Today at work, a co-worker who is trying to healthy up her family’s eating style asked if I knew a good way to make “deep fried zucchini” without deep frying. I first replied, “No, I’ve never even thought about that,” but then I immediately remembered a quick trick I use to bake “crispy” fish and chicken breasts. I use Parmesan Cheese and Good Seasons Dry Italian Salad Dressing Mix – a great trick I learned from the “back of the box.” The fish and chicken bake up really crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. Sometimes, I add Panko breadcrumbs, too. Panko crumbs are made to “brown” through some miracle of food science, so I thought, hmmm… I wonder if that would work with zucchini? I wasn’t sure if the crumb mixture would stick to the zucchini, so I decided I would do an egg wash. And I wasn’t sure if the squash would weep too much liquid and make a soggy mess out of the baking pan and crispy crumb coating, so I thought I should salt the zucchini slices and let them drain in a colander to remove some liquid to stave off any weeping. But honestly, I was too hungry and too tired to salt and wait and who wants the extra salt anyway – so I just went for it. The results were amazing. The crumb topping was cripsy and lightly browned, the bottoms were crispy brown (yum), the zucchini was just tender, hot and steamy, not even close to mushy and not weepy at all. It was pretty scrumptious! And the leftovers held well in the oven, too, after I turned it off and served up dinner. Too well…. I kept opening the oven while cleaning up and ate all the leftovers! Final bonus – the pan cleaned up easily!
Fresh Zucchini – washed and sliced thick – I used a small zucchini. Large zucchini can tend to be bitter and besides, the small zucchini makes perfectly-sized round slices
Panko Bread Crumbs – (true confessions – I did not measure at all – so maybe about 1 cup? And p.s. the measurements on the remaining ingredients are guesses, too…)
Parmesan Cheese – about 1/2 cup, grated
Good Seasons Dry Italian Dressing Mix – 1 to 2 teaspoons
1 whole egg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and and Italian dressing mix in a bowl.
Beat the egg in another bowl
Dip each zucchini slice in the egg and then into the Panko and cheese mixture. Carefully place on a baking sheet (I used a calphalon non-stick baking sheet and did not grease the sheet.
Make sure the oven is preheated. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes until the zucchini feel tender yet firm to the fork.
I had some egg and crumbs left over and a bowl full of ripe red tomatoes from the garden, the oven was already hot, so I tried another creative cooking feat… I combined the egg and crumbs – kind of like a paste, but not overmixed at all, just blended. I sliced a tomato very thick and seeded the slices. I placed them on another cookie sheet and put the egg/crumb mixture on top. Popped them in the oven with the zucchini and they, too, came out beautifully browned. For the taste test, the flavors were great! Really good. But the egg/crumb mixture was a little chewy – didn’t really work for me. I would try this again in the future, but I would skip the egg and just sprinkle the crumb mixture on top to have just the crisp.