When I would ask my son back in grade school days what he would like for dinner, he would reply, "Anything, mom, except, please, just not anything with '...inis.' He had developed a particular dislike for zucchini at an early age. So I was determined to make this vegetable much more appealing. Eventually, when I came up with this recipe, he stopped dreading zucchini. We do eat first with our eyes. I love thinking of ways to make food more fun, gratifying, and healthy. The upcoming fourth of July festively inspired the particular imagery featured here. I will also upload a photo of my "xoxo" version as well. Of course there has been a "tic tac toe" version.Even with my son now grown and living out of the house, I still make these. Food can offer a bit of playful, delicious fun for the kid in all of us. I like the contrast of flavors with the zesty feta, the rich taste of the parmesan, the airy lightness of the panko, the cooling effects of the mint, and the herbiness of the lemon thyme all complementing that distinct taste of the zucchini. Fresh tomato bruschetta makes a great additional dip with these. —Sagegreen
the main zucchini part
zucchini about 8" long after trimming off both ends
panko bread crumbs
grated fresh parmigiano reggiamo raw milk cheese
pinch kosher salt
grated fresh black pepper
dipping mix from second set of ingredients
the dipping sauce
premium sour cream or equivalent thickness in a Greek yogurt
Bulgarian sheep's feta cheese (or equivalent substitute)
leaves from 3 one inch sprigs of fresh lemon thyme
fresh mint leaves
flat leaf parsley
green scallions, chopped
green peels from the zucchini as described further below (optional)
pinch of kosher salt
fresh grated black pepper
premium vegetable oil for frying (I used olive)
sour cream in reserve, in case anyone prefers in place of this dip
friendly addition of a fresh bruschetta also makes a great dipping sauce.
For a decorative effect peel about a 1/4" wide stripe of zucchini vertically; skip over an equal width green stripe and then peel the next. Continue alternating around the zucchini ending with even green and yellow stripes. Reserve the vertical green peels to use in making the dipping sauce. If you are more in a rush, you can skip the steps making the green stripes.
Next cut the zucchini in half horizontally, creating 2 four inch segments. With one of these halves, proceed to cut it further into about twelve 1/3" tall rounds. Next cut each of these into a 5 pointed star. Cut the other half into 4" long by @1/2" wide vertical sticks. You could choose just to use the dark green banded sticks for the stripes face up to contrast these with the yellow stars when serving.....which I didn't think of when I photographed these, I also use the stripe effect with my "green zebras."
Next start the sauce by placing the sour cream (or yogurt) into a blender with the feta, the reserve green peel from the zucchini, and the fresh herbs. (Make sure you use a wonderful sour cream or yogurt. My mideastern market has great choices). Process. Keep 1/4 cup of this mix for the breading process.
Spoon the rest of the sauce into a serving bowl and keep chilled until serving time.
Now set up a breading station. In one bowl add the beaten egg to the 1/4 cup of the dipping sauce. Mix the bread crumbs with the parm. cheese, salt and pepper in another bowl.
First roll the cut zucchini pieces in the egg mixture. Next roll them in the bread crumb mix.
Heat a heavy skillet. Next add as little oil as you can get away with. I like to coat the bottom of the pan. When a drop of water would sizzle in the pan, proceed to add a manageable number of the breaded zucchini to the pan. I like to cook first the star shapes, then do the stripes in a second batch.
Drain on paper towels.
Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with the dipping sauce. As an alternative to the zesty dipping sauce, some folks may prefer plain sour cream with this instead along with some fresh tomato bruschetta. I like to offer both options.
An alternative version of this recipe can be made using whatever shapes you can imagine. For example the rounds can be cut into "O's" and the "stripes" can be crossed into "X's" (see photo if interested).