Chat Leftovers: Zucchini chips

July 30, 2014

How do you decide whether that restaurant dinner was worth the price? Today in Food, Tim Carman takes a look at the difference between quality and quantity: a good meal vs. a good deal. Read all about it here.

Also this week, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin offers a tutorial on how to make pizza on the grill. He even gives you permission to use store-bought dough — and, in case you don’t want to, a simple dough recipe. Sarah Kaplan takes a look at the changing food truck scene in the District. And local baker and cookbook author Lisa Yockelson launches Treats, an occasional column bringing goodies from her kitchen to yours. First up: Blueberry Cake Squares.

By the way, Lisa will be on hand for today’s Free Range chat, so this is your opportunity to get an answer to any and all baking questions. Just tune in at noon, as usual, and settle in for what promises to be a great hour.

Meanwhile, amuse yourself with this leftover question from a previous week’s chat:

There’s a recipe circulating on the Internet these days for zucchini chips. Slice thin, toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I found that they burned before they crisped up. Any suggestions? By the way, even with a little burned stuff, they still tasted good.

Aha. The culprit here is the oven temperature. In my book, 450 degrees is way too high.

Hoping to come up with a better suggestion for you, I just made a batch following guidelines I found on several sites online. Here’s the procedure I used:

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut zucchini slices to about the thickness of a quarter. Yes, that’s very thin! But these are moist little veggies, and you’ll have a hard time drying out thick slices. For this job I used a mandoline. I couldn’t have gotten them uniformly thin without one. And here, uniformity is a virtue. As you cut the zucchini slices, place them on a layer of paper towels; when you’re done, place another towel on top and press gently to help soak up some of that moisture.

3. Tossing the slices in olive oil is bound to create greasy chips. Instead, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with cooking oil spray; I used Pam. Lay the zucchini slices on the paper (no overlapping) and again spray lightly. The key word here is “lightly.” If you’re too liberal, the chips will be greasy.

4. Sprinkle with a very small amount of salt. The slices you put on the baking sheet will emerge from the oven at less than half of their original size, so any flavoring you add will become concentrated. Ergo, be stingy.

5. Bake for about 2 hours, rotating the baking sheet every half-hour. With 30 minutes left, start checking every 10 minutes to avoid burning. If the chips appear to be getting dark but not crisp, reduce the heat to 200 and continue baking and checking. You’ll probably have to remove individual chips as they crisp up.

6. Let the chips cool briefly on paper towels, then serve as soon as possible; they will lose their crunch pretty quickly.

That’s what worked for me.

Bottom line: Was all that obsessive slicing and oven-watching worth it? The chips are tasty, for sure, assuming you like zucchini. But because of the shrinkage, you have to be prepared for a pretty modest output. I used 1 small zucchini, creating enough slices to cover one baking sheet without crowding. Looked like a lot! In the end, it created only about a half-cup of chips.

Whether it’s worth the effort is a question only you can answer. But I’m a big advocate of trying everything once, so I say: Go for it.

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