If you are looking for a recipe to please everyone, these Zucchini Caprese Rolls are a flavorful vegetarian, a gluten-free appetizer that is perfect for the holidays.
Simple and quick to make this recipe will be a hit at your Thanksgiving get-together. And since they can be made early in the day, this appetizer will give you time to focus on other dishes.
Whether you are hosting or attending a Thanksgiving dinner, you want an appetizer that allows guests to mingle without making them too full. Since these rolls are full of beautiful vegetables as well as being vegetarian and gluten-free they make the perfect dish to serve.
Zucchinis can be found in the produce department all year round even though they are a summer crop. Look for small to medium-sized straight vegetables. Larger zucchini are often very pulpy flesh and have big seeds that distract from the taste. If you are looking for a visual guide to the best zucchini, look for one that is no larger than a flashlight.
Check all around the vegetable for any scratches, soft spots, or wrinkles. This recipe for zucchini Caprese rolls features vibrant skin so you want one that looks great. (Bristly zucchini is an indication of one that is super fresh.)
If you find a zucchini with a large stem end still attached, it will last longer than a stemless vegetable. Holding off washing the vegetables until just before prepping will also help them last longer.
Cutting Zucchini Ribbons
This simple recipe uses a thin strip of zucchini as the wrapper for a flavorful bruschetta filling. To cut the zucchini planks, I recommend using a mandolin. You want a strip of zucchini that is uniformly about 1/4” thick and the length of the vegetable so there is bright green skin on two edges.
If you don’t have a mandolin:
- Cut the stem end off the zucchini.
- Lay the zucchini flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, position the blade 1/4” from the board and smoothly slice the vegetable into thin, even planks. It makes take some practice, but it will work. You can use any wonky strips to make a delicious zucchini frittata.
I use a mandolin to cut many fruits and vegetables. It is one kitchen tool, I highly recommend to have in your kitchen.
Tomatoes are technically a fruit and you can peel them just like you would peel peaches for a fresh peach crisp.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring about 2” of water to a boil.
- Cut a shallow x at the end of the tomato opposite from the stem.
- Gently lower several tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
- Remove the tomatoes and quickly plunge them into a bowl of ice water.
- Starting at the x, simply peel back the skin to remove it.
You don’t want to cook the tomato, just blanch it so it is easy to remove the skin.
Removing the seeds From Tomatoes
- Cut the peeled tomatoes in half through the middle (around the equator, not bisecting the stem end).
- Using your finger or a small spoon, gently squeeze the tomato halves and remove the seeds and watery sack that surrounds them. By removing the seeds you are left with a tomato that can be finely diced and will not weep or dilute the bruschetta filling. The 3 tomatoes should yield about 1-1/2 cups of diced tomato flesh.
Grilling the Zucchini Planks
- You can use a grill outside or a grill pan on the stovetop. It only takes about 5 minutes to get the charred grill marks on the vegetables.
- Lightly brush each side of the zucchini planks will olive oil, then sprinkle with salt.
- Position on a hot grill and grill until the zucchini just starts to become tender and shows some charred marks, rotate the planks 90° to get the hash mark. Then carefully flip to get marks on the other side. It will take about 2- 3 minutes per side to get the grill marks on the zucchini planks.
- Remove from the grill and let cool. Choose the side with the nicest marking and arrange that side facing away from you.
Zucchini Caprese Rolls are a flavorful vegetarian, gluten-free appetizer that is perfect for the holidays.
- 2 medium zucchinis, (straight and of even thickness), cut into 1/4” planks
- 3 Roma or Kumata tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and finely diced, about 1–1/2 cups flesh
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced about 1/3 cup
- 15–20 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (see my recipe for warm pasta and vegetable salad for instruction), about 1 buch, reserve a few small leaves for garnish.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Balsamic Glaze plus more for drizzling as a garnish.
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 Slices of fresh mozzarella
- Cut and grill the planks of zucchini. Arrange each plank with the nicest grill marks facing away from you.
- Peel and remove the seeds from the tomatoes and finely dice the tomato flesh.
- In a medium bowl, combine the diced tomato, shallot, basil chiffonade, olive oil, and balsamic glaze, and stir to combine.
- Taste and add kosher salt and pepper to your liking. Remember the filling needs to be seasoned enough for the zucchini as well.
- Spoon a generous tablespoon of the tomato bruschetta mixture down the center of the zucchini plank.
- Carefully roll the zucchini into a tight cylinder and stand on end. You may want to use a toothpick to keep the zucchini caprese rolls closed.
- Repeat with the remaining zucchini planks.
- Refrigerate the rolls for several hours if desired.
- To serve: arrange a slice of mozzarella on a serving platter, Place a zucchini caprese roll on top and garnish with reserved basil leaves and a light drizzle of balsamic glaze.
You can finely dice the mozzarella in with the tomatoes, but the glaze will make it brown. Or you can even leave out the cheese for a delicious variation.
The zucchini planks can be cut up to a day in advance and refrigerated before grilling.
The recipe can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Should be served cold or at room temperature.
Keywords: bruschetta, gluten-free