Let’s cook up a storm with zucchini tornadoes

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On Monday mornings, I like to sweep off my back patio, straighten up the patio furniture and water my mint plants. I do it so I can enjoy a lovely place to hang out for the remainder of the week.

But the past several weeks, all my sweeping and straightening has been undone by crazy winds that blew stray leaves, bits of dirty trash and pollen all over my tidy patio. Has it happened to you, too?

After years of being strewn with tricycles, sand toys, and later on, a trampoline, the patio is now free to be just that. A patio. With comfy chairs and a fire pit. It’s one of my favorite places to spend time when I am at home.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I went outside to have my coffee and morning devotions only to be greeted by a dusty patio in disarray. What is up with the winds, lately?

After checking several websites, I realized that the Santa Ana winds are back. Curious, I decided to do a little reading to find out what these winds were all about.

Robert Fovell, a professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has put together a Santa Ana Winds FAQ page online that addressed all my questions.

I discovered that these winds, which usually occur from September to May, blow in from the desert and from sometimes as far away as Nevada and Utah. This desert area, called the Great Basin, is at a higher elevation than the rest of Southern California.

Surprisingly, these winds blow when the desert is cool and start off as cold, dry winds. As the winds blow downslope to our lower elevation, the air is compressed and the temperature of the air rises.

That explains why those Santa Ana winds are hot and dry. That also explains why I can’t seem to slather on enough lotion and lip balm lately. Those hot, dry winds are thirsty and draw moisture from wherever it can, including our skin.

The dry winds also seem to suck moisture from plants. I’ve noticed my mint plants have needed watering more frequently. One of the pleasures of growing mint is the luxury of picking fresh mint leaves whenever I want to add them to iced tea, tabbouli, or lemonade.

It was when I was lounging on the back patio scrolling through, yes, Pinterest, that I came upon a video recipe from Tasty.com for zucchini tornadoes. It was mesmerizing and I couldn’t stop watching it. I knew I had to make these vegetable whirlwinds.

If you are a fan of fried zucchini, you will enjoy the taste of these non-fried spirals. They were fun to make and even more fun to eat when dipped in Ranch dressing. And they gave me the oomph to go sweep my patio again.


Zucchini Tornadoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 zucchini
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425˚F/220˚C.

Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut it in half crosswise. You should have two shorter zucchini pieces with green all the way around. Using a bamboo skewer, pierce down the middle of the zucchini through the cut ends. Push zucchini down to the center of the skewer.

Hold a small paring knife at an angle and cut the zucchini towards the middle until the knife touches the skewer. Turn the zucchini as you continue to cut. The zucchini will be in one continuous piece and look like a spiral while you turn it. This is similar to paring an apple and trying to have the skin remain in one piece. Spread out the spiral “tornado” on the skewer and drizzle or spray with olive oil. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine panko, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over zucchini tornado until well-covered, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway, or until golden brown. Serve with ranch dressing or your favorite dipping sauce.

 

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Betty Williams