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Parmesan Tomato Zucchini Bake

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I’m not sure if this happens to you, but at our house, when March rolls around and my husband starts cleaning out the winter garden, we seem to have an increasingly big urge to plant. For some reason, it’s not just a little. Something about the freshly tilled soil, the clean spring air or just the thought of biting into a fresh tomato seems to make us get carried away on how much we plant. We know better than to plant five or six squash plants and a couple dozen tomato plants, but there we go planting them anyway. It always sounds like a good idea at the time. 

Now that we are approaching summer, our efforts are paying off. Harvest is under way and at first, we keep up with all the fresh vegetables by cooking them for every meal. It just tastes so good and feels so rewarding knowing that we can provide for ourselves. Soon the produce will start increasing and then I will have to find new recipes or figure out a way to preserve what I can. Of course, we will share with others the delicious produce from our garden.

When I was growing up, I remember my grandfather always planted a huge garden in our back yard and by mid-summer we had boxes and buckets of fresh vegetables to eat, preserve and share with others. One summer my Aunt Gladys, who we referred to as Aunt Happy Bottom, and my mom had a contest to see who could come up with the most recipes for zucchini. They would call each other, swap recipes and tell a few lies back and forth as to how many recipes each of them actually had for zucchini. One day I remember Mom telling her, “I now have 101 recipes for zucchini.” The next week in the mail my mom received a letter from Aunt Gladys and a $5 bill. The subscription notice stated, “I call bull, send me your 101 zucchini recipe booklet for which I have included my payment of $5.” My mom started laughing and quickly called her on the phone, explaining that $5 would not be enough money to give up all of her recipes. Yes, it was just a bit of sibling rivalry between sisters over a long hot summer loaded with all kinds of squash. And Mom kept the $5.

Some of those recipes were great and some not so good, just a way to get rid of the squash. There have been many recipes since that time and I have come up with some of my own. Here is a quick and simple recipe that is a family pleaser. It is easy and only takes a little time to put it together.

2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium yellow squash, sliced
5 medium tomatoes, sliced
6-7 mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
½ cup quality parmesan cheese, shredded
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice squash, tomatoes and mushrooms ¼ to ½ inch thick. This allows it to cook through quick and easy. In a 9 x 13 baking dish or large deep-dish pie pan, drizzle the olive oil on the bottom of the pan and add the garlic, stirring to cover the bottom of the pan. Layer the sliced mushrooms over the oil and garlic. Now arrange zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes in an alternating pattern. Combine all the spices in a separate bowl; mix together and sprinkle over the top of the squash and tomatoes. Top with cheese and place in a 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until squash is soft.  

I’ve also changed this up a bit, making a hot version of caprese salad, preparing the vegetables and spices in the same manner, excluding mushrooms, just adding some fresh thinly sliced basil to the top. Bake for 15 minutes and add mozzarella cheese, returning it to the oven for the remaining 10-15 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

That’s all there is to it. Enjoy! Remember, there are great farmers’ markets out there that make it easy to get all of these ingredients if you don’t have room to grow your own. It’s from not only my recipe box, but a shared recipe from my Mom and Aunt Gladys. ■