Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lunch Week 19: Three Squash Parmesan

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Three Squash Parmesan
Most of you may be familiar with eggplant parmesan. The layers of breaded and fried eggplant slices between sweet, tangy marinara sauce, and sprinkles of cheese in between. Baked until homogeneous and singing in delight. Well, I thought I would bring it up to another level by using three different squash: zucchini, yellow summer, and eggplant. I think the different textures, flavors, and colors would add a different yet still delectable element to the dish. And who doesn't like a little variety?
I started prepping the squash first. I sliced each one with my mandoline set at the largest slice. It will come out at around an 1/8th of an inch thick. I cut the ends off the squash, then I sliced away on my mandoline making sure not to butcher up my hands along the way. Toss the small pieces as they won't lend much to the layering process.
Once your squash is sliced up, prep your station for the dredging process. On the left is all purpose flour, middle is the whisked eggs, and on the right is the seasoned bread crumbs.
One by one, I tossed the squash slices in the flour, shook off the excess, then dunked into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumbs for final coating. Layer them carefully on a large sheet pan. Try not to pile them on too much as the coating may get soggy.
Then heat up your oil in a pot/pan until around 325oF. Then add the sliced to the hot oil. I added 4-5 slices at a time using my 12" cast iron pan. Fry until the squash puffs up and turns brown. Flip the squash a couple of time for even frying. Continue to fry in batches until all the slices are cooked.
Place the cooked squash on a cooling rack set in a pan or line a sheet pan with paper towels. The former will keep the squash more crispy. Let cool until ready to handle with hands.

Now the layering begins. Start by adding a ladle of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Make sure to added enough. You do not want the squash to burn. Then add a layer of squash. You may mix and match or place only one kind of squash. Whatever you fancy. Then add a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese. Repeat the marinara sauce and add the grated parmigiana cheese on top. Repeat the layering until all the squash is used up.
 End with the marinara sauce and more cheese on top.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 350oF for 60 minutes until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted.
 Let cool about 60 minutes or until warm to touch to set. Slice and serve.
I really enjoyed the different textures and flavors of this dish. The crispy breaded squash, the rich and tangy marinara sauce, the melted and creamy mozzarella cheese, and the pungent and sharp parmigiana cheese. Each bite was different and the colors were wonderful. Purple, yellow, green, red, and white. Though this is a vegetarian dish, it is filling due to the many layers of squash, sauce, and cheese. To add even more vegetables, you can add chopped spinach, carrots, or onions to the marinara sauce.

Three Squash Parmesan
Yields 1 Party Tray/12 servings

Ingredients
1 long purple eggplant
1 yellow summer squash
1 zucchini
2 cups all purpose flour
6 large eggs, whisked
3 cups seasoned bread crumbs
3 cups of canola/vegetable oil
8 cups marinara sauce
16oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
16oz parmigiana, shredded (pecorino romano cheese can easily be substituted)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350oF
1. Slice eggplant, squash, and zucchini lengthwise using a mandoline at its largest setting (~1/8 inch). Discard small end pieces. Set aside.
*Cook's Note: Avoid piling breaded squash up high. The breadcrumbs could become mushy and soft.
2. Pour flour, whisked eggs, and bread crumbs in separate containers. Use low, wide containers for ease.
3. Dredge each slice of squash in flour, shake off excess, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. Press breadcrumbs firmly into squash. Shake off excess and set aside. Repeat with rest of sliced squash.
4. Heat oil in heavy bottom pan to 325oF. Fry the breaded squash in batches of 3-5 slices each depending on the size of your pan. Fry until browned. It will puff up and float to the surface. Flip squash over to cook evenly. Remove from oil and set aside to cool in wire rack or paper towel lined pan. Cool until ready to handle with hands.
*Cook's Note: If the squash fries up limp, replace used oil with fresh. Bring temp back up to 325oF.
*Cook's Note: Using a wire rack will keep the fried squash crispier than with paper towels.
5. On bottom of baking pan/tray, ladle marinara sauce and spread until thoroughly coated. Layer fried squash on bottom, overlap if necessary. Sprinkle over a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. Ladle more marinara sauce on top, spreading out evenly. Then add a handful of shredded parmigiana cheese. Repeat layering with squash, mozzarella, sauce, then parmigiana. Lightly press squash down to compact dish halfway through. Finish with marinara sauce on top and a last sprinkle of parmigiana cheese.
6. Place tray on sheet pan then place in preheated oven. Bake for around 60 minutes until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool at least 1 hour to allow ingredients to set. Slice and serve.
*Cook's Note: Dish can be frozen after being baked and cooled completely. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil. To serve, reheat covered in oven until warmed through.

7 comments:

  1. I think I would finish off all the fried veggies prior to the layering. =X Looks like you've got a great lunch this week!

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    Replies
    1. Lucky for me, I accidentally made too much (3 trays instead of 1) and had plenty to munch on.

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  2. I'm sure by "toss the small pieces", you left out "into your stock bag for when you next make vegetable stock". Waste not, want not.

    You make fried food look delicious!

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    Replies
    1. I don't like the flavor that squash leaves in stock. Besides, I save most of my vegetable scraps for chicken stock. Onions, carrots, celery, herbs, etc etc.

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  3. I'm so glad these lunch posts are back! I need inspiration (and motivation) to start packing lunches again. I've been eating boring sandwiches all summer!

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