Golden-fried zucchini spears served with a savory marinara dipping sauce.
This recipe was originally created for our Series of Unfortunate Recipes, based on the book and Netflix series by Lemony Snicket.
Makes 30-40 fried zucchini pieces with sauce.
For the Sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onions
2 fat cloves garlic
2 cups pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more if needed
For the Zucchini
Flavorless oil for frying
1 pound fresh zucchini, cut into spears ~3 inches long and 1/2-inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons milk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon ground dried onions
Start the sauce
1. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, turn heat to medium-low, and cook until they gradually turn translucent and light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed during this time to prevent the onions from browning too rapidly.
2. Peel the garlic cloves and grate them with a microplane (or use a garlic press). Add them to the sauce and saute briefly until fragrant. Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes while you make the zucchini sticks.
Make the Zucchini
3. In a large pot (to minimize splattering), heat flavorless oil to a depth of 1/2 inch to 350 degrees, measured on a candy/frying thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, heat the oil over medium-high heat until a pinch of flour sizzles quickly but doesn't burn when you drop it in.
4. While the oil heats, set up your battering station. In a wide, rimmed container (such as a small baking dish) or a bowl, combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. In a larger baking dish or bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper, dried garlic and dried onion to the panko, tossing to combine well.
5. Work in batches to coat the zucchini pieces with the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the panko bread crumbs. As they are finished in the panko, rest the pieces in a single layer on a large plate or baking sheet as you work to batter the rest. As you work, gently shake off the extra of each coating before the next step (for example, shake off any extra flour before dropping the pieces into the egg mixture, etc.) . Handle the zucchini pieces lightly so that you don't wipe off the flour or egg mixture as you transfer them to each container. A fork is handy to manipulate the zucchini pieces to coat them with the egg mixture and then gently lift them to transfer them to the panko crumbs.
6. When all pieces have been battered and the oil is hot, it's time to fry the zucchini. Fry them in batches, about 6 at a time, so they have plenty of room to move without sticking to each other in the oil. Turn them as needed to cook evenly. If using a thermometer, maintain a temperature of about 320-340 degrees as you fry. Zucchini is done when it's golden brown all over, about 2-4 minutes per batch depending on the heat of your oil. (At the temperatures indicated here, it took me about 2.5-3 minutes per batch.) As you finish each batch, rest them on a baking sheet or large platter lined with paper towels to drain.
7. When ready to serve, taste marinara and add more salt if needed. (If you are using unsalted tomatoes, you will definitely need to add more salt.)
8. Serve the zucchini right away with the hot marinara dip.
To make ahead - You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead and reheat it just before serving. You can batter the zucchini pieces up to a day ahead and store them in a single layer on their platter or plate, lightly covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature before cooking if possible.