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Zesty Zucchini Herb Casserole with Amore Chili Paste

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Credit: Tom Burns on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Zucchini is in season May through August,[1] yet you can buy it in most grocery stores all year long. The great thing about zucchini is how versatile it is - you can use it in drinks, appetizers, meals, and desserts.

When September rolls around, I seem to be given plenty of leftover zucchini from my neighbours' gardens. I do my best to use it up and the rest goes into the compost bin.

Since I had great success with Robert VanNorden's cashew chicken recipe (which I reworked a bit for my Mouthwatering Cashew Chicken article), I thought I'd check out his Kindle book Casserole For The Soul: 25 Hearty Casserole Recipes; Comfort Food To Satisfy The Hunger Within.

The first casserole I tried out (and tweaked) was called Zucchini Herb Casserole. The original recipe called for 1-1/4 tsp. of garlic salt and 1 garlic clove. Since garlic salt is fairly high in sodium[2] (and I needed to mince 1 clove of garlic anyways) I just minced more garlic cloves instead.

You could add 1/2 tsp. of salt, however I found that Amore Chili Paste is already a bit on the salty side - so I omitted salt completely from my version of the recipe. Well, the result was fabulous, so I wanted to share it with you.

Zesty Zucchini Herb Casserole

Prep: 20 - 25 mins | Total: 50 - 55 mins

1/3 cup uncooked long grain rice
2/3 cup water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1.5 lbs. (about 4 medium-sized) zucchini cubed
1 cup sliced green onions
2 - 3 cloves garlic minced (orig. recipe called for just 1 clove)
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using Amore Chili Pepper Paste)
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. Amore Chili Pepper Paste (orig. recipe: 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (using 1 cup at a time)
Wash rice and add to medium saucepan with water. Heat on high until just boiling and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 20 mins (or until rice is tender).
In the meantime, wash veggies and cube zucchini, chop tomatoes, slice green onions, and mince garlic. (Put chopped tomatoes in separate bowl). In a medium bowl, grate cheddar cheese (unless you bought shredded cheddar* of course).
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C) and lightly grease (or parchment paper-line) a 1.5 quart (48 oz. or 6 cup) casserole dish and set aside.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add oil and then stir-fry zucchini, green onions, and garlic for 5 mins (or until tender). Season with basil, oregano, and hot chili pepper paste (omit salt if using Amore Chili Pepper Paste). 
Add the rice, tomatoes, and 1 cup of shredded cheese and combine thoroughly. Scrape into prepared casserole dish, top with remaining shredded cheese, and bake (uncovered) for 20 mins. 
Tip: Place a pan or piece of foil under casserole dish to catch any cheese drips.

*For those on a gluten-free diet

A hidden source of gluten is sometimes found in packages of shredded cheese. Flour is sometimes add to keep the cheese pieces from sticking together.[3] So, buying block cheddar cheese and grating it yourself is the safest bet. 

Casserole For The Soul by Robert VanNorden

25 Hearty Casserole Recipes; Comfort Food To Satisfy The Hunger Within

Casserole For The Soul: 25 Hearty Casserole Recipes; Comfort Food To Satisfy The Hunger Within RoseWrites 2014-04-14 4.5 0 5

Casserole For The Soul

25 Hearty Casserole Recipes; Comfort Food To Satisfy The Hunger Within

Casserole For The Soul: 25 Hearty Casserole Recipes; Comfort Food To Satisfy The Hunger Within
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Apr 15, 2014)
Right here on InfoBarrel, I discovered author Robert VanNorden who has authored 26 e-books. The great thing about a having a cookbook devoted to casseroles, is you can plan out meals to make ahead and freeze. Then just pull one out the night before to thaw in the fridge and when you get home from work - pop it in the oven.
Organic Zucchini with Amore Chili Pepper Paste
Credit: Background photo of organic zucchini by ilovebutter on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic | Amore Chili Pepper Paste on Amazon added by me (RoseWrites on InfoBarrel)

Why I use Amore Chili Pepper Paste

instead of sweet paprika

I was given Amore Chili Pepper Paste as part of an Italian gift basket 3 years ago (when I began to get more serious about cooking). I've added it to all kinds of recipes, including my Fast & Fresh Mango Salsa

Since I used to work in the eye care field, I knew how careful one must be in preparing hot chilies. In fact, the Mayo Clinic advises the use of gloves to protect skin and eyes from the oils in jalapenos[4] which can cause serious chemical burns.

