When I found out last week that I was picked for Battle 6 over at Foodie Fights, I was very excited. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Foodie Fights, it’s basically an online version of Iron Chef. Bloggers who would like to participate submit an entry and every two weeks a new round of people are drawn. From their submissions, two ingredients are selected and then the contestants have less than a week to create one dish using those ingredients. Their entries are then voted on– one popular vote and then a vote by the 2 guest judges. Whoever has the most points wins and gets to guest judge in the next round. This is not a veg-community based thing, it’s a broad food-community thing, so any and every food blogger can participate.
When I saw the ingredients, however, I was at a loss. We eat zucchini every week, pretty much, and the thing that I like about it is that it has no personality of it’s own. I can easily meld it to suit my needs. But garam masala? My only experience with that is Indian cooking. But, naturally, I wanted to think outside the box. Zucchini is some sort of curry dish was just too obvious. And I also had to think outside of my comfort zone. I had been secretly hoping for dessert-friendly ingredients, as that’s my specialty. While I did find some Indian desserts that called for garam masala, I wasn’t feeling it. I prayed to the foodie gods to bring forth some sort of inspiration… and then it came to me.
I present you my entry into Battle 6, a bar food appetizer dressed up a bit: East-Meets-West Fried Zucchini Masala with Mango Chutney and Garlic Cilantro Aioli.
Any sort of fried food needs something to be dipped in. I spied some beautiful mangos at the grocery store the other day and inspiration took hold to make a spicy, fragrant chutney. Then I thought of the common use of yogurt in Indian food to cool the heat, so a cilantro aioli seemed like a natural pairing.
The beautiful chutney ingredients:
I couldn’t find a chutney recipe I particularly liked, so I pieced this one together from about 5 different recipes. It’s very subtle and tangy, but an edge of heat.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 teas. red pepper flakes
1 medium red onion, diced
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 large ripe mango, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. mild vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
In a pan over medium low heat, heat oil. Add red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add ginger and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mango and mix well. In a small bowl, combine sugar and vinegar and then add to mango mixture. Cook covered, stirring often, until mango starts to soften, about 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer chutney to a bowl to cool.
Then, I needed to make my aioli.
Garlic Cilantro Aioli
3/4 cup vegan mayo
1 medium sized clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until cilantro is chopped and well-combined.
And then, of course, the star of our show. I decided to try using the garam masala in the batter for the zucchini. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do zucchini coins or thin strips, until I spied these little guys at the farmer’s market.
You can’t quite tell from the picture, but these zucchini were tiny, just a bit thicker than a finger. I cut them into fourths. If you can’t find zucchini this little you should cut your zucchini into thin coins.
Fried Zucchini Masala
1 1/2 cups zucchini ( cut into thin strips or coins)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teas. garam masala
1/4 teas. salt
1 1/4 cups soy milk
oil for frying
Wash and cut zucchini to desired size. When it comes to frying a vegetable, it is better to err on the side of thinness. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, garam masala, and salt. Whisk together to combine. Whisk in milk, to a thickness similar to pancake batter.
In a large pan, heat about 3/4 inch of oil on med-high heat. Oil is ready when a small piece of zucchini sizzles on contact. Dip zucchini in batter (you can mix them all in and just let them sit in the batter if you want. Carefully fry dipped zucchini in small batches (to avoid contact) until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Serve with aioli and chutney.
The whole appetizer pulled together beautifully. The zucchini was crisp and lovely. The fragrant essence of the garam masala burst into your mouth upon biting into the zucchini, followed up with either the refreshing coolness of aioli or the spice of chutney. Jim enjoyed eating half of the zucchini plain, then dipping the other half in the aioli and rolling it in the chutney to coat. This is definitely a food that you can play with while eating, a taste of this, a taste of that. I’m quite pleased with the flavors tied together. The really harmonized while never overpowering one another. It was a perfect snack on a warm summer evening, adding a little exotic, Eastern spice to what could just have been a greasy American dish.
I can’t wait to see what the other contestants did with their ingredients. Be sure to check in at Foodie Fights tomorrow, Tuesday, to see all of the entries and to vote for your favorite! The winner will be announced on Wednesday.
Squirrel’s Vegan KitchenGo back in time to my original blog: Squirrel’s Vegan Kitchen!
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