Meatless Monday: Zucchini Parmesan Subs With Tomatoes and Basil

Eggplant isn't the only vegetable that can get the Parmesan treatment. Layer breaded zucchini, cheese and tomato sauce on baguettes as an alternative.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

I'm kind of over Eggplant Parmesan. In the 15 or so years since I gave up meat, I've probably eaten it 300 times. It's the default vegetarian option at almost every wedding or banquet I've ever been to. It's often the only meatless meal on restaurant menus, and my family members -- those who don't try to convince me that poultry is vegetarian -- make it for me at nearly every family event.

But just like chicken isn't the only meat that can get the Parmesan treatment, eggplant isn't the only vegetable that can get Parmesan-ed. Zucchini Parmesan is just as good as, if not better than, Eggplant Parmesan. The hearty vegetable (is it actually a fruit? I think so.) holds up well to the breading, frying and cheese-topping. You can substitute zucchini for eggplant in the traditional casserole, or make Zucchini Parmesan subs, topped with fresh tomato sauce and provolone cheese.

The zucchini are breaded in panko, Japanese breadcrumbs -- they're coarser and a bit more crisp than regular breadcrumbs and you can find them in most grocery stores, near the regular breadcrumbs.

3 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds mixed shapes and sizes tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
About 12 fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
2 tablespoons whole milk
3 large eggs, beaten
Oil, for deep frying (we love a mix of pure olive oil and corn oil)
Four 7 to 8 inch-long hoagie rolls or baguettes, split
20 thin slices provolone cheese (about 11 ounces)

Cut the zucchini in half crosswise and then into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. If the center slice is very seedy, discard it. Arrange the slices on a paper towel-lined pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt, turning so you get both sides. Cover with another paper towel and set aside about 1 hour, letting the excess liquid weep from the zucchini.

Meanwhile, dice, halve or chunk the tomatoes, depending on their size and your whim. Put in a bowl with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Tear the basil into pieces and add to the bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate.

Mix together the panko, Parmesan, thyme and oregano and season with 1 tablespoon salt and some pepper in a broad, flat bowl or pan. Put the flour in a lipped plate or bowl. In a third bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. (Have a bowl of water for dipping your fingers to keep them clean while breading.)

Blot the zucchini very dry with paper towels. Dredge the zucchini slices in the flour, then dip in the egg and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, turning as needed to coat completely. Shake off excess breading and transfer to a baking sheet.

Pour about 3/4-inch oil in a medium straight-sided skillet; heat over medium heat until it registers 365 degrees F on a deep-frying thermometer. Working in batches, fry the zucchini slices, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towels and season with salt. (The zucchini can be fried up to 2 hours before serving.)

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the rolls, split-side up, on a baking sheet and drizzle some of the juice from the tomatoes over the bread. Cover the bottom roll with the zucchini and top with the provolone, then toast under the broiler to melt. Add the tomatoes and cover with the roll tops. Slice and serve.

More Meatless Zucchini Recipes:
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