Zucchini Apocalypse

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If you are a backyard gardener–like my grandmother was, like my father was, and like I was for a brief time–you know what that title means. The Zucchini Apocalypse is as dreaded among gardeners as a Zombie invasion. Toward the end of summer, those little green monsters are so numerous that you can’t keep them picked off the vine before some of them hide under the leaves and grow to a size worthy of the Guiness Book of World Records. They get so big you don’t know whether to cook them or attach a sail and go exploring the ocean. It is zucchini casserole time, for sure.

But don’t worry, I’ve been there. Before the zuchs get out of control, you can start making zucchini bread, zucchini pickles, stuffed zucchini, zucchini pizza, and a thousand and one other variations. Here’s a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me many, many decades ago, for a very vintage zucchini casserole . I’ve updated it in a couple of ways, but I left the most vintage touch of all–mushroom soup.

Zucchini Casserole from side

The Zucchini Casserole Dish

Size of casserole dishes

This recipe makes a VERY BIG casserole dish full. A word on the size of the bowl. After all, your fancy casserole dishes may not have measurements marked on the the side. I went with a 2 quart Pyrex bowl this time, but it definitely was not big enough. 2 1/2 quarts is ideal.  How do you know what size your bowls are?  Pour measured water into them. Time to return to grade school math class.  Four cups equals one quart.  I have a four-cup measuring cup and the Corning Ware bowl takes two and a half quarts to fill it to the brim.  The Pyrex dish, on the other hand, holds just two quarts.

I recommend a deep rather than a shallow dish. My favorite for the zucchini casserole is this big Corning Ware baking dish. The pictures of the finished casserole show it in a two-quart pyrex dish, which isn’t really big enough. Make two and give one away if you don’t have a big enough dish.

WHOOPS!

Well, we’ve all been there haven’t we? Shut the oven door and notice there is something that did not get included in the dish or pan? I forgot to layer the Ricotta. So I slathered it on top. Didn’t hurt a thing.

Zucchini with afterthought ricotta

Good luck getting rid of all those zucchinis, gardeners!

Zucchini casserole serving
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Zucchini Casserole, Vintage, Adapted

This Zucchini casserole has been updated to make it a wee bit healthier, but retains mushroom soup as a nod to the past.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword casserole, vintage, zucchini
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 12
Author Vera Marie Badertscher

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup brown rice Cook in 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 stalks celery Alternatively, one onion chopped, or a blend of celery and onion.
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano I used Penzy's Greek Seasoning Blend.
  • 1 1/2 pound zucchini sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese or fine cottage cheese
  • 1 cup canned mushroom soup not diluted
  • 1 cup grated cheese eg. cheddar/monterey jack mix

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix rice in boiling water, reduce to simmer and cook until done–about 45 minutes
  • While rice is cooking, chop celery (and/or onions)
  • Brown ground beef in skillet with celery/onions
  • While beef is cooking, slice zucchini and put half in bottom of casserole
  • When rice is cooked through, add to beef in skillet along with garlic and oregano (or preferred seasonings).
  • Layer beef/rice mix over zucchini in casserole, next add ricotta and then rest of zucchini. Spread soup as top layer and scatter cheese on top.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes (less if using two smaller dishes) at 350 degrees.

Notes

I did not recommend adding salt and pepper because there  are LOTS of flavors going on here. There is so much salt in the mushroom soup and also some in cheese. But besides that there is a bit of salt in the spice blend I used.   On the other hand, you have plenty of room to bend the flavors in the direction you wish.  I liked using the Penzy Greek Spice Blend –oregano, lemon, marjoram, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. But I could imagine turning the casserole in different directions with spices. French with tarragon and thyme; Mexican with chile, etc.

Before you go, I’d like you to know about a couple of tricks for improving your vegetable cooking skills. One: If you are on Facebook, join the Fearless Fresh Kitchen Ninjas group. It is an amazing, sharing site for home cooks. A few trained cooks and professionals are there, too, so you will get great answers to any questions. Two: Stephanie Stiavetti, who started that Facebook group,also has a series of video lessons and other aids to improving your skills in the kitchen. Her latest series on cooking vegetables is FREE. Go here.

On the other hand, if you’d like to turn back the clock, I wrote some time ago about what Godey’s Lady’s magazine had to say about cooking vegetables back during the Civil War.

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5 thoughts on “Zucchini Apocalypse

  1. Jeanne Insalaco


    Twitter:
    I’ve cooked many zucchini recipes over the years but never seen this one. I should post my Earth bread that looks like a garbage bowl when mixing. Our summer fav is a zucchini quiche using Bisquick. I might just have to make a zucchini post now!

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Oh, I had forgotten about zucchini quiche. When you grow zucchini, you have to get very creative. But I never thought about making quiche with Bisquick. Surprised because I used to bake EVERYTHING with Bisquick. I should do a Bisquick post.

      Reply
  2. Janice

    Vera, you had me laughing so hard — Zucchini Apocalypse! Growing up we did not really have a garden other than for flowers as I was a city kid, but I had relatives who in the summer and fall would bring us loads of veggies and I do remember lots of zucchini arriving. My mom would fry it and add grated cheese, our meals were rather simple. And that made me think about Civil War days and before. Was the average woman cooking for her family really looking for variety or did she just cook the same old?

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Janice, I suspect there have always been women (and men) who aren’t interested in variety, who just “eat to live” and those who want variety. Those who wrote the old cookbooks, for instance, were obviously focused on the endless possibilities. I think it is rather obvious that I am one of them. A “live to eat” type.

      Reply

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