If the phrase “zucchini slice” conjures an image of a round of the raw vegetable sitting next to the onion dip, it is only because you haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand.
There, a zucchini slice is a whole other thing. A beloved lunchbox staple or cafe snack, it is like a cross between a frittata and a savory quick bread, baked until firm enough to slice and eat out of hand. Cheesy, eggy and chock-full of vegetables, it is a perfect thing to do with a surfeit of summer zucchini, especially when the thought of whipping up yet another zucchini bread or batch of grilled zucchini makes you ever so slightly weary.
I learned about zucchini slices of the Antipodean variety from food writer Lukas Volger’s latest cookbook, “Snacks for Dinner” (Harper Wave, 2022).
His recipe is a meatless, brighter and more complex take on the one that has been making the rounds in food and women’s magazines for decades.
“All recipes for zucchini slice are pretty much the same,” Volger said. “There’s bacon in it and it’s really caloric, with a bunch of eggs and cheese.”
In his quest to lighten up the classic formula, he nixed the bacon and added a combination of olives and pickled peppers to give a deeply salty bite. Stirring in half a cup of chopped herbs gave the slices a freshness and a pretty speckling of green. And finally, calling for leeks instead of the usual diced onions, and sautéing them first, lends a sweeter flavor and makes the slices neater and less soggy.
You also needn’t stick to using just zucchini in the recipe, Volger said. You can substitute shredded vegetables such as carrots or beets, or leftover cooked broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, greens or mushrooms for up to half of the zucchini without losing the essence of the dish. Even better, you can serve it hot, warm or at room temperature. Or make it a day or two ahead, store it covered in the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before serving so the texture is supple and soft.
In Australia, the genre of slices also includes all manner of plain and ornate sweets. “There are brownie slices and coffee cake slices,” Volger said. “It’s like everything can be turned into a slice in Australia.”
But for an easy and vegetable-rich meal, Volger’s delightful zucchini iteration hits the mark.
Recipe: Australian Zucchini Slice
Recipe from Lukas Volger
Adapted by Melissa Clark
A beloved Australian staple, a zucchini slice is an eggy, frittata-like lunchbox staple that is baked until it is firm enough to slice and eat out of hand. Most versions include bacon, but in his book by him, “Snacks for Dinner” (Harper Wave, 2022), Lukas Volger substitutes a combination of olives and pickled peppers for a deeply salty bite without any meat. You can serve this hot, warm or at room temperature. Or make it a day or two ahead, store it covered in the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before serving so the texture is supple and soft.
Yield: 8 servings
Total time: 1 hour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for the pan
1 large leek, white and light green parts, halved and thinly sliced into half moons (1 1/2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped green olives
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pickled peppers (such as jalapeños and pepperoncini)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), more as needed
5 large eggs
2 small zucchini, about 14 ounces, grated (2 1/2 cups)
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, basil or dill (or a combination)
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Flaky sea salt and chili flakes, for serving (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and brush an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with olive oil. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches overhanging on the sides of the pan.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add leek, and cook until softened and golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, olives, pickled peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 1/3 cup oil; let mixture cool.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until combined. Stir eggs into leek mixture, then stir in zucchini, cheese and cilantro. Sprinkle flour, baking powder and remaining salt on the wet ingredients. Mix gently until smooth.
4. Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake until center is set and lightly golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes if using a metal pan and 40 to 50 minutes if using a glass dish. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Cut into small squares and serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and chile flakes, if you like.
And to Drink …
I know what I would love to drink with the exuberant flavors of this Australian zucchini slice: fine sherry. Its umami qualities would go beautifully with the olives, pickled peppers and cheese, not to mention the eggs and zucchini. A Jura savagnin in the sous voile style, aged like fino under a veil of yeast, would also complement this dish. If you prefer more conventional wines, you could easily enjoy this with a Loire sauvignon blanc or a dry chenin blanc from the Loire, South Africa or California. A Chablis or a chardonnay from the Mâconnais region of France would be delicious. If you like to pair regionally, how about a sémillon or riesling from Australia? A dry sparkling wine like cava or Champagne would also go well. — ERIC ASIMOV