Pan-Fried Zucchini Chips

August 8: National Zucchini Day

We usually eat at an Italian restaurant close by our house to catch up with fellow marriage sponsors, Jim and Marie P. While sharing experiences about how we are preparing our engaged couples at church for an important sacrament, we always order pan-fried zucchini chips to tide us over until our entrees arrive at the table. 

Zucchini has been cultivated in Northern Italy for three centuries; Italian immigrants brought the long green veggie to the United States. Fried zucchini originated in Pittsburgh, although the Italians also eat it fried/sauteed, fresh, baked or boiled. Actually, it was Pennsylvanians Jim and Marie who introduced the pan-fried zucchini chips at our first “double date” meeting and the crunchy appetizers have become our tasty tradition.

In pandemic times, our double dates have become rare, special outings. So when we crave those appetizers, we make pan-fried zucchini chips in our home kitchen. We would enjoy eating them with our friends at the restaurant, though. But for now, as we try to be careful from COVID cases, we can cook them on occasion and on National Zucchini Day.    

Recipe
(Adapted from Eating Well)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchinis, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1/3 cup flour, all purpose
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs or panko
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 – ½ cup olive or avocado oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Wash and slice zucchini. Pat dry with paper towel. Set aside. Prepare three shallow bowls: one for the flour, another for the beaten eggs and the third for the lemon zest-breadcrumbs/panko-cheese mixture. Zest the lemon. 

Mix zest with the breadcrumbs/panko and Parmesan cheese. Dredge the zucchini slices in flour and shake off any excess. Dip in eggs. 

Press zucchini into the lemon zest-breadcrumbs/panko-cheese mixture. Heat oil in a skillet till hot. Reduce heat to medium high. Fry the zucchini till browned on both sides, around 1-2 minutes each, and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt. Serve hot.

Notes

  • Zucchini is also known as courgette in other countries (Britain, Holland, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa).
  • Search our blog for other zucchini recipes.

Scotch and Soda

July 27: National Scotch Whisky Day

We do not know much about whisky except from what we hear from Highlander’s Scottish clan members. While they can easily drink whisky straight, the hard liquor is a bit too harsh for Highlander’s personal tastes. So mixing whisky with club soda is more palatable when he participates in a “toast to the haggis” and at other clan gatherings. 

Scotch and soda is a simple cocktail where the whisky can be diluted with fizzy club soda and ice cubes. Highlander started drinking the mix in a tall glass until he was able to tolerate the taste and then he slowly moved on to an old-fashioned smaller glass. He is still not able to shoot whisky with the more “experienced” connoisseurs in his clan. Fortunately, there is no pressure from them for him to partake in the rounds but can still join them in the Scottish celebrations and on National Scotch Whisky Day! Sip sip hooray!

Recipe
(Adapted from The Spruce Eats)

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Scotch
  • 1-6 ounces club soda
  • Ice cubes

Directions

Fill a highball/Collins glass or old-fashioned glass with ice. Pour in the Scotch. Fill to the top (or to taste) with club soda. Stir slightly and serve immediately.

Notes

  • The old-fashioned glass rim is designed with a strip of Highlander’s clan tartan, which is also the background using Islander’s sash.
  • Search our blog for more Scotch and whisky-based cocktails.

Juneteenth Tea Cakes

June 19: Juneteenth

We stumbled upon a nearby tea cake café in our town when we had a hankering for boba tea. But we were pleasantly surprised when we walked in and found that it was completely different from one of the dozen or so (yes—that many!) Taiwanese tea shops in our culturally diverse area. This tiny tea cake café was an actual bakery that sold Southern-style tea cakes, which aren’t cakes but more like a cake-like sugar cookie: soft to the bite and slightly sweet. The display case had an array of tea cake flavors, from berries to citrus and spiced to iced (frosted tops). The hospitable owner, an Afro-Caribbean lady whose forebears settled in the Gulf Coast of Texas, suggested we try the traditional flavor as a starting point and then taste the others (like glazed lemon, pink strawberry, nutmeg and Caribbean rum, of course). We ordered a few for our afternoon snack and still got our cold tea drink—not boba but iced hibiscus tea (the owner said the red color represents the blood of the slaves)—plus an edible education! We appreciated learning about tea cakes as much as eating them!

Tea cakes are the quintessential Juneteenth dessert. Now that it is an official federal holiday in the United States, more people can commemorate the emancipation of slaves and celebrate African American culture. We are fortunate to live an hour’s drive from Galveston, Texas, where Juneteenth began. But there have been a variety of events for many years before (it has been a state holiday since 1980) closer to home and we try to attend the freedom festivities to sample Soul and Southern food!

For our blog post, we made simple tea cakes, as the ingredients represent what most of the original plantation cooks may have had on hand in their meager pantries. For example, sometimes they had to do without real butter and used lard or vegetable shortening or had to substitute refined sugar for molasses instead. Now household staples, those ingredients were considered luxury items for the poor slaves. We kept things straightforward and followed an easy and adaptable recipe. Tea cakes are simple but have a special meaning and are now part of our observation of Juneteenth.

Recipe
(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1/3 – ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups flour, all purpose
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter with white and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until a dough comes together. Avoid overmixing. Scoop into balls (1 inch for mini tea cakes or 2 inches for larger). Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Slightly press down on the dough balls. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly sealed container until ready to serve.

Notes

  • The tea cake café has had to close permanently, another small business that was the victim of the pandemic era’s economics. That is why it was important for us to learn how to make tea cakes so we could continue to eat them and share its historical and cultural significance with others (Islander gives them to her ESL students and food club friends and explains the snack’s significance).
  • The original Food Network chef rolled the dough into a log and sliced them before baking. We formed them into balls, as suggested by some Southern members of the food club. They turned out just like the tea cakes sold at the café we used to go to—slightly domed with a soft center.