Veggie Fries

(Sept. 20, 2019) ’Tis the season for body slamming and talking trash. Get out your coveted jersey and prepare to high-five your favorite team. Yes, football season is finally here.

Celebratory gatherings are understood. Your flat screen TV is the center of attention, but food and ambiance s

hould not be ignored.

A few entertaining tips ensure a fabulous time.

The perfect host wants to be able to enjoy the game, so a self-service bar keeps the calls of interference to a minimum.

Don’t forget those who do not drink alcoholic beverages. It is the tiny details that set you apart and make your efforts memorable.

Consider a cranberry-apple cider punch. This recipe will put you in position for mouth-watering cheers.

Four cups of chilled apple cider, four cups of chilled cranberry juice, two cups of chilled ginger ale, and one can (12 oz.) of frozen orange juice concentrate is a refreshing drink not only for the adults, but also the little ones.

Assorted olives, pepperoncini peppers, marinated artichokes and roasted peppers are a delectable medley. Generally, these condiments are presented on relish trays for all to enjoy.

Do not let traditional menus tackle your sense of whimsical fun. A smart host takes every opportunity to stand out in the crowd.

An olive tree is a creative twist and will start a “wave” of “wow.”

Simply wrap a 6-inch green Styrofoam cone with plastic wrap. Using toothpicks, arrange approximately 3 to 3 ½ cups of assorted, pitted olives starting from the bottom of the cone and working upwards until the cone is completely covered.

The toothpicks must be pointed upwards to hold the olives, then cut off any portion of the toothpick that is visible. Place small sprigs of fresh rosemary and capers in between the olives to cover any exposed parts of the cone. How about that innovative call?

One of the secrets to successful entertaining is the element of surprise.

Nachos, wings, meatballs and sliders are always popular and a staple for football tailgating. But a cook should always have a unique dish that can be prepared on a moment’s notice.

Veggie fries with marinara ketchup is just the “play” that can get you in the end zone.

Crispy eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini served with a side of zesty marinara ketchup is not only yummy but will keep vegetarians satisfied.

The very first step when making veggie fries is to neutralize the bitterness of the eggplant.

Cut the eggplant in the shape of fries and add a generous amount of salt. Allow the salted fries to sit for about 30 minutes.

The eggplant will start to sweat, and this is a good thing. When the eggplant is sweating, the bitterness is oozing out. Then rinse the fries thoroughly and proceed according to instructions.

The dredging setup follows: the first step is to coat the fries in flour. This will act as a glue.

The next step is the egg wash mixture; 1 teaspoon of water for every egg.

The last part of the coating process is to dip the fries in a mixture of panko and cornmeal. The panko gives the fries a great texture and the cornmeal adds flavor.

When frying the fries, do not overcrowd the pan. Otherwise, the temperature of the oil will drop which will produce soggy fries.

Once the veggie fries are cooked, place them on a cooling rack for optimum crunchiness.

Believe it or not, but placing fried foods on a plate lined with paper towels defeats the whole philosophy of crispiness.

The marinara ketchup takes very little time to prepare. I like to make a double batch, this way I can freeze the sauce for future fries.

Veggie fries with a dusting of parmesan cheese and a side of marinara ketchup is simple to make and sure to score a touchdown! Enjoy.

Marinara Ketchup

1 (28-oz.) can good quality crushed tomatoes

2 pinches baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 to 1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon heavy cream

1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Veggie Fries

1 eggplant

3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus kosher salt to taste

2 zucchinis

2 yellow squashes

1 cup flour

4 cups plain panko breadcrumbs

2 cups corn meal

3 large eggs

3 teaspoons water

canola oil for frying

freshly ground black pepper

parmesan cheese as a garnish

fresh basil as a garnish

1. Remove the ends of the eggplant and cut into strips resembling fries.

2. Place eggplant fries on a plate and coat them with 3 teaspoons of kosher salt. They will start to sweat after about 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant fries thoroughly and set aside.

3. Remove the ends of zucchinis and squashes, and again cut them into the shape of fries.

4. Prepare the dredging station by placing flour on a large plate. The next step is to whisk the water and eggs in a small bowl. Then, combine panko and corn meal on another large plate.

5. Press individual fries in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip the fries in the egg mixture, allowing excess egg mixture to drip off.

Gently press the fries in the panko/corn meal mixture, making sure the fries are completely covered in the breading.

6. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 375 degrees.

7. Fry the fries until the edges turn a golden-brown color, about 3 minutes. Turn the fries over and again cook the fries until the edges turn a golden-brown color. This should take about 2 minutes.

8. When the fries are cooked, place them on a cooling rack and apply a dusting of salt.

9. Allow fries to cool slightly and place on a platter. Apply a dusting of parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with marinara ketchup.

Secret Ingredient – Winning. “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.”

– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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