ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

 ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

No need for noodles in this lasagna! Lots of zucchini though. Pan-fried planks substitute for the noodles, and as if that weren’t enough –  4 cups grated zucchini go into the sauce. Gentle Italian flavors permeate the custard-like texture of the Tofutti cheese in this once in a life-time experience of walk on air delight! A glass of your favorite red wine will be thankful for the company!

Makes 9 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Prep zucchini:

2 or 3 jumbo garden variety zucchini, cut ends off, cut in half around equator, stand on end and cut down to board into 1/4 inch thick planks – cut as many as will make 2 layers in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish

Arrange on cooling rack over a baking sheet. Salt lightly and let sweat for 30 minutes. Blot with towel, turn over, salt lightly, then bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. The purpose is to dry it somewhat.

Now shred over large holes of grater, 4 cups zucchini from the zucchini you have left. Place in wire mesh strainer over bowl and let set till ready to use – to extract some of the liquid.

Zucchini Tomato Sauce:

28 oz. can tomato puree

1/4 c. margarine

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 lg. sweet onion, cut into 1/2 inch squares

1 jumbo green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch squares

1/2 c. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped finely

2 t. garlic powder

1 T. ground fennel seed

2 t. dried basil

1/2 t. dried oregano

1/4 t. ground allspice

1/4 t. red cayenne pepper

4 c. drained, shredded zucchini

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Before you turn the heat on, place all ingredients into a large saucepan. Stir well, then turn heat to medium. Bring to slow boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and cook, uncovered,  for 1 hour, stirring often. When sauce is very thick, turn heat off and set aside till ready to use.

Breadcrumb mix:

1 c. unseasoned Panko crumbs

1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 t. dried oregano

2 t. garlic powder

1 t. onion powder

1/2 t. dry mustard

1/2 t. paprika

1/4 t. red cayenne pepper

1 t. salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor container. Process till very fine. Pulse pulse, pulse, then let ‘er rip. Stop for a moment to cool the blades, then process again. Very fine is what we want here. Transfer to shallow bowl or plate for dredging the zucchini.

Cheese mixture:

8 oz. container Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, plain – room temperature for easy mixing

12 oz. container Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream (1/2 for the cheese mixture and 1/2 for the topping)

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. onion powder

In bowl combine the cream cheese with 1/2 of the sour cream, garlic and onion powders. Mash and stir with spoon till fluffy. Set aside.

Frying the zucchini:

olive oil for frying

In large skillet, over medium heat, drizzle about 2 T. oil.

The zucchini planks will still be moist – even after baking – so there’s no need to dip them into a liquid before dredging in the breadcrumb mix.

Place one zucchini plank at a time in breadcrumb mix, cover with crumbs, pat into plank, flip, cover again with crumbs, pat into plank, then place in heated, oiled skillet and fry a few at a time till lightly browned, flip and do the same to the other side. Reduce heat to low and cook till fork-tender at the edges/rims. Transfer to plate and fry the other planks adding more oil as needed.

Assembly, baking, serving:

paprika for sprinkling top of casserole

1 – In 8 x 8 inch baking dish evenly spoon about 1 cup of sauce.

2 – Top sauce with zucchini planks without overlapping.

3 – Spoon 1/2 of the cheese mixture onto planks only, smoothing gently with a spatula to cover planks.

4 – Top cheese with another cup of sauce, spreading evenly. (you’ll have about 2 c. sauce leftover for another use)

5 – Place remaining planks on top of sauce.

6 – Spoon remaining cheese mixture onto planks as before.

7 – Top cheese with another cup of sauce as before.

8 – Now, take the rest of the sour cream that you didn’t use in the cheese mixture and spoon onto top of casserole in several spots. Spread very lightly with spatula, then swirl it across the entire casserole – using spatual. Now swirl it across in the opposite direction – very, very lightly.

9 – Sprinkle top with paprika.

Place casserole in preheated 400 degree oven, uncovered, and bake for 45 minutes. You’ll notice as you check before baking time is up, that the casserole is bubbling/boiling around the edges. We want that in order to extract even more of the liquid.

Remove from oven and let set 10 minutes before serving. If you cut into squares, be sure to cut through the zucchini planks completely before lifting – even so, it must be done gently. Or, you can spoon it out.

Notes: If you don’t have the jumbo zucchini, use the smaller variety, only many more of them. Visualize that you’ll be putting them into an 8 x 8 baking dish – 2 layers. Plus you’ll be grating 4 cups, so visualize that too – how many you’ll need.

Leftover sauce?  The next day I heated it, then spooned it over lightly toasted English muffins, topped with fresh cut basil.

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