Weekly Menu and Fried Zucchini
Sometimes I get an uncontrollable urge to fry something. I say uncontrollable because if a girl were to be logical, she might envision herself standing in front of a boiling pot of oil in hundred-degree heat and be able to talk herself into something less, well, hot. Perhaps it’s my southern blood forcing its will right through any sensible notion of health, or comfort. Or perhaps I’ve just eaten one too many salads. Either way, when the urge strikes, nothing will do but to whip up a batch of fried something or the other, and zucchini is what I had in my fridge.
And, because Barbara is collecting recipes that feature local ingredients for this month’s Spice Is Right, I used locally ground spices — cayenne and paprika — in the batter. Both the cayenne and paprika are made from red peppers — one spicy, the other sweet — grown and ground by Papa Tom Bonnecaze Farms, who I see every Saturday morning at the market (they also make the best pepper jelly in town). The zucchini is straight from another Louisiana farmer just down the road, the buttermilk came from a local dairy, so besides the flour, seasoned salt, and oil, this dish is completely south Louisiana. And, of course, as far as techniques go, you can’t get more locally southern than frying.
These crunchy little spears are a cross between fried dill pickles–popular at state fairs around these parts–and some eggplant fries I had once at a restaurant. The zucchini held up nicely–it turns very soft, but doesn’t fall apart–and I love the mild flavor of the vegetable dressed up by the spices in the batter. Comeback sauce would, I’m sure, make a delightful dipping sauce for fried zucchini, but it’s not necessary in my opinion.
After a half-hour of frying up this zucchini, a heck of a mess in my kitchen, what with dribbles of buttermilk, splatters of grease, and bits of uncooked batter strewn from counter top to stove, one bite into the well-seasoned crunchy batter satisfied my craving and assuaged any sense of craziness I’d felt as droplets of sweat dribbled down my forehead during the frying process.
I’m already thinking of other things to fry in these precious weeks before school officially starts, so don’t be surprised if I show up here again with a batter-laden concoction to present to you.
Until, then, here’s the menu for the week and the fried zucchini recipe:
Locally Spiced Fried Zucchini
2 medium zucchini, cut into long, thin, spears
Buttermilk (about 2 cups, maybe less)
2 cups flour
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. ground paprika
2 t. seasoned salt
Vegetable or canola oil, about an inch deep
Heat about an inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
While the oil is heating up, prepare the zucchini. Place the spears in a large zip-top plastic bag, and add enough buttermilk to immerse the spears. In another zip-top bag, mix together the spices and the flour. When the oil is hot — a drop of water should sizzle and pop when dropped into the pot — transfer some of the zucchini to the flour bag and shake to coat well. Add one spear at a time to the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, turning once to ensure even frying. Mine took about 4 minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle each batch with additional seasoned salt.
Repeat the process until all of the zucchini has been coated and fried. Serve immediately. This recipe makes enough for 4 people as a side, or two hungry people as a combination appetizer/side dish/late-night snack over Scrabble. What can I say? Fried things don’t keep well, and it would be a shame to let such goodness go to waste.