Leaves that were green may be turning to brown, gold and red, but summer's growing season isn't over yet. Tall and free, sunflowers still climb upward like Jack's beanstalk. Their bright yellow blooms sway with afternoon breezes, crossing property lines and surpassing the heights of fences. So full of life and growth, I recently observed a bright sunflower bold enough to peek into a second story window.
Lower to the ground, to accommodate my 16-month-old granddaughter's reach, a few cherry tomatoes ripen for her picking in our backyard. Lurking under a last pepper, three zucchinis are another happy discovery. Just what I need for this delicious, nutritious family-style dish. A last hurrah to the growing season, this Zucchini Chile-Cheese Bake with tomatoes and peppers is a healthy side for dinner, or a hearty main vegetarian dish paired with a salad for lunch.
ZUCCHINI CHILE- CHEESE BAKE
1 cup uncooked rice
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup red or green peppers, loosely chopped
7½ ounce can diced green chiles
12 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded or thinly sliced in strips
Handful of cherry tomatoes (about 8), sliced, or one large tomato, sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
To prepare oven and casserole: Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a three-quart casserole. To prepare rice, zucchini and sour cream mixture: Cook rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook zucchini in water until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain. Or, saute in olive oil, if you prefer. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, garlic powder, salt, oregano, onions and chopped pepper.
To assemble: Spoon the cooked rice for a base layer in the casserole. Spread chiles evenly over the rice, then sprinkle half of the cheese. Place zucchini slices evenly over cheese, then add a layer of tomato slices. Crack or sprinkle pepper over tomatoes. Spoon and spread sour cream mixture over tomato layer. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese or arrange strips over all. To bake: Bake for 50 minutes uncovered. Let stand a few minutes. To serve: Spoon freely out of casserole or cut into portions. Makes 8 servings.