Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Make Healthier Italian Fried Zucchini by Cleo Coyle

Summer squash offers a great range of health benefits. The vegetable is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It has anti-cancer properties and is believed to promote men's prostate health. Unfortunately, to get any of those benefits, you have to persuade people to eat it!

I'm not one of those who needs persuading. All my life, I've enjoyed zucchini cooked in nearly every way. But my husband cannot stand summer squash, zucchini included. Luckily, he loves this dish, which is my lighter adaptation of a classic Italian method of frying. To wit...

In America, when something is "breaded and fried," the last step almost always involves a breading of some kind – flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs, or panko (Japanese bread crumbs).
Cleo Coyle, fan of zukes
and cukes, is author of
The Coffeehouse

In Italy, however, vegetables and fish are often "dorati e fritti," which translates to fried golden. With this method of frying, the food is dipped in flour, then in egg, and then fried. There is no final dredging in anything before the cooking. The egg coating hitting the oil is what gives the food its final golden color and the dish is almost always finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon. 

I've adapted this classic method by exchanging a deep fry for a light pan saute. This is a delightful way to enjoy zucchini. It's relatively healthy, too, because the vegetable does not have its nutrition cooked away. As for the lightening aspect, I'm using only 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 1 tablespoon of butter per serving. I much prefer the butter to the oil for flavor, but you can certainly try this with the same amount of olive or canola oil instead.

We enjoy it often in the summer; and If you make it, I hope you will also... 
Eat with joy
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's 
 "Italian fried" Zucchini

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: This recipe is the perfect amount for two adult eaters.
To serve a family, you can easily double, triple, or quadruple it.


- 1 young zucchini (about cucumber size)

- ¼ cup all-purpose flour

- 2 eggs

- 2 tablespoons butter

- 1 lemon

(1) Wash and cut zucchini: Wash the zucchini’s outside, pat dry, and cut into slices about ¼-inch thick. For a cucumber size zucchini, you’ll get about 20 slices. You want the slices uniform – not too thin, not too thick – so they will all cook evenly. No need to peel the skin. My husband and I actually enjoy the bit of crispness the deep green skin brings to this dish and young zukes have less of a harsh bite than older, larger ones. You'll retain much more nutrition if you leave the skin on, as well.

(2) Dredge in flour: Drop the slices in a zip lock bag with the ¼ cup of flour and shake it baby, shake it! 

(3) Float slices in eggs: Break two eggs into a pie plate or cake pan. Add about ¼ teaspoon of water and whisk. Set the floured zuke slices into the egg mixture. Flip to coat both sides. Let slices soak while you melt the butter.

(4) Melt the butter: Over medium heat, warm up a skillet and throw in 2 tablespoons of butter. Do not let it brown or burn. Once the butter is just melted, swish around the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Now turn OFF the heat. This will give you time to lay out all of your zucchini without worrying about some of them overcooking and others undercooking.

(5) Fry the slices: One at a time, lay the egg-washed slices in the melted butter. Now turn the heat back ON and up to medium. Allow the zucchini to fry about 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Turn each slice over using the tips of two forks, one in each hand. (This is the best method because you can easily separate any clusters that may have fused together.) You may need to flip the slices one or two more times. The trick to this dish is cooking it long enough to get a nice brown color on the slices (see my photos). If you need to do a second or third batch, then continue adding a bit more butter to the pan, but BEWARE: Do not overdo the butter—too much butter will give you a soggy result!

(6) Finish with lemon: This dish is best served hot, right out of the pan. Place the finished zucchini on a plate covered with a paper towel (to soak up any bit of extra grease) and squeeze fresh lemon wedges over the hot slices. Do not skip the lemon! This is not an optional garnish, it’s essential for the Italian fried experience. Just as the bright tang of ketchup is added to French fries and malt vinegar is put on English fried fish to brighten those dishes and cut the heaviness of the fat, the lemon is the final layer of flavor that makes this dish a lively, lovely experience for your taste buds.

