Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Damn the Torpedoes!

What am I ever going to do with these torpedoes! This is something I ask myself every summer when the zucchini harvest is fast upon us. Our neighbors, so happy to see us coming their way with zucchini early on in the season, run inside and pull down the shades, especially if we are bearing the grossly over-sized zucchini we call torpedoes.
Torpedoes are perfect for Zucchini Relish and Zucchini Bread, but when I have made all of these I need, then what? The dual dilemma--by this time in the season eating zucchini has become close to torture and being the child of parents raised during the Depression wasting food is inconceivable. Talk about a rock and a hard place! Torpedoes present definite culinary challenges. They lack the tenderness and sweetness of their baby selves and the seeds in some varieties can be quite large when they achieve this size. Over the years I have developed several recipes that use torpedoes and make the late season vegetables a pleasure to eat.

Pan-fried Zucchini Slices

1 large zucchini about 3” in diameter
¼ c. milk
½ c. corn meal
2 tbsp. diced Italian parsley
½ tsp. salt
Canola oil

Wash and dry the zucchini. Place it on a cutting board and cut it into ¾ to one inch thick slices and set aside. Pour the milk into a pie plate. Measure the corn meal into another pie plate. Mix the corn meal, diced parsley, the salt, and a good grind of pepper into the corn meal.

Select a heavy 9 or 10 inch frying pan—a cast iron “spider” is ideal. (Cast iron absorbs heat evenly and holds it well, which means less fluctuation in temperature and no "hot" spots.) Place the pan on a large burner and pour into it about 1/4 inch of canola oil. Turn the heat to medium-high. The tricky part is achieving the proper temperature for frying and maintaining it. Do not allow the oil to become hot enough to smoke. My preferred way of testing oil is to dip my fingers into a bit of water and shake this onto the oil. If the oil sputters, it is hot enough. This must be done carefully to void being burned. There is also a visual test—when the oil is hot enough it will “move” or “shimmer” in the pan. When the oil is hot enough, turn the heat down to medium.

Select a slice of zucchini and dip both sides in the milk, then into the corn meal, and then place in the frying pan. Repeat with as many slices as will fit into the frying pan without crowding, working as quickly as possible. Fry the slices until the underside is a nice golden brown. Flip the slices, being careful not to break the corn meal crust. Cook until the underside is golden brown. Remove to a paper towel covered heat-proof dish and place into warm oven (170) and finish cooking any remaining slices. More oil may be added as necessary. Make sure it has reached the proper temperature before continuing with frying. Serve immediately.

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