I dream about potato chips.
Chips flavoured so aggressively with salt and vinegar my lips pucker when I eat them. Kettle Brand's crinkle cut Dill Pickle Chips. Honey Roast Wiltshire Ham chips from Marks & Spencer. Extra Virgin Olive Oil chips from Torres.
Unfortunately, they last but a moment on my lips and dwell forever on my hips.
There has to be another way to savour the twin pleasures of salty and crisp without self-recrimination and self-loathing afterwards.
My solution, baked zucchini chips, is not perfect. What can be more perfect than potato chips? But I get my crisp, I get my salty and I get a serving or two of vegetables too.
Summer squash is plentiful this time of year and, while I really prefer smaller zucchini, the giant specimens in supermarkets are perfect for this recipe. I cut mine into rounds, but have also gone the thick cut fries route, trimming them into batons. Both shapes work well.
There are three steps to achieving crispness.
One, elevate the chips or fries off the baking pan, so the hot air circulates under them. A metal cooling rack, the kind you use for cooling muffins and cookies, works very well. Just be sure to coat it with cooking spray, or brush the rack with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
Two, the coatings are important. Flour first, then egg, then a mix of panko crumbs and parmesan cheese. I grind the panko down in the food processor to make the crumbs more fine. By the way, the easiest way to grate parmesan cheese is to slice the cheese and stick the pieces in the food processor.
If you do not have one, use a fine grater for the cheese. Place the panko in a resealable plastic bag, seal the bag and whack it with a rolling pin. Or leave the crumbs as they are.
Don't skip the flour because both the flour and egg help the panko and cheese stick to the zucchini.
Three, bake them at a high enough heat. I do it at 200 deg C, which makes them golden brown in 15 or so minutes. Then I flip them over and bake another 10 minutes for the underside to brown.
Crispness will not last forever, so demolish the chips pretty much straight out of the oven. You will have to bake the chips in at least two batches, so serve the first one as soon as it is done, and when that's gone, you will have another hot and crisp batch ready.
I have given recipes for two dipping sauces. Cayenne pepper adds a satisfying spiciness to the tomato one, but you can use shichimi togarashi, sliced bird's eye chillies and hot sauce to add heat too.
Kewpie mayonnaise forms the base of the other dip. I just add grain mustard and a bit of honey to it.
Other options include bottled barbecue sauce, wasabi mixed with mayonnaise and Sriracha chilli sauce and good old ketchup.
When I mentioned the chips to a friend, she went "Ah", and said it might be a way to get her kids to eat vegetables.
And to think all I wanted was a healthy-ish substitute for potato chips.
BAKED ZUCCHINI CHIPS
For the tomato dipping sauce
- 1 small onion, 100g to 125g
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 250g tomato puree
- 50ml water
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
For the honey mustard dipping sauce
- 150g Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs grain mustard
- 1 Tbs honey
- For the chips
- 125g parmesan cheese
- 125g panko crumbs
- 80g plain flour
- 1 Tbs salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 60g eggs
- 2 large zucchini, about 700g
- Cooking spray or oil
1. Make the tomato dipping sauce: Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small pot. Saute the onions until they turn translucent, do not brown them. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Pour in the tomato puree and water, add the cayenne pepper and oregano. Stir well and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer 10 minutes. Set aside.
2. Make the honey mustard dipping sauce: Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
3. Make the chips: Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
4. Slice the cheese and place in a food processor. Turn the machine on and let it run until the cheese resembles fine sand. Add the panko crumbs to the processor and whiz until fine. Pour into a deep, wide bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.
5. Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a rimmed plate and mix well with a fork. Beat the eggs in a wide bowl.
6. Rinse the zucchini under running water and wipe dry. Trim off and discard the top and tail. Slice the squash crosswise into 0.75cm or 0.8cm thick circles.
7. Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper and place a metal cooling rack in it. Spray the rack with cooking spray or use a pastry brush to coat it with cooking oil.
8. Lightly dust the zucchini rounds with the seasoned flour, dip in the egg, then coat with the cheese and panko mixture. Use one hand for the flour and panko coating and the other for the egg to avoid making a mess. Place the coated zucchini on the rack. You will have to bake them in batches.
9. Place in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the zucchini chips are golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven and flip the zucchini over to the other side. Bake another 10 minutes.
10. While the chips are cooking, reheat the tomato dipping sauce and scoop into a small bowl. Scoop the honey mustard dip into a small bowl. Remove the zucchini from the oven, place on a serving platter and serve with the two dips.
Serves six to eight as a snack
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.