This is a recipe idea from Susie’s blog, Susartandfood. As well as great recipes, Susie writes funny, moving and overall engaging stories about her own life, thoughts and ideas. She is always well worth a read and is a very sweet and supportive blogger, too. Go ahead and follow her, you will thank me for it later. Susie posted this great recipe for Cheesy Baked Zucchini Fries, which looked so delicious that I had to make my own version almost straight away.
I started with the idea of courgette fries (a courgette is just a zucchini with a French name – that’s what we call them here in the UK) and the idea of the Pickle Fries from Joy the Baker, which I successfully made not so long ago. I put these recipes together and made this kind of new one – it’s not so much new as recycled, or possibly freecycled. Definitely not upcycled – maybe sidecycled? Something, anyway.
I started by preparing just one courgette. This was intended as a snack for myself but ended up definitely being enough for two. First, I took the top and tail off, and used a vegetable peeler to take a couple of strips of the skin off the courgette – I only did this on two sides, wanting to keep some of the colour and nutrition from the skin. Once I’d removed the skin on opposite sides of the vegetable, I cut it into thirds across its width. It looked like this:
I then cut each third into four evenly sized, flat ‘planks’ by slicing down through the skin side:
I then cut each plank into little sticks, trying to keep the thickness even. I did have quite a few odd-shaped or -sized sticks that I ended up discarding with the top and tail and peelings – once I’d prepared enough sticks to fill a baking sheet I called it a day.
I now moved on to take inspiration from the Pickle Fries recipe and prepared three bowls. One had two large eggs, beaten well with a teaspoon of smoked garlic and basil mustard. Another had plain flour seasoned with lots of salt, pepper, garlic, chili and fennel. The third bowl had some fresh breadcrumbs, created in the food processor and with a good pinch of flour added to make them more manageable, seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed with a liberal amount of sesame seeds. As you can tell, I didn’t take measurements for this recipe – trust your instincts!
The top tip, as form the Pickle Fries recipe, is adding a little flour to the breadcrumbs – if you’re making your own breadcrumbs they will be stickier and clingier than pre-bought breadcrumbs, and thus much more difficult (read: infuriating) to work with. Twice during the process of coating the courgette sticks I put the contents of the breadcrumbs bowl back into the food processor with extra flour, to crumble them back up again. This did mean a certain amount of sesame seed loss, of course, though the flavour of them remained after they were blitzed in to the breadcrumbs. It’s a good trick and means that the breadcrumbs really coat the courgette, rather than stick only to each other and your hands… Once you get to recognise when the breadcrumbs are too soggy to work and can fix them straight away, the whole process becomes easier and far more consistent.
Now to the assembly. I do love baking and cooking things that need an assembly line work pattern. You might have noticed. First the courgette sticks go into the egg, then you tap the excess off and dredge them in the flour. Then they go back into the egg, making sure to coat all sides, and then finally into the breadcrumbs. Toss them to fully coat, then lay them in rows on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or tinfoil.
I baked the courgette sticks in a 200C oven for 15 minutes, turning half way through. They were golden and crispy on the outside, and soft and fresh on the inside. I served them with a blue cheese and chive dip, which somewhat negates the healthier choice of baking instead of frying, but is very delicious. They’d be lovely with a lemon or garlic mayonnaise, too, or with whatever your dip of choice is.
These made a nice luxury evening snack for me, or they could easily be shared as cocktail nibbles, part of a hot buffet or maybe even as a starter. They’re much lighter than a fried option, and not at all greasy. Sometimes you want greasy food, I’ll be the first to admit it, but sometimes you’d rather feel like you’re actually doing your body a favour, or at least not actively clogging your own arteries with every bite. You need to find a balance, you know?