In the early eighties I worked as chef tournant at La Tulipe, a three-star temple of French gastronomy in New York’s Greenwich Village. One of our best-loved–and most unlikely–appetizers was fried zucchini. I know it sounds déclassé: fried zucchini at a three-star restaurant? But Chef Sally Darr took this typical Italian dish and transformed it according to her own refined and unerring taste.
Makes 50 to 60 pieces with 1 1/4 cups dip
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup beer, plus more as needed for thinning
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 medium zucchini
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Whisk 1 cup of the flour with the beer in a large bowl until smooth. Pour through a strainer into another bowl and let stand for 1 hour. Thin with additional beer just before frying if thicker than pancake batter.
Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise with the olives and lemon juice in a small bowl. Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if you like. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve the zucchini.
Cut the zucchini into sticks that measure 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large deep saucepan until a deep-fat frying thermometer reaches 375°F. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Add the zucchini and toss to cover in flour. Transfer to a strainer and shake to remove excess flour. Working in batches, dip in the batter, letting the excess drip off. Fry in batches until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve the olive mayonnaise on the side for dipping.