These Cheesy Zucchini Tots are pretty amazing and super cheesy to say the least. I wasn’t exactly expecting that it would turned out to be this good, I was in fact hesitant to make it. Zucchini is a bland vegetable on its own, this is why its pretty awesome to add it to bake products because it doesn’t really give any after taste. It’s more for moisture and of course it’s nice to think that I am having some veggies in my pastries that alone is a bonus point for me. I was trying to make a Zucchini Meatballs recipe and then when I was making this, I decided to slightly go off-road and put some twist on it, basically stuffed some cheese in it and the rest is history. Let’s just say I ended up with this Cheesy Zucchini Tots which I am now sharing with you. This is why sometimes I like experimenting on things when it comes to cooking.
There are few important things to note when making this Cheesy Zucchini Tots, they are simple but if you follow them you will end up with a crunchy cheesy tots that melts in your mouth.
Squeeze It Out!
Zucchini has a lot of water in it, too much to the point that you can almost squeeze out as much as 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water from it. Squeeze as much water as you can so that you will end up with a compact and shapeable zucchini at the end. I normally use a tea towel, but any fine cloth will do the job.
Spice It Up
Aside from having so much water, Zucchini is also known to be bland, not taste at all. This is why it is very important to season it well, just like any meatballs. This could make or break your Zucchini Tots so be generous with the spices.
It’s not a Cheesy Zucchini Tots without the cheese in it so don’t forget to stuff it with mozarella cheese. I used string cheese and I had it cut into 8 pieces, just the right size to fill my golf size balls portions. I find that it is easier to use string cheese rather than grated cheese. You can also use block cheese and cut it into small pieces, just make sure to use a melting cheese and not crumbly cheese like feta or parmesan.
To Coat or Not To Coat
It works either way, but here’s the difference. I first made the one without the panko bread crumbs coating and it turned out having a crunchier and more stable exterior. This is because it absorbed less oil due to lack of the bread crumbs coating. It also retained it shape better and it looks better aesthetically. The one with the bread crumbs is the one at the photo which I ended up making for the entire batch just because I wanted something a little bit different. The one coated with bread crumbs is moresensitive to timing on when you are serving it. It’s advisable to serve it as soon as you are done cooking it as the longer it sits, the more greasy and mushy it will become. This batch I served immediately and so I had not problem with that. If you want to serve it for later time, the one without the coating is a better option.
Test Fry It
Since you want to make sure that it is not bland, I suggest you test fry 1 piece before doing the entire batch. This way, you can still add more spices as needed. This is one simple step that I never skip whenever I make meatballs or fritters, and it’s worth the very little extra time to do it. This gave me the opprtunity to adjust the seasonigs as needed.
Hot pan please. Hot pan will require less time for the meatballs to be submerged in oil, which will make it less greasy. You want the outside to be nicely browned will the inside is still soft and tender, don’t worry about under cooking it. It’s a vegetable, and as soon as it turned nicely brown that should be enough since you will still transfer it in the oven to finish the cooking. Since you are coating it with panko bread crumbs, you will noticed the crumbs at the bototm of the pan. If you noticed too much of it are already getting burnt, close the stop and scoop them out then continue cooking. I didn’t have to do that because it only took me 5 minutes to cook the “meatballs”.
It’s optional, but it makes a difference in lessening the grease that the zucchini absorbed from the frying process. It also made the exterior crunchier, this is the same trick I used for my Chicken Tenders and it always work for me. It you have a finer mesh rack, that would be better so that the meatballs are well protected from loosing its shape. My wire rack was not as fine as I hoped it would be so some of the meatballs bottom became slightly flat. Also, it is important to put the wire rack on top of a deep pan so that the oil could drip, if you put the meatballs directly in the pan the oil will just stay in the pan where the meatballs sit, it defeats the purpose of allowing the oil to drip. Anyway, it’s an optional step it’s up to you if you want to do it but the meatballs or tots are ready to serve as soon as you fry it.
This can be served as appetizer along with fresh vegetables and dips like my favorite store-bought yogurt dressing. This can also be used to go with salad, gyros or pita wraps. It’s so versatile in some way. So let’s get started!
- 1 cup squeeze zucchini (2 small pieces)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic – minced
- 1/4 cup onion – chopped
- 1/2 tsp Chili flakes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 Italian seasonings
- 3/4 tsp salt ( I used fine salt)
- 1/2 + 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs (1/2 for meatballs , 1/3 for coating)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup oil for frying
- 2 cheese string – cut into 8 portions each
- Grate Zucchini: Grate zucchini using a cheese grater. Use the finer grater so that the “meatballs” hold together.
- Squeeze Liquid: Use a clean cloth to squeeze out the water from the grated zucchini. Make sure to remove as much water as possible. Transfer into a large bowl and set aside.
- Saute spices: Meanwhile, in a heated pan add oil, onion, garlic, chili flakes, black pepper, salt and Italian seasoning. Saute until onions are translucent. Let cool for a while then transfer into the bowl with zucchini.
- Combine and Chill: Add egg and panko bread crumbs. Mix until well combined. Try to scoop a small portion and form it into a ball, if it is too soft to hold, add more bread crumbs about 2 tbsp. Cover and chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Chilling the mixture is important for easier shaping.
- Shape and Stuff: Divide the balls into 12 portion, or 6 for a bigger size. You can use an ice cream scooper or a weighing scale for even size. Shape each piece in a ball shape, and insert 1 piece of cube string mozzarella cheese in the middle. Roll on your palm to make sure the ball is sealed so as not to allow the cheese from coming out.
- Coating: Transfer 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs in a bowl and coat each meatballs. Press the meatballs in the bread crumbs mixture so it will stick to the surface. Do this until all meatballs are coated.
- Alternatively, you can also beat 1 egg and dip each balls before rolling in the bread crumbs. This produces a thicker coating as the egg will help make the bread crumbs stick to the surface of the balls.
- Pre-heat Oven to 350F.
- Fry: Heat a deep pan and pour oil. Fry each of the coated meatballs until browned and crunchy. Make sure that the pan is hot so that the meatballs are not submerged in the oil for a long time. Set aside and transfer in a plate with paper towel.
- Bake: Using a baking pan, or any deep oven pan put a wire mesh rack on top of it and arrange the meatballs on top. This will give the meatballs room for the oil to drip out and to give an extra crunchy exterior. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Serve with Tzatziki Dressing on the side
Makes 12 pieces
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