Hello! It’s great to be starting off another week! The recipe I’m sharing today was inspired by the seasonal farmer’s markets that spring up in our area. (I’m pretty sure that most places in Ontario have some version of these). You can swap the ingredients in and out as you like, and its a really great way to showcase some of your local produce. (I’ve always struggled with going to the market, and not knowing what to do with all the fresh produce together). Today, we will overcome this!
I don’t know if you grew up eating zucchini, but I did, and I was pretty sure that there were only two possible uses for it: 1) stir fry or 2) brownies/bread. (The first time I saw someone serve it raw with dip I did secretly wonder whether or not this was a food you were permitted to consume raw… or if it was like a turnip… and had to be cooked beyond recognition before you could safely eat it).
The market I went to was the Oshawa Centre Farmer’s Market, and it runs on Friday mornings 8am- 2pm, May – October. (I would suggest not planning to get there too early, because when I went vendors were still arriving at 9am).
It’s not hard to find a local market at all. If you don’t know where a market is close to you, and you live in Ontario, you can visit The Ontario Farmer’s Markets site. From my experience, it’s carefully curated, and not difficult to search for markets in your area. Even if you’re not planning to buy a ton of stuff, I’m always amazed by how many local farms are there selling produce that I had no idea was even grown in Ontario (have you ever seen a purple pepper? Well, they sell them at the Oshawa market).
Today I’ve done a take on a pasta bake recipe, but instead of pasta, I’ve used zucchini, and then used a basil pesto to help flavor it well. I’d recommend cutting and preparing everything prior to trying to assemble it, because I found that was what was most likely to take up my food-prep time. I didn’t use everything in the photograph below, but I wanted to show you the variety of produce available at the market. It’s a really beautiful selection. (There is even a mushroom farmer there!)
Savory Farmer’s Market Zucchini Bake with Homemade Nut-Free Pesto
Preparation time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
- 1 large zucchini (or 4-5 smaller ones)
- 1 lb ground meat of choice (I used beef, but any meat would work nicely). (Vegan Option: Substitute meat-free crumbles of choice or add more diced mushrooms).
- 1 bag Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds
- 1 package (approx 300g) Cremini mushrooms
- 2 very large green onions (or 3-4 small), sliced thinly into rounds.
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- juice from 1/2 of a lemon
- 1 C packed fresh basil leaves (washed)
- Olive oil
- 1/2 C Sunflower seeds (raw and shelled)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 Green pepper (raw)
- 7-10 Sun-dried tomato slices (wring out any additional oil if they were packed in it with a towel or paper towel)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- Slice the green pepper and set it aside.
- In a large pan, brown the ground beef, drain it and set it aside. (Once it cools, you might need to set it in the refrigerator if your prep time takes any longer than 15 minutes, just to be on the safe side).
- Dice the mushrooms into small, uniform cubes, and brown and drain these as well. Set them aside.
- Using a mandolin, slice the zucchini very thinly into long strips. Place these strips onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, sprinkle them with salt and gently sweat them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until they release the bulk of their moisture. (It keeps the final dish from getting water-logged). I used a towel to pat them with when they were done in the oven. Set them aside.
- Using the mandolin, slice the tomatoes thinly and sweat them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Set these aside as well.
- In a blender, combine the basil, lemon juice, sunflower seeds, garlic, 1 handful of the sliced green onion, sun-dried tomatoes and salt and pepper (to taste). On high-speed, slowly drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into the pesto until it begins to process smoothly. Add more oil if necessary to acquire to desired consistency. (Be careful not to add too much oil or it will just end up in the bottom of your baking dish).
- Process the pesto until relatively smooth. (I don’t mind if there are a few lumps… it just means that the pesto is ‘rustic’).
- In a 9×13″ glass baking dish, layer all of your ingredients; zucchini, tomato, green pepper, mushrooms, green onion, meat, pesto, Daiya shreds. I made two layers with mine. Don’t worry about perfection. If you have a few leftover pieces of something, just tuck them on the top, and then sprinkle the top with some Daiya shreds.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, and then increase the temperature to 400F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the top turns a little golden and the Daiya melts thoroughly.
- This dish is best served hot, and if you like, you can include some garlic toast on the side. (Mine is spelt bread, and the stronger flavor of the spelt really complements this dish nicely).
This is a great weekend dish to share, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did! Remember, you can switch up what the layers are made up of based on your preferences and what is in season or available. I’d encourage you to try it out! The pesto can be altered too. If you don’t care for the sun-dried tomatoes, you could always add half of an avocado, or some roasted red peppers. It’s entirely up to you.
Remember, if you try this out; leave a picture on Twitter or the Facebook page, or let me know what you modified in the comments below. Don’t miss an update; subscribe to the blog and get direct e-mail notifications!
Also, bookings are now available for September, so make sure that you reserve your place now, because ragweed season is coming! (Did you know that there are 18 different varieties of ragweed?)
Make sure that you check back later in the week! There will be more to come later.
Take care, and have a great day!
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