serves: 10 servings
I have literally grown up on zucchini prepared in this simple way-sliced into thin strips, dipped in egg, and fried. It was one of my favorite vegetables when I was little, and quite often my mother made our lunch sandwiches with the strips too, for us to take to school. Crispy and sweet and soft at the same time, the strips are delicious warm or at room temperature, with just a sprinkle of salt-as I serve them to my grandkids-or dressed with capers and lemon juice, for adult tastes.
2 pounds small zucchini
2 cups flour, approximately, for dredging
5 large eggs
¾ teaspoon salt, or more
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups canola oil, for frying
2 tablespoons capers, well drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Rinse and dry the zucchini and trim off the stem and the blossom ends. With a sharp knife, slice the squash lengthwise into strips about 1/8-inch thick, flexible but not paper-thin. You should get 5 or 6 strips from each small zucchini.
Dump the flour into a wide bowl or shallow dish. In another wide bowl, beat the eggs well with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and grinds of pepper. Set a wide colander on a plate, to drain the battered strips before frying.
Tumble 5 or 6 zucchini strips at a time in the flour, coating them well on both sides. Shake off loose flour and slide the strips in the beaten eggs. Turn and separate the strips, with a fork, so they're covered with batter; pick them up one at a time and let excess egg drip back into the bowl; then lay them in the colander.
Dredge and batter all the zucchini strips this way and let them drain. Add the egg drippings collected under the colander to the batter, if you need more.
Pour canola oil into the skillet to a depth of 1/3- inch and set it over medium-high heat. Cover a baking sheet or large platter with several layers of paper toweling and place it near the stove.
When the oil is very hot (not smoking), test it by dropping in a half strip of battered zucchini. It should sizzle actively and begin to crisp around the edges within 1/2 minute, but not smoke or darken. When the oil is right, quickly slip several strips into the skillet, using kitchen tongs or a long fork to avoid spatters of hot oil. Don't crowd the strips - no more than 7 at a time in a 12-inch pan - so they crisp quickly and won't absorb oil.
Maintain the heat so the strips are sizzling actively. Cook on the first side for a minute and a half or so, then flip them over. They should be nicely colored on the first side: if not, raise the heat slightly. Cook the second side for another minute and a half, until golden and crisp, then transfer the strips to the paper towels. Lay them flat in a single layer and sprinkle them while hot with pinches of salt.
Fry all the strips in batches and salt lightly right after (use 1/4 teaspoon salt for all of them or more to taste). It's best to let them cool uncovered, but if you need the space, lay paper towels over a sheet of strips for draining the next ones to come out of the skillet. Let the slices cool for a few minutes.
Place a fried strip pointing away from you on your work table, with the wider end (from the blossom end of the zucchini) facing you. Place 3 or 4 capers on that end, then roll the strip tightly, enclosing the capers in the center. Stick a toothpick all the way through the roll-up, so it stays together. Roll up all the strips- or as many as you want.
Just before serving, stand the roll-ups on end and squeeze drops from a half lemon (through a strainer to catch the seeds) all over the spiral tops. Arrange them on a serving platter. If you like capers as much as I do, scatter another teaspoon or so of drained capers all over.