Don't know about you, but I find zucchinis to be a bit bland and I like a little zing in my casseroles. For a long time, I wondered about paprika - which seemed to be fairly tasteless. Sure enough, it's used primarily to add color to dishes.[5] 

There is some in-depth information, however, about Moroccan sweet paprika which is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 and essential fatty acid for humans.[6] So, if you can find it, you may wish to add Moroccan sweet paprika to this recipe after all.

Amore Hot Chili Pepper Paste 3.2 Ounce Tube

Imported from Italy (only 3 ingredients)

Amore Hot Chili Pepper Paste 3.2 Ounce Tube RoseWrites 2014-04-14 4.5 0 5

Amore Chili Pepper Paste

Amore Chili Pepper Paste
Amazon Price: $5.52 $4.21 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 15, 2014)
No more worries about getting hot chili peppers on your hands or in your eyes. Amore chili pepper paste comes in a tube so you can safely squeeze out the amount you need (like toothpaste). There are only three ingredients in this chili pepper paste: Puglia-grown chili peppers, salt, and citric acid. In every recipe that I put it in, I simply omit the salt (it contains enough).
Allergy alert: Produced in a facility that also processes pine nuts, cashews, and anchovies.
Bonus: Includes some tasty recipes inside the box.

For block cheeses, restaurants use the

Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater (makes life easier):

Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater

Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater RoseWrites 2014-04-14 4.5 0 5

Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater

Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater, White
Amazon Price: $11.45 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 15, 2014)
When I worked in restaurants, I found this Zyliss cheese grater to be the most reliable for grating hard cheeses (or chocolate). It's ergonomically designed with no risk of cuts and it rarely jams. Simply cut up blocks of cheese, place in the top, and turn the wheel. Clean up is a breeze, just remove the drum and either wash by hand or place it in the dishwasher.


May 9, 2014 1:43pm
I love that you offer so much information on how to cook gluten-free (and where to find gluten hiding in foods!) My aunt was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease and it's suspected my mother has it also. So I guess I'll be wanting to learn a little something about gluten-free cooking! The shredded cheese tip was very much appreciated. I will pass that on :)
May 9, 2014 2:07pm
Dear Ruby,

Oh I'm so glad you found this helpful. We have a family member who is sensitive to gluten, so I try to find out as much as I can about it. And I'd never have thought of cheese as having any wheat gluten in it - but the flour used to coat prepackaged shredded cheese often contains gluten.

Thankfully, there are a lot of excellent resources for those diagnosed with celiac disease. Hope you, your aunt (and family) stay healthy. Thank you so much for contributing to my page, I really appreciate it.

May 17, 2014 11:53pm
This does sound pretty good. I've printed the recipe so I can try this when the zucchini become plentiful. I can see myself adding more items to this such as mushrooms and a couple cups of leftover chopped chicken, etc. and a bit larger casserole dish so it doesn't spill over.
May 19, 2014 5:07am
Yeah, I love to add leftovers to casseroles. Going larger with a casserole dish is always wise (I've had my share of spill overs). Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting. Take good care, Rose
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  1. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone "Zucchini Varieties, Description, and Season." About.com | Home Cooking. 14/04/2014 <Web >
  2. Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro "Garlic Powder vs. Garlic Salt – Spices to Lower Blood Pressure." HealthCentral | High Blood Pressure. 17/08/2011. 14/04/2014 <Web >
  3. Posted by Jeff "There's Gluten on my Shredded Cheese?." Living Pure and Simple. 23/01/2012. 14/04/2014 <Web >
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff "Chili - Healthy Recipes." MayoClinic.org. 01/12/2009. 14/04/2014 <Web >
  5. "Kitchen Dictionary: Paprika." Food.com | Home of the Home Cook. 14/04/2014 <Web >
  6. Naima Zaki, Abdelmalek Hakmaoui, Aaziz Ouatmane, and Juan Pablo Fernandez-Trujillo "Quality characteristics of Moroccan sweet paprika (Capsicum annuum L.) at different sampling times." Food Science and Technology (Campinas). 14/06/2013. 14/04/2014 <Web >

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