Fried vegetables make up a substantial chapter in the new Franny's cookbook. Rather than serving a plethora of deep fried cheese sticks and onion rings dipped in tomato sauce, Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens take a lighter approach. Many of the fritti, like these fried zucchini sticks, are pieces of vegetables coated in a light tempura-like batter and given a quick dip in hot oil. The thin batter puffs and turns a light golden-brown, leaving the zucchini tender throughout, yet still bright green within. Freshly ground black pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a squeeze of lemon are all they need as a finishing touch.
Why I picked this recipe: Zucchini are just starting to appear in markets right now, so it was the perfect time to give this lightly fried take a try.
What worked: The club soda, flour, and cornstarch batter was perfect for the zucchini. Lemon, pepper, and Parmesan were the only additions that the tender-crisp vegetables needed.
What didn't: I had a hard time getting the batter to stick to the first batch of zucchini, no matter how dry they were before hitting the bowl. I added 2-3 more tablespoons of flour to thicken the mixture and then had more success.
Suggested tweaks: You could fry other vegetables in a similar manner. I'd give whole scallions, asparagus, and green beans a try first.
Reprinted with permission from Franny's: Simple seasonal Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark. Copyright 2013. Published by Artisan. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 1 pound slim zucchini, trimmed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup club soda
- Safflower, canola, or grapeseed oil for deep-frying
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Lemon wedges
- Shaved or coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Slice each zucchini lengthwise into quarters; if necessary, slice each quarter in half again to make 3/4-inch-thick sticks. Cut out the seeds. Place the zucchini in a colander set over a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.
To make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and flour, then whisk in the club soda.
Pat the zucchini very dry with paper towels.
In a deep fryer or heavy pot, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375°F. Working in batches, dip several zucchini sticks at a time into the batter, lower carefully into the oil, and fry until light golden, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, then season with salt and lots of pepper. Serve the zucchini with lemon wedges and shaved cheese.
Andrew's Note: Presalting the zucchini is very important. Letting the watery flesh of the vegetable absorb the salt for 30 minutes ensures a well-seasoned, flavorful result. And don’t skimp on the black pepper—this dish needs that aggressive bite.