Recipes from Rochester, New York

Just prior to heading out for New York, my brother prepared lunch.  His two favorite ingredients for any recipe are cheese and sour cream.  I try to tell him that it isn't healthy, but he really has no interest in listening to me.  If he does cut back on the sour cream, he is most likely to double up on cheese.  That was the case with his garden fresh zucchini stuffed with homemade hamburger helper.  When Gary stuffs a squash, he brings a whole new meaning to the word "stuffed".  It is stuffed, filled to the brim and overflowing with hamburger, rice, onions, cheese, and more cheese.

The portions were huge, artery clogging, and so very delicious.  I left making a mental note to find some healthier recipes.  Gary's garden seems to flourish with zucchini, and I wanted to locate delicious recipes without cheese, sour cream, or more cheese.

Little did I know that upon arrival in Rochester, I would have zucchini for the second time that day.  And, there was no hint of sour cream or cheese.  I'm fairly sure Gary could find a way to add his two ingredients, but it was plenty good without them.  My host Stacey did an amazing job.
Stacey's Zucchini Tian with Curried Bread Crumbs
Rochester, New York
1 Tbs curry powder
7 ½ Tbs olive oil
1 ¼ cup bread crumbs
2 tsp salt
1 large onion, sliced
2 tsp chopped rosemary
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp orange zest
½ tsp black pepper
4 med. zucchini, thinly sliced

Heat up the oven to 400 degrees and then heat up a large skillet over a medium high heat.  I like numbers.  I love the fact that I know where to set the oven temperature.  Exactly!  I'm not so sure about medium-high heat, but I hope it isn't a deal breaker.  Anyway, toss in the curry powder and toast it for 30 seconds.  If all works well, and you managed the medium-high trauma, you should have a fragrant smelling kitchen.

Next toss in the olive oil, bread crumbs, and one teaspoon of salt.  If you really toss them, you might have a mess on your hands, but you know what to do.  Cook them for two to three minutes, stirring frequently.  When they are done, set the ingredients aside in another bowl and wipe up your skillet.  Since it has been cooking things for two to three minutes, be careful not to burn yourself.

In that same skillet, without any burned flesh, heat up the olive oil over high heat.  Again, no specific number, but high.  Add the onions, rosemary, and the rest of the salt.  Cook this until the onions are a deep golden brown.  If your heat is set too high or you cook too long, it's going to smell good, but that golden brown will be replaced by charcoal black.  Ten to fifteen minutes is supposed to do just fine.

Next, add the tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.

Pour in the ¼ cup of white wine.  If you accidentally pour a full glass into your cup, you should already know what to do.  Cook until the pan is fully simmered and you are completely sauced.  Hopefully, you will be able to stir the ingredients a few times, making sure to include any brown bits.

When that is done, if you are still sober, remove the ingredients from heat and stir in the garlic, orange zest, and black pepper.

Grease the inside of a medium casserole dish with ½ tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle and spread a third of the onion and tomato mixture onto the bottom of the dish.  Overlap the thinly sliced zucchini from the outside of the casserole into the middle.  If you happen to be an artist, it must be in a pleasing geometric design.  If you aren't an artist, just be sure to overlap those little suckers in whatever way works for you.  But know, I'll be making a pattern.  When your layer of sliced zucchini is finished, cover up all of your hard work with a third of the bread crumbs.

Repeat the process two times with a slathering of onions, beautifully placed zucchini slices, and hiding the work with bread crumbs.  If you do it correctly, you'll have bread crumbs on the top of the dish.  Sprinkle them with three tablespoons of olive oil.

Bake for an hour or an hour and a half, until the vegetables are very tender and the bread crumbs have toasted brown.  If you find the crumbs brown faster than the vegetables cook, Stacey says to add a quarter cup of milk around the edges and then over the crumbs.  It serves six to eight people willing to have zucchini without cheese or sour cream.

I was happy.  With the zucchini recipe in hand, I didn't really think I'd come across another treat in Rochester.  That was until the first day of muraling. When lunch time rolled around, the building manager suggested I try out a mom and pop Mexican restaurant.  I started salivating before he finished giving directions.  Maybe I should have listened more closely.  I never found the place.  The only place to eat that I saw had golden arches.  That's about the last place on the planet that I like to eat.  I sulked inside because there were no other options.

When I got back to the school, the Head Start director was sorry that I'd already eaten.  Mustafa had called his wife, Nur, who hails from Ethiopia, and asked her to bring me a home cooked African meal.  (Do I really have to tell you if I ate lunch twice?) She almost apologized for the mouth-watering spicy beef and Ethiopian injera bread.  It was "just something whipped up quickly".  My mouth was delightfully on fire and there was nothing to complain about - except for those arches.