I never know what to make with zucchini. I’m always tempted to buy them when they’re fresh at the store and then they’ll sit languishing in my fridge until I finally pull them out and turn them into..soup. Nothing wrong with zucchini soup, but I constantly feel like I’m undermining their potential. I can count in one hand the number of dishes I use them in which is quite a shame, really. (We’re really into these latkes though).
A few years ago, spaghetti arrabbiata with fried eggplant on the side was on weekly rotation at our house. I would make and freeze the arrabbiata sauce in mammoth batches to feed our insatiable appetite for it, but what really made those meals special though, was the eggplant. I improvised the ratios over time but it was pretty standard – dredge in flour, egg wash, then coat in a breadcrumb mixture and fry. I would use regular breadcrumbs (not panko) and spike it with chilli flakes, garlic granules, whatever struck my fancy at the time. I never used parmesan, and it was always shallow-fried in a pan. This meal memory struck me at a random moment a few weeks ago (as it does, right?), and I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about revisiting it since.
Zucchini sounded like a poor substitute to mimic the meatiness of eggplant, but hoo boy was it good! This recipe is more hands-off too with no frying of any sort involved. A bit fiddly admittedly with all the dredging and dunking, but it honestly doesn’t take more than a few minutes of mindless/ful activity to assemble. The parmesan imparts deep savouriness that salt alone wouldn’t provide, but more importantly, the fats in the cheese are what contribute to that burnished golden crumb when baked. Oh also, also, they colour on both sides with no flipping necessary. Hallelujah!
BAKED PANKO & PARMESAN CRUSTED ZUCCHINI
- 2 medium zucchinis (about 125 grams each)
- ⅓ cup flour
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (see notes)
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200 C.
- Slice the zucchini into ½ cm rounds.
- Add the flour to a plate and set aside. Whisk the egg with 2 tbsp water in a flat bowl and set aside.
- Mix together the panko, grated parmesan, garlic powder, pepper and salt on a plate (taste the mixture before adding the salt as parmesan is already salty).
- The order: lightly dredge the zucchini rounds in flour, roll them a few times in the egg, and then transfer to the panko mixture. Coat the zucchini on both sides pressing firmly with your fingers to make sure the crumbs stick. Transfer to a baking tray. Repeat in batches for the rest of the zucchini.
- Brush/spray the tops with olive oil. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden. No flipping necessary. Serve hot as a side with pasta or as an appetizer with your favourite dip to dunk into.
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