Because yesterday I came to you with a burger (that wasn’t really a burger), today it’s only fitting that I come to you with fries (that aren’t really fries at all).
We’re on the same page here, right?
It’s just that it’s a total travesty to enjoy a proper burger without it being accompanied by a proper pile of fries, and if said burger is not really a traditional burger in any way, but rather a healthy and meatless version of its calorie-laden brethren, than said burger should come with fries that are less the skinny-deep-fried-nutritionally-devoid-potato-sticklets we know, and more something healthy, fresh, and good.
I’ve already gone puttin’ beans into burgers….so why not sneak some zucchini into fries?
The two things are totally analogous, really. If we were going to teleport back to that drag of a fourth grade English class, our equation would look something like this:
Simple – but obvious – no? For these oven-baked “fries”, a handful of zucchini are split down the middle and then split into sixths, giving you fat wedges of the Summer squash that are perfect for breading and baking. A dunk in a mixture of whole egg and egg white and then a roll in basil-and-garlic-infused whole wheat bread crumbs coats each wedge thickly and evenly, and forms a crust that after a go in a hot oven lends these decidedly healthier ‘fries’ a decidedly ‘fried’ flavor.
The herby jolt of the basil and the savory garlic livens and brightens the crispy, crunchy crust, and after baking quickly at high heat, they transform into soft spears with a lovely creamy and warm texture. They beg for a squeeze of lemon and a dunk in some ketchup, and make a much healthier swap for traditional fries that won’t leave you feeling cheated – even for a second. The whole wheat panko adds a nice nuttiness and richness, while also wearing its whole wheat angel wings (high five!).
These are perfect for a crowd – fourth-graders and adults alike – and are a simple way to sneak veggies into a side dish that is normally quite unhealthy.
Crispy Oven Baked Zucchini Fries
Serves 3-4 as a side
These are great served with ketchup, as well as yogurt based dipping sauces. A bit of yogurt, hot sauce (like Frank’s), and lemon juice makes for a deliciously healthy tangy and spicy sauce.
1 1/4 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional for drizzling, as needed
1 whole egg
1 egg white
hefty pinches of kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 425F. Prep your zucchini by cutting each squash in half lengthwise, and then cutting each half again into thirds, so that you have six thick and long fries coming out of each zucchini (see photo above). Lightly salt the fries and set aside.
Beat the whole egg and egg white together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and the basil until it is coarsely chopped. Add in the bread crumbs, and pulse until the mixture is well combined and the bread crumbs look like wet sand/the basil and garlic is evenly distributed. Add a good pinch of salt, and pulse once more. Taste the coating and adjust salt levels as necessary. Place the crumb mixture into a medium sized bowl.
Dredge each zucchini fry into the egg mixture, and then into the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to encourage the crumbs to adhere to the zucchini. Line the breaded zucchini fries up on a baking sheet, and, once they are all breaded, bake in the preheated oven until the bread crumbs are a toasty brown color and the zucchini is totally tender all the way through when pricked with a knife, 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your zucchini. Take care not to overcook them, as you do not want the crumbs to blacken or the zucchini to become mushy. If at any time the crumbs look like they are drying out too much during baking, drizzle the sticks with a tiny bit of olive oil.
Serve immediately, while hot, with plenty of lemon wedges and ketchup.