Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Battle of Fried Zucchini

It was a balmy summer evening. The faint sound of distant lawn mowers and children playing rang through the house loud and clear, for inside the home there were no sounds at all.
Not even the sound of a tiny mouth chewing a tiny piece of zucchini.
Food battles with children are just about as fun as ingrown toenails. For all of the begging and pleading and attempts to mask even the tastiest of vegetables, they still manage to sit there, arms folded, staring into space and not eating them.
“It will make you grow strong!” we say.
“It will make your hair curly!” we fib.
“It will give you magical powers!” we lie.
And eventually we just give in and hold nothing back. “You will eat this because I said so and I’m the boss and whatever I say you have to do.”
But they still don’t eat it, because it’s something horrible like a green bean. Or zucchini.
It all started during an afternoon of running errands cross county. When the troops got hungry (and maybe their mom was a bit hungry too), I offered to swing by a drive through and get them a snack of french fries. It was really the least I could do because I was dragging them around town. But with all good things, there was a catch.
“I’ll get you French fries, but you’ve got to promise to eat two, one more than normal, entire pieces of zucchini for dinner tonight.”
And easy as that, they sold their souls to the veggie devil for a little salty saturated fat.
Dinner arrives. I prepare, among other things, a delightful new recipe which includes discs of zucchini, breaded and lightly fried in olive oil. Seasoned to perfection, I myself ate one and a half zucchinis worth of the stuff. All my daughter had to eat was two small pieces.
The rest of us finished our dinners, and there she sat, still not eating them. We cleared the table. I washed dishes. Two limp and cold discs lay in their loneliness on her plate. I warned her again and again that she had to eat them, or else she would be sent to her room straight away, where she would have to clean non-stop until bed time.
For a time limit, I set the timer for two minutes, although she had already had over 40. Tick tock, tick tock, beep. One half plus two lifeless nubs remained.
At this point, she’s in tears and I’m contemplating if I should stay true to my word or let it slide. Today it’s zucchini, I thought, and what will she try to get away with tomorrow? Sure, she’s only eight-years old, but there was an opportunity to teach a lesson here, so I sent her right to her room over a quarter-inch slice of baby squash.
“You’re grounded.”
Oh, the drama that ensued. You’d think she was up for an Oscar or something, the pitiful way she danced up the stairs, painful sobs echoing down the hallway while she was sent to her doom. (Although if you’d see the mess in her room, it’s pretty much doomsday in there.)
And there I left her, in her room with her pathetic hungry eyes and a messy room, while the rest of us went outside and her siblings played in the evening sun and I sat in a puddle of guilt. This was the first time I had ever “grounded” her, and I have very limited experience with this type of thing. My husband, away for the night, told me that I should “go easy on her. I didn’t like that kind of stuff when I was a kid either.”
Truthfully, he still doesn’t like it. He’s lucky he was out on a business dinner and not at home, quite frankly, fighting his own battle of fried zucchini because I know exactly what side he’d be on, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a few rooms around the house that could stand a little cleaning.

Eat-Your-Darn-Zucchini Zucchini Rounds

2 small zucchini, not the giant honkers you find in late summer hiding in your garden
1 egg
olive oil for frying
1/2 cup panko flakes
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp italian seasoning (Really, you've got to try Tuscan Sunset by Penzey's. It's the best!)
grated parmesan cheese for topping, optional

Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, beat egg in one small bowl and combine panko, salt, and seasoning in another.
Heat oil in frying pan on med-hi heat.
Dip each round in the egg wash, then the breading, then fry it until golden on both sides.
To serve, sprinkle with parmesan.

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