Collapse-proof Zucchini Souffle soars

As a side dish, or light meal

I promise, Zucchini Souffle will behave for you. I dropped mine on the counter one time while I was unmolding it from its baking pan, and it survived. I fearlessly re-greased the pan, spooned the souffle mixture back into it, baked it for another 10 minutes, and voila! The souffle unmolded perfectly and even puffed up a little more after the second baking. Zucchini Souffle is one handy little recipe to pull out of your bag of tricks when you're looking for a side dish, or light meal, to bring to a barbecue, potluck or family get together, maybe even for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. The souffle travels well, can be served directly from the pan it's baked in, or -- unmolded onto a serving platter. The recipe is versatile, too, as it can be prepared with eggplant instead of zucchini and the ham which it contains, can be omitted, if you prefer. I like to serve this souffle with homemade fresh marinara sauce, this one flavored with a bit of fresh orange zest, but jarred sauce will do in a pinch. Besides beaten egg whites, the souffle is also made with a thick bechamel sauce (a French cooking term for "white sauce"). When making Zucchini Souffle, be sure to drain the zucchini very well -- once after steaming and again after mashing. Zucchini is 95 percent water-- so don't overlook this important step. And, here's a tip about separating eggs -- eggs are easier to separate when they are cold and will whip better for you at room temperature. In addition, egg whites won't whip if there's so much as a speck of yolk in them, so it's best to separate eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl before adding them to your mixing bowl -- again, using just one egg white at a time.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

Zucchini Souffle

2 pounds zucchini, washed
8 ounces diced lean ham
1 tablespoon minced parsley
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup thick Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Dash Tabasco sauce
Marinara sauce, homemade, or jarred, for serving (recipe follows)
Fresh basil leave, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2-quart capacity Charlotte mold pan, or soufflé dish. Peel zucchini and cut into chunks. Place the chunks into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, then cook on HIGH power, for 5 minutes. Check to see if zucchini is tender, if not, cook for a minute, or so, longer or until cooked. Drain any liquid that remains in the bowl, then mash zucchini. Place mashed zucchini in a fine-mesh sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Place drained, mashed zucchini into a large mixing bowl with ham and parsley; set aside. Place eggs yolks in a small bowl and beat lightly. Add some of the hot béchamel sauce into the yolks to temper yolks, then add egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the sauce. Cook over medium heat until sauce is very thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and a dash, or two, of Tabasco stirring until well combined and the cheese is melted. Mix cheese sauce into bowl with zucchini, ham and parsley; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites just until stiff peaks form. (Do not overbeat or the egg whites will liquefy.) Fold egg whites into zucchini mixture, combining well. Spoon mixture into prepared pan, to about 1/4 inch from the top of the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Serve directly from baking pan, or allow to rest for 5 minutes before inverting pan onto a serving platter. Serve soufflé garnished with marinara sauce and fresh basil leaves. Makes 6 servings.

Thick Bechamel Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, scalded
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is foamy, about 1 minute; do not allow to brown. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Makes 1 cup.

 Simple Marinara Sauce with Orange

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (35-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in purée
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 tablespoon fresh orange zest, optional
2 tablespoons minced basil
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper
Hot pepper flakes

Cook garlic in butter and oil in a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat until soft. Add tomatoes with purée, orange juice, orange zest, basil and parsley. Simmer, uncovered, over moderate heat, for 25 minutes, adding salt, pepper and a few hot pepper flakes, to taste, stirring occasionally.
Makes about 1 quart