When we returned from our road trip, I was dismayed to find that my dear friend, who provided some pet care while we were gone (trickier than it might sound, as she inadvertendly donated our key to the Northern Illinois Food Bank), DID NOT eat out of our garden, as I had encouraged her to do. I had three mamouth zucchini and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them all. My kids -- ever generous, helped by giving one to our neighbors -- a younger couple with a 8-month old baby. Good idea, but, it still left me with two.
My kids love zucchini bread and muffins, so, I mentally earmarked one for that, but, what about the other? I decided to poke around on line to see what fun ideas I could come up with...and from that came the idea for Zucchini "Fries."
They were absolutely amazingly yummy and I think my 7 year old twins and I (our older daughter is away at camp; my husband had a dinner meeting) could have eaten WAY more than the single tray we prepared. Another really cool thing about them was that my kids were a big part of the preparation process, which was really fun for all of us.
Here's my recipe, which is my own creation based on a number of different recipes I looked at. It takes into consideration the food allergies and other restrictions in our house AND my desire not to truly FRY anything.
1 giant zucchini (2-3 regular sized zucchini)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Shar Gluten Free Bread Crumbs)
1/2 cup Parmesean Cheese (I splurged and bought freshly grated at our local grocery store -- Sunset Foods)
1/4 cup Shredded Asiago cheese (again, I splurged and bought freshly grated...)
1/4 cup Shredded Romano cheese (again, I splurged...)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat (yep, that's me, on my Silpat soap box again...I just love them). Of course, if you don't have one, you could always just grease the cookie sheet or line it with tin foil for really easy (but not very green) clean up.
Whisk together the egg and the milk. My younger daughter cracked the egg. My son ground fresh pepper and just a bit of salt into the bowl and then whisked the egg, milk and seasoning together.
Mix the cheeses and the bread crumbs together. My daughter measured the bread crumbs; my son measured the cheeses. They were both blissfully happy with their jobs. Gotta love that!
Using safe knives, my 7-year old twins cut the zuchinni. If you look carefully, you will be able to tell that we (they) experiemented with different sizes and shapes. I personally liked the rounds because they were so different from a typical fry...I don't think it matters much (see below). As long as you aren't trying to serve them during a fine dinner party, I'd say let your kids go for it -- strips, rounds, half-rounds, whatever they want. Novelty is the spice of life.
Dip zucchini slices/rounds/whatever shapes you have into the egg batter, then roll in the bread crumb mixture. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for however long it takes for them to get done. We ate ours as soon as the zucchini was soft, because we couldn't wait...if you left them longer, they'd get crispier. This opens the great debate of soft versus crunchy fries. They are right however you like them -- that's the bottom line. I'd say 20 minutes for soft ones, 30 - 35 minutes for crunchy ones.
The Zucchini Fries were totally awesome -- I loved the delicate taste of the zucchini which was thankfully NOT overwhelmed by the cheeses...but, I'm also itching to try some variations. Next time I am going to mix in freshly chopped chives from my windowsill herb garden...and I'm seriously contemplating adding some Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal to the "bread" mix...it would add another interesting flavor AND great protein. (For those with food allergy concerns, Bob's Red Mill flours are free of cross-contamination with peanuts...but read the label every time, as they process a number of foods with known allergens -- including other nuts and soy.)
Things I learned:
1) Taste-testing right out of a 425 degree oven is NOT good for the health of my tongue! (OK -- I probably already KNEW this, but, I was reminded of it...)
2) Having uniformly sliced zucchini helps ensure that all the fries get done at the same time. Of course, this is harder to do if you are allowing your 7-year old children to help in the cutting of the zucchini...AND it is not as much fun, either!
Something I think:
These could be amazing with carrots, too -- although I think the carrots, being firmer, would take longer...could also be pretty yummy with green beans, and how fun to dip who green beans in egg batter, then roll in the "bread" mixture?!?
Have a favorite recipe using zucchini I'd love it!