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fried zucchini sliders

At Thanksgiving, we gather around the table with close friends and family to acknowledge everything we have to be grateful for. And every year somebody mentions that it should become a daily tradition, but somehow it never happens, just like those impractical New Year’s resolutions that slowly fade in the first few weeks of January. The healthy diet goals and daily trips to the gym you envision for yourself in those cold, hopeful, wintry months have now become treating yourself to that extra slice of cake and sipping on bourbon chocolate milkshakes by the pool. But you know what? That’s okay! We are not meant to set up these impossibly strict constraints for ourselves, holding our souls prisoner and preventing us from enjoying the beautiful and sweet things that life has to offer. Balance is the secret, and to approach everything with moderation is key. Of course, there are certain times when this is more difficult than others—and some people handle it better than others. For those of you that have trouble with moderation, especially when it comes to fun and adorable mini-burgers, we have to warn you that reading this post will only tempt you and make you hungry because these fried zucchini sliders that we are sharing today from Jonathan Melendez’s new book The Slider Effect are incredibly delicious and dangerously addictive. Proceed with extreme caution.

If you are still reading, congratulations. This sensational summer slider recipe from his fantastic new book has already become one of our new favorites and is about to become your new obsession. Tender zucchini is coated with crispy parmesan bread crumbs tossed with red pepper flakes for a pleasant kick, and finely chopped Italian parsley sparkling like emeralds on the crunchy, juicy golden patties which are sandwiched between two home-baked mini-everything-bagel-buns, a slice of tomato, fresh lettuce, and topped with a habit-forming homemade buttermilk ranch dressing that is tangy with minced chives, white wine vinegar and raw garlic. These beauties from the Vegetarian Sliders chapter in Jonathan’s book have won our hearts and caused a serious addiction around here. We just finished eating ten of them while writing those last two sentences.

The sliders are a pleasure to prepare, perfect for #meatlessmonday or any day of the week. The buttermilk ranch dressing is simply stirred together in one bowl, and the homemade buns are fun to make: kneading the soft dough by hand, brushing them with a golden egg wash, and sprinkling them with as much of the savory everything-bagel toppings as you’d like. Since the buns and dressing can be made days ahead of time, you can easily make these sliders at your own pace. Once you’re ready to eat, you just quickly fry up the zucchini—which cook in less than five minutes! Plus, zucchini season has just begun, so they are extra flavorful right now. This is in heavy rotation at our house, and we look forward to making every single recipe in this chapter: loaded baked-potato sliders, cauliflower curry, and spicy thai tofu are just to name a few. Okay, we’ll stop typing so you can hurry to your local bookstore, and we can go have another round of sliders.

Fried Zucchini Sliders
adapted from The Slider Effect by Jonathan Melendez
makes 12 sliders

For the Everything Bagel Buns:
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 teaspoon table salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

For the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

For the Fried Zucchini and Assembly:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
Canola oil, for frying
3 roma tomatoes, sliced
6 lettuce leaves, cut in half

Make the Everything Bagel Buns:
Combine the milk, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan (or a microwave-safe bowl) and heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the butter melts and the mixture reaches 105ºF to 115ºF. Add the yeast, stir to combine, and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 2 cups of the flour and the table salt, and whisk to combine. Add the yeast mixture, and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Stir, and add the rest of the flour a little at a time if needed, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Use the dough hook attachment to knead on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until smooth and stretchy. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, simply knead by hand on a floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes.) Place the dough on a floured surface and knead by hand until completely smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 more minutes. Rub the inside of a large clean mixing bowl lightly with vegetable oil, then gather the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, and set on the counter until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat, and set aside. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and place on the prepared baking sheet, spaced apart to allow for some spreading. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and set on the counter until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place the egg yolk in a small bowl, add a splash of water, and whisk to combine. Brush the buns with the egg wash, then sprinkle each one generously with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, onion, and garlic. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown and glossy. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, they can be transferred to an airtight container and kept at room temperature for up to a week.

Make the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk to combine. Transfer to a jar or other airtight container and refrigerate for 1 hour before use. The dressing will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Make the Fried Zucchini:
In a medium bowl, combine both kinds of breadcrumbs, the grated parmesan, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in a separate shallow bowl. In a third shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs with 3 tablespoons of water.

Place a wire rack over a baking sheet to catch drips. Dredge a zucchini slice in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture to coat it evenly. Place on the wire rack, and repeat with the remaining zucchini slices. Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, which ensures that the coating stays in place during frying.

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Fill a large frying pan with about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil, and heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350ºF. Fry the zucchini in batches until golden brown on top, then flip and cook until evenly brown all over, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Lift the zucchini out with a slotted spoon, and place on the lined baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then transfer to the oven to keep warm while you prepare the remaining zucchini.

To Assemble:
Split the buns in half, and spread a spoonful of buttermilk ranch dressing on each half. Place a slice or two of fried zucchini on the bottom bun, add a slice of tomato and some lettuce, and top with the other half of the bun. Skewer with toothpicks to keep them stacked neatly, then serve immediately and enjoy!