Those last few zucchini of the summer were sitting in my fruit basket (because there was no fruit in it) on the counter waiting for me to do something with them. Waiting patiently. Staring at me. "Make us into bread" they said. "Bread and fry us in that so delicious way that Grandma taught you," they said another day. They wouldn't shut up and were driving me crazy! But I really wanted to do something different. How about casserole!
I searched my endless supply of cookbooks and I scoured the internet for just the thing I was looking for. Of course, I never found exactly what I wanted so I picked and chose different aspects of different recipes. I wanted something with ground meat (99% of the time I use turkey, this day was no exception), I wanted something with rice and I wanted something with cheese. I wanted a meal casserole, not a side dish.
I started out on my quest by making the rice. Only a small amount (I use jasmine rice 95% of the time), 1 cup of water and a half cup of rice. Then started to brown my ground turkey with a small chopped onion (some salt, some pepper and some oregano). It was time to chop and add the zucchini to the browning meat and onions. Lo and behold, they tricked me! While the top of the zucchini (is it zucchini no matter how many you have? What I mean is, is the plural of zucchini, zucchini?) looked lovely and firm, the bottom of them was a gross mush of rotting zucchini flesh. EW! What to do? I already started my casserole! I thought of using portobello mushrooms because I happen to be in abundance of those right now (I'll save the things they say to me for another blog), but it didn't seem right. Zucchini is what I wanted dammit! It wasn't to be, so I pulled out a bag of a frozen vegetable medley that I always keep on hand for my famous Roasted Vegetable Rice. This particular one was broccoli, carrot and cauliflower.
A quick boil to take the freeze off and the veggies were ready. I mixed all the ingredients I had ready so far into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. (I have this gorgeous heavy duty white porcelain casserole dish that was on a clearance table at Kohl's for $7! What a deal!). That was the veggies, the meat/onions and the rice in case you aren't keeping up. Now was time for the sauce. I took 1/4 cup of butter and a 1/4 cup of flour and cooked them together. I wasn't out to make a big dark roux, just a nice thickener. To that I added 2 cups of milk (2% in this case) and stirred until thickened. To that I added a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Once melted I poured it into the casserole and mixed it all together. Then topped with bread crumbs (should have used Panko... and I have it too!) and some shredded Romano cheese. This then baked at 350 for about 45 minutes.
It was pretty good. Nick liked it a lot. I thought it was, as I said... pretty good. I'm not sure I'll make it again. But it was a fun, if not exasperating experience! Here is the full recipe and the obligatory photo:
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 bag of a hearty vegetable medley
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Parboil the vegetables and set aside. Cook the rice in 1 cup of water until just done, set aside. Brown ground beef with chopped onions, salt, pepper and oregano. When all of these are done, mix together and place in a casserole dish.
Melt butter then add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk and stir until smooth and thick (this should take 3-5 minutes). Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Pour into casserole and mix with other ingredients, thoroughly. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs (use Panko!) and Romano cheese then bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.