What to do with a huge zucchini that you grow or get as a “gift” from a friend or neighbor? Yes, you could use it as a weapon, but that would be messy and not delicious. So how about Easy Loaded Hasselback Zucchini?
It’s easier than spiralizing the mammoth vegetable and simpler than making dip if you don’t have a food processor. All you need are a few (other) ingredients, a cutting board, a knife, a pastry brush, and a roasting pan.
Before this adventure, I had made hasselback potatoes. They are delicious and fun. So is this zucchini, just healthier. You can even make it vegan if you leave out the cheese or substitute a vegan cheese or nutritional yeast. Serve Easy Loaded Hasselback Zucchini as a side dish or vegetarian main course. Either way, it is an elegant way to use up the all-too abundant summer zucchini bounty.
Of course, you can make this recipe with smaller zucchini. But it’s especially easy for a larger one because the large size is easier to cut as are the slices of ingredients that go in-between.
By the way, zucchini comes from the Italian for this variety of squash. The French and English refer to them as courgettes and in South Africa, they are called baby marrow. Surprisingly, zucchini is actually a fruit, although it treated as a vegetable and most recipes that use it are savory, not sweet.
Tips for Making Easy Loaded Hassleback Zucchini
- Cutting the zucchini. Hassleback means sliced, but not all the way, then cooked. Use the handles of two wooden spoons – one on each side of the zucchini – to prevent your knife from slitting the zucchini through to the cutting board. Chopsticks work well for smaller zucchini or potatoes, but wooden spoons are better for a larger zucchini. Here is a video for hassleback potatoes that shows the general technique. I find that scoring the zucchini first helps.
- Roasting pan and first bake. Choose a pan with sides at least an inch or two high and longer than the zucchini because once it is stuffed or loaded, the zucchini will be longer than it is when simply cut. Make sure to brush the olive oil between the slices, trying not to break them open. The zucchini will get more pliable after the first bake, but before it goes into the oven, it is stiff.
- Filling the Easy Loaded Hassleback Zucchini. Filling is easy if you put the slices of vegetables and cheese together first. You may find that filling the zucchini is rather messy. That’s OK. Once the zucchini is fully baked, you will not notice that a tomato slice is a bit torn or that a piece of onion has spilled out. The foil will keep everything roughly where it should be and the fully baked zucchini will look just fine.
Easy Loaded Hassleback Zucchini
A great way to use a large zucchini without messing up your whole kitchen.
- 2 lb zucchini (see note) 900 g
- 1/2 medium-large red or vidalia (sweet) onion About 6 oz/170 g
- 2-3 small tomatoes (or medium size Roma) About 8 oz/230 g
- mozzarella cheese, sliced into 8 pieces About 5 oz/150 g
- 3/4 cup grated or crumbled Parmesan or Romano cheese About 10 oz/300 g
- 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil About 2-4 oz/
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and garlic powder to taste
- fresh herbs (oregano and/or basil)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Hasselback the zucchini into 1/2" slices. That means cutting it, but not all the way through, using two wooden spoons to guide the knife so it doesn't hit the cutting board.
Place the zucchini on a large piece of foil in a roasting pan. Using the pastry brush, brush the slices and the top with olive oil. Loosely close the foil and bake the zucchini for about 25 minutes until it is mostly cooked but not mushy.
While the zucchini bakes, slice the mozzarella, tomatoes, and onion. Put them in sets sprinkled with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and herbs along the cutting board so they are ready to add at the next stage.
Open the foil and let the zucchini cool until you can handle it. Push the sliced cheese, tomato, and onion in between the zucchini slices. Add grated cheese on top and close the foil over the zucchini. Return the now stuffed zucchini to the oven and bake for about another 20 minutes until the cheese begins to melt. If desired, open the foil and broil the top for another 1-2 minutes to brown the grated cheese.
I've specified the quantities I used for a 2 lb/900 g chunk of a mammoth zucchini. You can use this technique for a single zucchini, a chunk of a mammoth one, or 2 smaller ones. In any event, keep the slices of vegetables and mozzarella proportional to the size of the zucchini.
I can’t resist ending this post with an excerpt from Marge Piercy’s poem, “Attack of the Squash People” (found in her book, Circles on the Water.
And thus the people every year
in the valley of humid July
did sacrifice themselves
to the long green phallic god
and eat and eat and eat.
They’re coming, they’re on us,
the long striped gourds, the silky
babies, the hairy adolescents,
the lumpy vast adults
like the trunks of green elephants.
Recite fifty zucchini recipes!”