My love of fried zucchini began in college. I went to school in a small town in southern Virginia. The town had only one bar because of strict liquor laws so of course all of the students went to this place if they wanted to drink off-campus. It was at this bar where I was first introduced to fried zucchini. It quickly became my go-to midnight snack after a night of drinking dollar draft beers. Without fail, I would place an order of fried zucchini whenever I was at this bar and I would religiously dip them in ranch dressing. I loved the crisp, fried breadcrumb crust that enveloped the tender zucchini. It was pure heaven. Years later, I was watching a cooking show on the Food Network and was shocked to learn that fried zucchini are more fattening than French fries. It's because the zucchini absorbs more oil during frying than potato French fries. So I thought I was being somewhat healthy by eating fried vegetables when in fact, I was eating one of the worst things possible. Great.
So I decided that I would try and make a healthier version of fried zucchini. I came up with an oven-fried version that comes out golden and crispy, but at a fraction of the calories and fat. I've been making these for years and freeze them uncooked, individually lined on a baking sheet. Once frozen, I transfer them into a freezer bag and have them on-hand whenever I get a craving.
Now all I needed was a dip. A low-fat Ranch dressing from a bottle will do the trick, but when I want to be a little fancy, I make a curried yogurt dip with a little mayo mixed with curry powder and low-fat yogurt. Kraft makes this really good olive oil mayonnaise. It has half the fat and calories of regular mayo and it's made with heart-healthy, 'good-fat' olive oil. Make this before you start the zucchini so that the dip has the time to really absorb the curry flavor. Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to eat.
Here's what you'll need:
6 ounces low-fat plain yogurt, drained over a fine mesh colander to remove the excess liquid
1 teaspoon of powdered curry
2 tablespoons of olive oil mayo
3 large zucchini
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, basil and thyme
First you need the ingredients to bread the zucchini. Flour, eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water mixed in, Panko breadcrumbs mixed with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, dried oregano, thyme and basil. Season the flour, egg mixture and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. I have a breading pan set from Williams-Sonoma that makes it really easy to bread a lot of zucchini quickly. It's like a food assembly line.
Next slice the zucchinis at a slight diagonal into 1/4 inch pieces. To bread them, it's flour, egg then breadcrumbs. To avoid 'breading' your hands, use your right hand for the dry ingredients, left for the eggs.
Your hands will still get messy but it will keep the mess to a minimum. When dipping in the flour, shake off the excess, same thing when you get to the egg and breadcrumb stage. Line up your breaded zucchini on a lined baking sheet.
To 'fry' them, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. The trick to getting them crispy is to let your cooking/baking sheet pre-heat in the oven so it's nice and hot when you start lining up the zucchini. Just spray it thoroughly with olive oil cooking spray to keep them from sticking. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, then turn the zucchini over and cook for another 5-9 minutes until golden brown. Serve piping hot with the curry dip.