Yet Another Zucchini Dish
I love zucchini. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and its flavor can really be brought out with the simplest of seasonings: some salt and pepper. Zucchini is also relatively cheap here in Jordan, so people cook with it all the time.
Taita makes a really good pasta dish called “Ma’karonah bil beshamel,” where she layers macaroni, spiced ground meat, and a thick bechamel sauce. She then bakes it in the oven till the sauce browns on top. It’s amazing, but very rich. Recently, she introduced me to the (slightly) lighter version, where she uses sliced zucchini instead of the layer of macaroni. I try to convince myself that I’m eating healthy when I eat this version since it’s vegetables, not pasta, but I still end up feeling guilty because the dish is still just as rich!
Approx 1 kilo of fresh, firm zucchini, washed
Approx 1/2 kilo of ground meat
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and allspice (optional)
5 tbsp of flour
1.5-2 cups of cold milk
Cut the stems and the bottom parts off of the zucchini.
Slice each zucchini into slices of medium thickness. You don’t want them to be too thin or they’ll just sort of dissolve and get mushy when you cook them. If the zucchini are really “fat,” you can do half-slices (pictured below).
Lightly sautee the slices in some hot vegetable oil until just tender. Add some salt&pepper.You don’t want to cook the zucchini through too much, or they won’t hold up to the baking later.
Also, sautee the chopped onion in some oil in another pan until soft, then add the ground meat. Brown the meat, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks. Add the seasonings: salt&pepper, plus the cinnamon and allspice if you want.
Now, prepare the bechamel sauce that will be the fourth layer in your dish. Dissolve 5 tbsp of flour in about 2 cups of cold milk. Then, heat the milk+flour on a very low flame, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add salt&pepper, then take it off the fire and let it cool.
Take a glass or metal baking dish, and grease it with some oil. Spread out half of the sauteed zucchini in the bottom of the pan, making your first layer. Then, make your second layer of the browned meat (use it all).
Make your third layer using the rest of the zucchini on top of the meat.
Take your cooled bechamel sauce and crack an egg into it. Stir well until it’s all mixed in. The egg will help the top of the casserole to brown. Pour the bechamel sauce on top of the final layer of zucchini; this is the fourth layer. Put the dish into a medium oven, until the bechamel sauce is baked through and the top browns. You can use the broiler to brown the bechamel sauce at the end if it’s taking too long!
I didn’t have any time to take a picture of the final product in the baking dish, because we dug right in. This is a picture of my own plate, which I took hastily before I gobbled it up.