- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It’s zucchini-overload season and time again to joke about how to sneak zucchini into various food preparations.

Zucchini wedding cake is no longer funny because it has been done and served at real weddings with little fanfare.

Zucchini as dessert? No problem. It blends into sweet, spicy batters just fine. I even can picture it as ice cream. And why not? Carrot ice cream is fantastic, so why not zucchini?

These examples illustrate that it’s fun to push the envelope, and not just for novelty’s sake.

In the spirit of taking something traditionally used in savory contexts and switching it to sweet, it’s equally fun to take a sweet and render it savory. With enough protein and vegetables, such a thing can become the center of a meal.



That’s what I’ve done with this savory vegetable cheesecake, which is made in the same springform pan as a dessert cheesecake. Zucchini and carrots are grated and mixed with cheeses and eggs, then seasoned with herbs and garlic.

The top is decorated with sliced tomatoes, and the finished product, which can be served hot, warm, room temperature or even cold, is incredibly pretty and enticing.

Serve it with a spinach salad; a favorite fresh loaf of bread (pumpernickel and sourdough-olive come to mind); and a lovely, crisp sauvignon blanc wine.

For dessert, try something fruity, such as a rainbow of sorbets topped with a sprinkling of raspberries. Enjoy this wonderful jump-start on the annual American ritual of zucchini consciousness.

Savory vegetable cheesecake

You will need to grate zucchini, carrots and mozzarella for this recipe. Do this first, using a food processor with the grating attachment to make it easier. You don’t need to clean the processor between gratings.

3 cups (packed) coarsely grated zucchini (3 or 4 small zucchini)

Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup minced onion

1 cup grated carrot

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

5 medium cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups (1½ pounds) ricotta cheese

1 cup (packed) grated mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 large eggs, beaten

Black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds, then in half to make half circles

3 to 4 tablespoons bread crumbs

Place grated zucchini in a colander over sink. Salt lightly and let stand 15 minutes. Squeeze out all excess moisture.

Use a little of the olive oil to oil the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. (A pastry brush is the best tool for this.) Heat remaining olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Add zucchini, carrot and flour, along with dried basil, oregano and thyme. Cook over low heat, stirring, for about 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in garlic, parsley and lemon juice.

Place ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, along with eggs, in a large bowl and beat vigorously for a minute or two. Add vegetable mixture and mix well. Season to taste with black pepper, and add more salt, if desired.

Transfer to prepared pan and arrange tomato slices on top in a lovely pattern of your own design. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Bake on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven for 50 minutes. Cool for at least 20 minutes before removing sides of pan.

Serve at any temperature, but refrigerate if not eating within two hours. This is delicious for any meal, including breakfast.

Makes 6 or more servings.

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