm eggs, freshly laid, to his many local customers. That task occupied most of the morning, and when we returned Aunt Lizzie usually sent me to their extensive vegetable garden with a basket to fill with whatever caught my eye for our lunch. I always overfilled the basket,and because everything looked so good, it was difficult to decide. The usual suspects were fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, and zucchini. Aunt Lizzie then prepared an incredible feast from that basket to be eaten on a picnic table outdoors in the orchard along with her “famous” ice tea which knew no earthly competition.
One of my favorite things from that bounty was AUNT LIZZIE’S BAKED ZUCCHINI – simple, rustic, and oh so fresh. Zucchini is notoriously lacking in much of its own flavor – but comes to life when enhanced with other more flavorful fresh ingredients. In those days, Aunt Lizzie used fresh tomatoes from the garden for this recipe and plenty of fresh herbs. She fashioned this amazing dish in no time at all. Fresh, vine ripe tomatoes are, of course, always preferable, but canned San Marzanos work quite well also.
This one is a keeper!
AUNT LIZZIE’S BAKED ZUCCHINI WITH TOMATOES
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 30 –35 minutes or until tender
2 Medium Fresh Zucchini
4 Fresh Peeled mashed Very Ripe Tomatoes or 4-8 Canned San Marzano Tomatoes only – no juices from the can
3 cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely
2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano Leaves – chopped
2-3 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped
Lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, or Montasio Cheese
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
Peel both zucchini and slice in half.
Turn on end and slice again from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds (discard seeds) so you have what looks like boats.
Place them in baking dish.
Pour a tiny bit of olive oil over each piece and season with salt and pepper.
If using fresh tomatoes, drop each one in boiling water for a minute and then cool a bit. The skin will peep right off. Cut them up and mash with a fork. Put some on top of each zucchini piece.
If using canned San Marzanos, use 1/2 to 1 whole tomato for each piece of zucchini – how much you use depends on how much tomato you want to taste and the size of your zucchini. Mash the tomato on top of each zucchini.
Save the rest of the canned tomatoes and juices for making sauce at a later date.
Add the garlic on top of the tomato.
Add some Kosher salt and pepper.
Now, add the fresh herbs.
Sprinkle the cheese over all. Use lots of it!
Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until fork tender. (fork slides right through)
You can even make these a day ahead and reheat.
Just one bite of this delicious dish, and I am back in Aunt Lizzie and Uncle John’s garden again, for another glorious meal. You will not believe how easy and delicious AUNT LIZZIE’S BAKED ZUCCHINI WITH TOMATOES will be. Try it, and meet me in the orchard for a rustic Italian lunch on a hot summer afternoon. I might even be persuaded to share her “famous” ice tea secrets with you.
PARLA COME MANGI!
Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography