Sunday, February 5, 2012
Baked Zucchini Sticks.
Baked Zucchini Sticks.
You know that onion appetizer that came into bloom back in the late ’80s? Outback Steakhouse claims it invented the “Bloomin’ Onion” back in 1988, and it wasn’t long before quasi-fast food restaurants adopted it as the hottest appetizer since artichoke dip baked in a bread bowl.
These zucchini sticks, with their melty-soft interior and crisp crust, are reminiscent of those onions – and equally addictive, especially when served with their special onion-mustard dip.
Ready to go beyond muffins, bread, kebabs, and frittata? Let’s try these crispy baked zucchini sticks.
First, find yourself 3 medium-size zucchini, about 9″ to 10″ long.
That won’t be hard at this time of the year, right? Don’t be tempted to use those baseball-bat-sized zucchini hiding under the leaves in your garden, though; you want small, slim zucchini here.
Cut each zucchini into 3″ sticks about the diameter of your finger. Cutting each zuke into 9 sticks lengthwise, then cutting into 3″ lengths, works well.
Place the zucchini sticks in a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt. Let them drain for 1 hour or longer.
While the zucchini are shedding their excess liquid, make the dip.
First, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium-sized frying pan over moderate heat, and add 1 medium sweet onion (about 1/2 pound), sliced.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, then caramelizes. This should take between 20 and 25 minutes, at medium-low heat. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the less likely you are to burn the onions.
When the onions are medium brown, remove them from the heat.
Place the following in a small food processor or blender:
all of the caramelized onions
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Process until fairly smooth.
Remove from the processor, and stir in 1 cup mayonnaise.
The resulting 1 1/2 cups dip can be used not only for these zucchini sticks, but as a tasty sandwich condiment.
Note that I’ve purposely not added any salt to the dip. I find that the zucchini sticks themselves, with the salt you added to drain them and the addition of Pizza Seasoning, are plenty salty. If you plan on using this dip for another purpose, you might want to add 1/4 teaspoon salt.
OK, back to the zucchini. See how they’ve started giving up liquid?
Rinse them thoroughly; you want to get rid of any excess salt. Then pat them dry.
Next up: the bread and cheese coating. But first, preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spray the parchment with olive oil.
Combine the following:
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
scant 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning or mixed Italian herbs
Mix until thoroughly combined.
Beat 2 large eggs; or pour 1/2 cup egg substitute into a dish. You’re going to dip each zucchini stick in the egg…
…then roll it in the crumbs.
Warning! Warning! Do as I say, not as I did here.
I figured, heck, just lay ‘em all in the crumbs and toss ‘em around, right? Never mind this coating one-by-one stuff…
About midway through, the crumbs had gotten so much egg splashed onto them they were sticking together in a solid mass. So I had to add a lot more Panko, and that still didn’t really help.
Trust me, these will look a lot nicer if you take the time to dip-and-roll one by one. Maybe you could divvy up the egg and crumbs, and get one of the kids to help you…
My fellow baker, Susan Reid, is editor of our print newsletter, The Baking Sheet, in which this recipe first appeared. She says, “There’s a basic restaurant tenet about breading: ‘One hand wet, one hand dry.’ It makes the difference between getting through them all in one go, or having your hands end up looking like catcher’s mitts.”
She adds, “If you happen to have a convection oven, this is the ideal sort of recipe to put the fan to work. Faster, more even browning.”
Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the sticks for about 12 minutes, until they’re starting to brown. Remove from the oven, and turn them over; you may actually need to do this one by one, or you may be able to turn several at a time using a spatula. Bake for an additional 12 to 16 minutes or so, until golden brown and crisp.
These baking times don’t match those in the recipe; I realize that. Bottom line, bake until the sticks are a speckled golden brown…
Now, put the sticks on a plate, the dip in a nice bowl…
…and dig in! With guests, of course.
Any leftover sticks can be wrapped and stored in the fridge. Reheat at 350°F for about 10 to 15 minutes, if desired.