Thursday, August 29, 2013

If you're looking for a super-simple, end-of-summer side dish, here is what I call The Best of Summer Veggie Bake.

Before you look at what vegetables are on your counter and even before you look in your fridge, you have to close your eyes and think about three (or more) amazing things you experienced this summer. (long pause in waiting)...Well, how lucky you are! I too am blessed, for I had a summer in which the generosity of family and friends abound.

In the matter of veggies, we are blessed with this ginormous zucchini from our lovely neighbors. We in turn made them our Ultimate Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins (another neighbor who just gave us Bartlett pears from his garden will most likely get the same). With all this zuke, I'm thinking about making a Giant Stuffed Zucchini, Zucchini yes, there's a whole lotta zucchini going on here, and of course this summer squash will make it in The Best of Summer.

My mom gave my daughters several plants of cherry tomatoes, which they like to pick and pop in their mouths in the same second. They are sweet and slightly tough skinned and I will miss them when they go. But first, they'll also go into The Best of Summer.

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Last but not least, super-sweet Peaches & Cream corn from the Town of Tecumseh (which hosts the famous Tecumseh Corn Festival) made it into The Best of Summer also. "Sweet Corn?" the girls exclaim. Yes, of course- how could they remember that I brought home the famous sugary-sweet corn? When for them, being showered with parade candy was the sweetest.

The Best of Summer Veggie Bake (use veggies to your liking)

2 1/2 cups cooked then cooled (or leftover) white or brown rice
2 1/2 cups chopped zucchini, or if grated, drained
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp oil + 1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp sea salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
juice of half a lemon + 1 Tbsp lemon rind
1-2 stalks scallions, green parts only, chopped
1/2 cup of mixed fresh garden herbs, chopped fine (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream, full or low-fat
12-15 sweet cherry tomatoes, whole or cut in half
1 cup blanched, sweet corn kernels
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, Parmesan or White Cheddar, divided

Grease a square glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven at 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooled rice, sweet corn, sour cream, chopped scallions, fresh herbs if using, lemon rind, 1/2 cup of your choice of cheese, and 1 tsp. of the salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, heat oil and butter on medium-low heat, then add minced onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add chopped (or grated) zucchini on top of onion/garlic mixture, then squeeze juice of half a lemon on top. Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt and add pepper. Increase to medium-high heat and cook until just tender, about 4-5 minutes (if it's grated zucchini, you can then add the cooked zucchini to the rice and toss gently, or alternatively you can also toss the cooked, chopped zucchini in with the rice (here, I placed my rice in the glass dish first, spreading the rice evenly on the pan, and then I added the zucchini/onion mix on top of the rice).

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With a spatula, spread the rice mixture evenly in your baking dish. Top the rice with your zucchini mixture (if you chose to not mix it in with the rice) and place the whole or halved cherry tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and bake for 25 minutes. 

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Serve as an accompaniment to sausages, fish or chicken. Enjoy!

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