For years, I’ve been grating zucchini every August and September, stirring the moist, flavorless shreds into quick breads, muffins, cakes and cookies. Occasionally, I would cut young, tender zucchini in half, scrape some of the centers from the long, narrow zucchini boats and stuff them with a ground beef or Italian sausage mixture to make an oven-baked seasonal main dish. But, I’ve always been partial to sweet, baked goods made moist with zucchini.
This zucchini season I’ve been much more adventuresome. I’ve grated zucchini, skin, seeds and all, mixing it into casseroles and stirring it into egg- and cream-rich filling for quiche. I’ve even created towers of fresh mozzarella, tomato and zucchini slices, marinating them in olive oil and vinegar dressing teaming with fresh herbs from my garden, giving them plenty of time in the refrigerator to chill and absorb delicious summery herb flavors.
Adding zucchini to savory dishes makes me think I’m getting more benefits of the dietary fiber coming from the skin and seeds, as well as all the vitamins (especially A and C) and minerals this summer squash has to offer. It might be just because the zucchini in the savory dishes I’ve been preparing combine with other healthful ingredients rather than butter and sugar and flour.
Southwestern Zucchini and Black Bean Casserole is a meatless main dish. It takes little time to prepare. It’s full of tortilla-chip crunch, black bean protein, spicy flavor, melted cheese…and zucchini. Grated. Skin, seeds and all.
Children enjoy assisting with meal preparation as they crush tortilla chips in a plastic bag, using a small rolling pin or just pinching the chips through the plastic with their fingers. They can also help layer the ingredients into the baking dish.
Southwestern Zucchini and Black Bean Casserole — another way to provide a tasty, healthful meal for your family and eliminate one more zucchini from your kitchen.
Southwestern Zucchini and Black Bean Casserole
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium-sized green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups crushed corn tortilla chips
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 medium zucchini, shredded
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 2.5- to 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.
Cook onion and green pepper in olive oil in large skillet until tender. Stir in tomatoes, chili powder, oregano leaves and ground cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Layer half of crushed tortilla chips, tomato mixture, black beans, zucchini and cheese in prepared baking dish. Repeat layers. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Tips from the cook:
- I like to offer sour cream and chopped avocados on the side for adding to individual servings.
- Leftovers only get more flavorful and heat up easily to eat in the next day or two.