Serves 10 as hors d’oeuvres or 6 as a side dish
This is a picnic favorite: the bite- size rolls are perfect to pop into your mouth at room temperature. Zucchini is readily available and affordable, especially in the summertime, and when prepared with a little imagination, as in this dish, it is delicious and festive- looking. This favorite recipe first appeared in Lidia’s Family Table. I have literally grown up on zucchini prepared this way— sliced into thin strips, dipped in egg, and fried. It was one of my favorite vegetables when I was little, and my mother often made our school lunch sandwiches with these strips.
- 2 pounds (5 or 6) small zucchini
- 2 cups all-purpose flour for dredging
- 5 large eggs
- ¾ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Canola oil for frying (2 cups or more, depending on skillet size)
- 1 or 2 tablespoons well-drained tiny brined capers
- Freshly squeezed juice of about ½ lemon
To coat and fry the zucchini: Rinse and dry the zucchini, and trim off the stem and blossom ends.
Use a sharp knife to slice the squash lengthwise into strips about 8 inch thick, flexible but not paper- thin. (You should get five or six strips from each small zucchini.)
Dump the flour into a wide bowl or shallow dish. Beat the eggs well in another wide bowl, stirring in ½ teaspoon of the salt and some grinds of pepper. Set a wide colander on a plate, to drain the battered strips before frying. Tumble five or six zucchini strips at a time in the flour, coating them well on both sides.
Shake off the loose flour, and slide the strips into the beaten eggs. Turn and separate the strips with a fork so they’re covered with batter; pick them up one at a time, letting the excess egg drip back into the bowl; lay the strips 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 9 inch of canola oil into a deep skillet, 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 but not smoking, test it by dropping in half a strip of battered zucchini. It should sizzle actively and begin to crisp around the edges, but not smoke or darken.
When the oil is ready, 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 seven at a time in a 12- inch pan— so they crisp quickly and won’t absorb oil. Fry the zucchini strips in batches, and when they are golden on both sides, remove them and set on the paper towels to drain. Salt them lightly, and lay additional paper towels over the fried strips, so you can layer over them the next ones to come out of the skillet. Let the slices cool for a few minutes.
To form the roll- ups: Place a fried strip on your work table, with the wider end (from the blossom end of the zucchini) closer to you. Place three or four capers on that end, then roll the strip tightly, enclosing the capers in the center. Weave 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 of lemon juice 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.)