Silver Birch Kitchens, a new vendor at the Wednesday Easton Farmers' Market, wants to make your meals easier. They offer frozen-fresh dinners, spread and dips—think hummus whizzed with peanut butter and pesto flecked with kale. Last week, they started bringing their own mozzarella, just in time to accompany all those gorgeous tomatoes (they get the milk curds from Fulper Farms in Lambertville, I'm told). I don't know about you, but when mid-July hits, all I really want to eat are vegetables and fruits, with very brief yet worthwhile interruptions of other food groups. Basil, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes are made for each other in various incarnations but nowhere more simply and refreshingly than in the classic Caprese, whose colors call to mind the Italian flag. When I purchased the ball, I was instructed to place it in a bowl of warm water to let it come to room temperature, to mimic what it tastes like when it's first made. I'm usually all about authenticity and doing it the right way at least once, but when it's hot out, I'm not a fan of warm cheese. So I skipped this step and stuck it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, which tends to make it easier to slice, before proceeding with this recipe. Oh, and this isn't a Caprese recipe, either. Stick with me. It's for zucchini "pizza."
I've seen recipes for this floating around the Interwebs; perhaps you have, too? No one will ever really mistake this for pizza, though. This recipe takes its inspiration from those frozen pizzas we all had as kids—you know, those crusty ones that you'd pop into the toaster oven—and swaps out the bread for one or two long-ass zucchini. Ordinarily, I'd advocate purchasing the smaller, 8-10 inch squash—they're sweeter, more delicate. When zucchini explodes in growth and starts to look more like small baseball bats (and if you've gardened with them you know what I mean here), the interior gets seedy, watery, and bland. They become liabilities, castoffs. These are the ones I typically relegate to fritters or barring that, zucchini bread, everyone's favorite freezable form of zucchini; there aren't many, as the veggie doesn't freeze well. Now you've got another kitchen candidate for overgrown, club-sized zucchini: "Pizza."
If you miss the Wednesday market and you want to try some local mozzarella cheese, don't fret. You can also get fresh mozzarella at Klein Farms in Easton (former market vendors) and BAD Farm, which appears on Saturdays at Easton Farmers' Market and on Sundays at the Emmaus Farmers' Market. Flint Hill Farm brings its goat mozzarella on Saturdays to EFM.
This isn't so much a recipe as it is a set of instructions. You'll notice that I don't call for really precise amounts here, and that's because summer produce varies wildly. And because in the summertime, even for recipes I want to share, I don't often measure; something about the lazy days of summer. I trust that many people cook this way in the summer, but if you find this approach insufferable and you get lost somewhere along the way, please holler. I do want to help.
- 1 or 2 footlong zucchini, or longer
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 small tomatoes (about 4-5 inches in diameter), sliced
- Handful of basil leaves
- 1 ball of mozzarella, preferably fresh and local if you can get it
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the two ends off the zucchini, and slice it lengthwise. You'll need to slice off the rounded part of the bottom of the zucchini half in order to make each one level. You don't want create a little pizza and then have the whole thing topple over at the last minute.
Blot the top of each half with a paper towel and then brush each half with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put the your zucchini halves right on a baking sheet and do the assembly there. Layer the tomatoes on top of each other at a slight angle down the length of the zucchini. Add more salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves; customize the amount to your liking. Grate or slice the cheese; your call. Top the halves with the cheese.
Bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melting and starting to brown.
The zucchini will lose a little bit of water, but it's still going to be pretty tender and very hot when you remove it from the oven. I've contemplated making this again and doing the zucchini first—almost roasting it—and then taking it out of the oven for assembly. Then, try sticking it under the broiler so the cheese just melts and the tomatoes get a little sweeter, too.