These Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks are a testament to my garden and my weekly CSA box.
I’ve talked about the fact that this is my first summer with a CSA. It’s both wonderful and a little stressful. I hate wasting food, so as soon as I pick up the box, I feel like the clock is ticking. Before I know it, a week has passed and it’s time for another box.
A couple of weeks ago my CSA box had these globe zucchini in it. Seriously, how cute are they? I’ve never seen globe zucchini before, although we are growing some cute round spaghetti squash in our garden this year. That’s what I love about my CSA. Every box is a new adventure. Zucchini isn’t exactly exotic though, so there’s never any lack of ideas of what to do with it, like Chocolate Turtle Zucchini Cake or Pasta with Roasted Squash and Ricotta Salata. Those are both faves. When I’m deluged with zucchini, I usually resort to roasting or grilling trays of it to eat as a side dish or to pile on top of spaghetti.
When I saw these cute round zucchini, I thought about what I might make with them. It’s been incredibly hot so I didn’t really want to roast them or turn the oven on to bake them into a cake. I decided I’d go the grill route, and while I was at it, I’d use some of the bounty of our backyard garden, namely, fresh basil, oregano and tomatoes. (Fresh oregano is soooo good!) I also was looking for something simple but delicious. So Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks sounded like the perfect choice.
Now, you don’t have to use globe zucchini for this recipe, but you will want a large enough zucchini to get some nice sized slices. I picked tomatoes and fresh mozzarella that had a similar diameter so that my stacks were fairly uniform. Of course, if you have thin zucchini, you could make long planks and pile them with smaller slices of cheese and tomato. It’ll be a little trickier to keep everything on, but I think you can do it. Use what you have. It’s all good.
We’ll start with our zucchini slices. You want to slice them thick enough to hold up to grilling. They’re your base, so you want a strong foundation. I used a garlic and herb infused oil. (If you don’t have it on hand, I give you some options in the notes of the recipe.) It makes a difference, and it smells divine when it’s grilling.
Simply brush the oil on both sides of the zucchini slices then grill them on both sides just until they are tender. When they’re done, I pull them off the grill to a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. I choose to season them after grilling, so that the salt isn’t pulling water out of the zucchini while it’s cooking, plus, there’s already some garlic and herb action going on there anyway.
Now we need to build our stack. We’re going to sprinkle some Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs on top of every layer. The panko bread crumbs provide each layer something to grab onto; the big crunchy flakes work far more effectively than regular bread crumbs. They also add a nice texture and some additional flavor.
So, we have the zucchini slice as our foundation, then a sprinkling of bread crumbs, the cheese slice, another sprinkling of bread crumbs and then the thick sliced tomato that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper. Another sprinkling of bread crumbs goes on top of the tomato along with some freshly grated cheese (I used Locatelli Pecorino Romano because I like the strong, sharp flavor and because it’s my favorite hard cheese.)
Carefully place the stacks back on the grill and close the lid…in a few minutes, the cheese will melt and the tomato will warm up.
Remove the stacks, top with some fresh basil and oregano and serve immediately. Looking at them now, I would have also drizzled just a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and a syrupy balsamic over each stack. That’s pretty traditional but when they came off the grill they just smelled so good, I wanted to get them shot so we could eat them. #distractions
Boy, were they good! Better than expected. I mean, it’s not as if I haven’t had grilled zucchini before or caprese salad before, but this was different. The zucchini had a nice grilled flavor and the garlic added a wonderful savory edge. The cheese was warm and melty and the tomato heated up nicely. The little touch of breadcrumbs was wonderful. The basil and oregano added a nice bit of freshness. A drizzle of olive oil and balsamic would have taken them over the top, but they were quite good even without.
These Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks make a perfect little lunch, a hearty side dish or perhaps a vegetarian dinner with a grain on the side? I remember eating them and thinking, if I were really in the mood for pizza, I could eat one of these and be perfectly satisfied. (Okay, well 9 times out of 10 I could probably be perfectly satisfied. The other time, I guess I’d just have to get the pizza :)
They’re hearty and light all at the same time. The thick slices make them seem almost meaty. The stacks are definitely a knife and fork deal. I just slice right through it all and make sure I get all the layers on my fork…Oh! Wait, here’s another idea! Forget the fork and put it on a bun and make it a Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stack BURGER! What can else can I say? These were mouthwatering and delicious…
So, what are you waiting for? Just go make some already.
Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks
- 6 thick 3/4"-1" slices zucchini (mine were about 4" across)
- garlic and herb infused olive oil (see note)
- Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- 6 thick 1/2"-3/4" slices large beefsteak tomato
- 6 thick 1/2" slices fresh mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
- freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese
- fresh basil and fresh oregano
- extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling if desired
Brush zucchini slices with garlic infused olive oil on both sides.
Place on preheated grill and cook for a few minutes on each side or until desired tenderness. The slices should be thick enough to stand up to grilling without becoming floppy. I just grill them until they are tender but not mushy.
Remove zucchini from grill and season with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle the top of each slice with bread crumbs.
Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the zucchini. Lightly sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Top each cheese slice with a slice of tomato. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle with more bread crumbs and grate some romano or parmesan cheese on top.
Using a spatula to keep it stable, place the zucchini stacks back on to the grill, close the cover and heat until cheese melts and tomatoes warm through.
Remove from the grill. Top with fresh basil and/or oregano, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve hot while the cheese is still warm and melty.
*I used a garlic and herb infused olive oil. If you don't have a garlic flavored olive oil on hand, you can make a small amount quickly. Just put 1/4 cup or so of olive oil in a small saute pan and add a clove of smashed garlic. Let the garlic sizzle for 3-5 minutes in the oil but do not let it get brown. You should smell a nice aroma of garlic as it's infusing the oil. Remove the oil from the heat and remove the garlic clove from the oil. Stir in a few shakes of dried italian seasoning or dried basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. You won't need the full 1/4 cup, but it will give you enough to dip your brush into to coat the zucchini. Because the oil has been infused with fresh garlic, it is now highly perishable. If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate the balance and use within a week. I prefer to use it immediately or discard it. You can use it as a dipping oil, make garlic bread with it, baste other grilled veggies with it... If you decide to make a burger with the stacks, they would be delicious on a toasted bun that was brushed with the flavored garlic oil.
*If you don't have the flavored oil and don't want to make it, then brush the zucchini with plain olive oil and rub a cut piece of garlic briefly over the surface or season lightly with garlic salt after grilling. (I do think the garlic infused olive oil will give you the best flavor, though.)
*If you want to make this ahead or make a large batch, you could grill your zucchini in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Then, when you are ready, stack each with the tomato and cheese and either heat them on the grill or you could finish them in a 375 degree oven until they're heated through and the cheese is melty.
*I used globe zucchini but any large zucchini that will give you a nice big slice will work.
*I only use Locatelli Pecorino Romano. Use a good quality romano cheese. It makes a difference.
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