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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Recipes Main Courses Alan’s Dang Yummy Zucchini and Heirloom Tomato Strata
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Written by Alan Toy   

We’ve all seen them -- those impossibly large zucchinis that someone should have picked weeks ago, but they just looked so nice on the vine that they didn’t get harvested until they became the size of small children or pets. Zucchinis are squash, not gourds, so they don’t keep forever either as evidence of your prowess at growing monster fruits of the vine.

So, what to do? Strata, of course! Strata is kind of a lasagna without pasta. It involves cheeses, often eggs and veggies, all layered and baked. Now, I had someone’s zucchini concoction at our Labor Day party in the garden last summer and it was delicious, so I decided to try making something like it on my own, no recipes, just intuition, a very large zucchini and as much stuff grown in my garden as possible.

Here’s how I did it (click "

1 large zucchini, peeled and sliced into 1/2” thick rounds (you’ll need 16 slices, plus wedges to fill in the gaps)
Two large heirloom tomatoes, also sliced into 1/3-1/2” rounds (hopefully, they should be about the same diameter as the zucchini slices and for variation, try to get one red and one yellow)
1 ½ small or 1 large bell pepper, chopped to medium bits
1 small or ½ large onion, chopped to medium pieces
8 garlic cloves, minced or finely diced
1 small Serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely diced
I tablespoon fresh dried oregano
1/3 cup EV olive oil
½ cup pesto sauce (see Alan’s Loosey Goosey Pesto Sauce recipe, or find your own store-bought)
16 oz of ricotta cheese
12 slices of havarti cheese
8 oz of mozzarella cheese, sliced
10-15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

(Nope, no eggs in this one, but if you wanted to, you could mix two eggs well into the ricotta before putting it in.)

In a heavy sauce pan, combine the peppers, the garlic, the onion, the oregano and the olive oil and sauté over a medium flame until tender, stirring frequently. Add a pinch or two of salt and grind in some black pepper to taste. When done, turn off heat and stir in the pesto sauce until mixed thoroughly.

Get a rectangular baking dish and start your strata-gizing. Begin with a layer of zucchini. Fill in the gaps with wedges. Then add a layer of tomatoes. Then add the ricotta evenly across the layers. Do the same with the pesto/peppers/onion mixture and place the havarti slices on top. Repeat with a layer of zucchini, another layer of tomatoes. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper over these if you like and then add the mozzarella slices. Top that all with another layer of the havarti slices and dot the top of your creation with the cherry tomato halves, cut side down.

Put all of this in the oven at 350? for about 45-50 minutes.

(Tips: I put it on the top rack for at least half of the baking time to brown the cheese on top. Also, if yours is as close to overflowing as mine was, put a baking sheet underneath to catch any drips. Also, after about a half hour, use a baster to suck out some of the juices. Put them in a glass and when cool enough, you’ll have a delicious broth to sip while the strata bakes to doneness.)

When done, let it sit for 5-10 minutes on top of the oven and then serve it up. It should serve 6-8 people.

All of the ingredients, except for the cheeses, the olive oil, the pine nuts in the pesto and the salt and pepper were grown in the community garden on Park Drive in Santa Monica.

(Final tip: You’ll probably have quite a few large zucchini rounds left over, so while the strata is cooking, you and your guests could work up your appetites by having a brisk game of zucchini Frisbee on the lawn.)

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