FINAL TIP: The trick to getting this dish right is not using too much butter. You may prefer to execute this dish with canola or olive oil, but the taste will not be as nice, and please remember (if you decide to substitute oil for butter) to use it very sparingly. If you use too much butter or oil, your zucchini will come out soggy and too soft. Keep the fat content low and make sure you cook the zucchini enough to get the slices nicely browned but still a bit al dente (firm). When cooked properly, this is one of the most delicious ways to prepare an inexpensive and healthy vegetable. May you...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

To get more of my recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit my online coffeehouse: CoffeehouseMystery.com

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. Cleo, thank you for the recipe. I adore fried zucchini. Another trick to lower calories is to bake the zucchini instead of frying it. To get that crisp-fried texture, lay a cooking rack on top of a cookie sheet, spray the rack with oil and set the zucchini slices on top of the rack. There's something about the cooking rack that allows the zucchini to turn crisp outside and soft inside.

    1. Lynn - Thank you so much for dropping by and taking the time and trouble to comment. Baking instead of frying is sometimes a good alternative, but not with this recipe, so we'll have to agree to disagree today. :)

      In order to get your zucchini to crisp up in an oven-fry, you would also have to add breading (bread crumbs, crushed crackers, panko)—and that means adding more carbs.

      What I'm suggesting today in this simple, Italian-style "dorati e fritti" batter is a change-up from the typical carb-heavy American restaurant zucchini.

      This simple batter that I’m highlighting today, which is a classic one actually used in Italy, requires only a light dredge in flour and a dip in an egg wash. It means that you don't have to heavily bread your zucchini, loading it up with more carbs before it’s cooked.

      Part of the reason my husband and I love this dish so much is because of the wonderful flavor. The calories are very low compared to deep-frying the veggies, and the carb count is lower than traditional heavy breading yet the taste is wonderful with that little bit of butter and the caramelization that takes place in the pan. The fresh squeeze of lemon just makes it a light, easy, yet lip-smackin' good summer snack or side dish.

      Thanks, Lynn, again I really appreciate your taking the time and trouble to comment. Have a great week and no matter how you like your zucchini, I always hope you will...

      Eat with joy! Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Another way to get people to eat zucchini is to cook it when it is little. When it is small, it seems to have more natural sweetness.

    1. Good point, Carol. The skin is thinner on younger zukes, too, and there is plenty of nutrition on that skin. So if you buy the zukes young and leave on the skin, you're really cookin' up good eats!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment today, Carol, and have a great day!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Release party countdown! Stay tuned!
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. I'm checking in late today and was in a quandary about what to serve at Chez Phillipe tonight. Lo and behold just as iwas reading this Mr. Nanc came in with 3 lovely zukes from a co-worker's home garden!! Kismet, divine intervention or just plain luck?? I think not...I do believe we can thank that wonderful little Italian cafe in NYC Casa Coyle!

    Thanks for a lovely recipe and great instructions...for another I have kept the hungry wolves at bay....


    1. Nanc how can I thank? You rank. :) Sorry, I think my inner Esther Best took hold of me there.

      XOXO to your Chez Phillipe crew, may you all eat zukes with joy tonight!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Countdown to a KILL. Stay tuned!
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Nanc, it's meant to be! And I'm going to claim the same thing for my having bought zucchini at the farmer's market AND lemons.

    And just how is it, by the way, that I have never added lemon to zucchini fried this way?? Now that I've read it and seen the pictures, I can't imagine. Thanks, Cleo - you've improved life once again!

    1. Laine! Howdy! Glad to know you are also a fan of the tubular shaped vegetables. (Ack! What's gotten into me tonight?! :))

      Always a great pleasure to see you in our Kitchen, Laine. Cheers and eat that farmer's market booty with joy!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      A KILL of a new-release countdown is coming. Stay tuned.
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. This is one of my all-time favorite foods. Topped with Parmesan cheese, to die for. :)

    ~Avery aka Daryl

    1. Oooooh! The cheese, the cheese! (A delicious idea on a finish for this dish, A/C.) Thank you kindly for dropping in. Have a great week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Countdown to A KILL coming soon. Stay tuned.
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter