I mentioned in a previous blog that I was dreaming of creating a zucchini cobbler but long hours at work had kept me out of the kitchen. Well, my hankering for my idea of what the dish should be kept growing so much that I just had to make it no matter how tired I was. So, I bought the ingredients and was all to set to mix it up on a recent Friday.
Just as I got home from the grocery, though, I got a phone call from a friend who wanted to go out to dinner. That ended my cooking plans. The following night, other friends wanted to go out dancing, and the cobbler got kicked further back on the burner. Sunday, I had no energy at work all day (for the time being, it’s a seven-day-a-week job), but my supervisor at work decided we would celebrate Memorial Day with a in-office barbecue. What was I going to bring, she asked.
I knew the answer, even if my body was rejecting the idea of doing anything but sleep. So, there I was, at 10:30 at night, only a few hours before the alarm went off at 4 the next morning, deciding what would go into this dish. I knew I wanted zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and scallions. But what else? How would I top it? How would I season it?
I checked the Internet for ideas and almost gave up in disgust. The zucchini cobblers I found were sweet. Incredibly sweet. Zucchini, after all, is a fruit in that it has seeds at its center, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in. I wanted a dish that could be the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal or a side dish. I didn’t want a cup or more of sugar dumped into it.
So, I started layering the filling with a kind of Italian sensibility in mind. I melted some butter, as opposed to olive oil, because I love buttery cobblers. Then I added garlic, the zucchini, the scallions and strips of sun-dried tomatoes, and softened them slightly. I added even more butter, just because I like it, and a sprinkling of grated Manchego cheese that I found in the fridge.
The topping was a quick cornbread dough that didn’t need to sit a half-hour before you could roll it out. Just flour, cornmeal, salt and butter. I sprinkled some more cheese on top, and put it in the oven.
The second I started baking it, I started thinking about how I would alter it the next time I made it. I’m like that with recipes, and many of my foodie friends are, too. What’s the good of slavishly following a recipe every time, when you can tinker with it, just to see if you can make it better. Right?
Without tasting it, the dish seemed to call for a little kick. So, I was thinking of maybe adding cayenne pepper to the batter or perhaps I could add some slivers of jalapeño or serrano to the filling. With the hot peppers, why not a touch of salsa, instead of sun-dried tomatoes? The herb could be cilantro instead of basil then, and the whole profile could change to something that’s more calabacita than zucchini.
But my initial approach worked. My co-workers and I ate it up the next day, though one did say it would be better with a little heat added to it. That’s the nature of our culture here in San Antonio. So, if you make the following recipe, make it your own. Modify it to fit your tastes with your favorite herbs. It could have a Thai twist with both basil and hot peppers. Or a South American touch with a type of chimichurri sauce, using parsley, garlic and maybe some olive oil and a touch of butter. (I must have the butter.) Just enjoy the fun of creating something of your own in the kitchen.
8 tablespoons butter (see note)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, whites and half of the green tops chopped
10 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Parmesan or other dry cheese, grated, to taste
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice-cold water
Parmesan cheese or other dry cheese, for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and stir in the garlic. Do not let it brown. Add zucchini and coat with butter. Let it warm through. Add green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Place in a casserole dish. Stir in basil. Top with Parmesan cheese, to taste.
To make the crust: Blend flour, cornmeal and salt. Add butter and work together with fingers or a pastry cutter until it’s like meal. Add the water and quickly form into a dough. Roll out on a floured surface into the shape needed to cover the cobbler. It should be no more than 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is done.
Note: I am a butter fanatic and think it is key to the filling of any cobbler. If you want less, you can cut it in half, but the filling won’t be quite as rich. You can also make this dish in smaller ramekins for single servings; but they will cook faster, so adjust your oven time.
Makes 4-6 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings.
Source: John Griffin