A delectable first impression

Entertaining: A home-run hors d'oeuvre is made from zucchini.

April 25, 1999|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I am always on the lookout for new starters, and last week I developed a new hors d'oeuvre in a serendipitous way. I decided to grill lamb chops and serve them with roasted zucchini slices topped with goat cheese and a sprinkling of parsley, mint and lemon zest. But when I pulled the zucchini from the oven, I realized that they were the perfect size to be served as appetizers.

These nibbles can be prepared in advance and will only need to be heated at serving time.

Zucchini Croutons With Goat Cheese, Parsley and MintServes 6 to 8

1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini (3 to 4 zucchini)

salt, freshly ground black pepper

about 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

4 ounces creamy goat cheese without any herb seasoning

3 tablespoons grated imported Parmesan cheese

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (color portion of rind)

Arrange rack at lower third of oven.

Rinse zucchini under cold water and pat dry. Cut ends off and discard. Cut each zucchini on sharp diagonal into 3/4 -inch-thick slices. Place on paper towels and salt generously on both sides using 1 teaspoon salt. Let zucchini rest 20 to 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet. Pepper zucchini slices and brush on both sides with olive oil. Roast in oven at 500 degrees 8 minutes. Turn slices and roast until zucchini are just starting to brown and are tender when pierced with knife but not mushy, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove and set aside while you prepare topping.

Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy, medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add bread crumbs and stir constantly until they are rich golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Top each zucchini slice with some goat cheese, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toasted bread crumbs. (Zucchini croutons can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead to this point. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat as recipe indicates.)

To finish cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake prepared zucchini slices until cheese just starts to melt, 2 minutes or longer. Remove. Combine parsley, mint and lemon zest and sprinkle over each zucchini slice. Transfer slices to serving plate and serve warm.

Pub Date: 04/25/99

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