I encourage my daughter to eat lots of vegetables. On the other hand, she attended tons of her schoolmates’ birthday parties last month and has become a party food connoisseur—pizza, cupcakes, French fries, ketchup, you name it! And to be totally honest, we are in a winter eating slump this time of the year. How much of the typical local winter root vegetables (e.g., rutabaga, parsnips) can you eat?
Going along with the fast food theme, I have been taking the idea of the French fry and using it for vegetables—to great success!
Sweet potatoes aren’t the only challenger to the conventional potato’s French-fried dominance.
I asked myself for a little more creativity and indeed we adults went right along with it.
Obviously as a chef I'm a big fan of cooking it yourself, that way you'll know exactly what the ingredients are and how much of them go into a dish. The following fries are oven-roasted with olive oil. In this way they are a touch more healthy than fast-food fries that are often made super crispy and flavorful with a bunch of funky additives and often use not-so-good-for-you oils.
Baked Butternut Squash Fries
(recipe makes 4 side portions)
1 piece of butternut squash with a long neck
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
sea salt, to taste
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3) Peel and cut squash into long sticks. With a tablespoon scrape seeds out of the bottom part and cut in half from top to bottom and then into half-moon-shaped pieces.
3) In a bowl combine squash, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder (optional) and paprika powder.
4) Toss mixture and spread over a parchment or foil-lined sheet pan.
5) Bake for 30 minutes, or when the squash is soft. If needed bake for 5-10 minutes longer.
6) Season with a generous sprinkle of sea salt and enjoy.
The following are some baking tips for successful crisp and tender veggie fries:
- To get the best crunch out of baked fries, place them on a slotted baking rack set over a baking sheet pan. I suggest lining the baking rack with parchment paper and spreading the seasoned vegetable mixture evenly over it. This allows the heat to circulate around the fries and hence they get seductively crunchy.
- When baking fries I suggest not to overcrowd the sheet pan. It creates steam and the fries will become rather soggy.
...more veggie fries prepared with the above recipe:
- Peel and cut rutabaga and/or carrots in long sticks. You may have to adjust the cooking time though, so taste them after 30 minutes. If they're not soft yet, add on 8 minutes of oven time.
- Green beans: Snap off the ends and bake for 20 minutes or until soft.
- Avocado fries: A truly divine version of veggie fries. Slice a firm but not hard avocado into 1/2-inch wedges, then throw out the peel and pit. Season avocado with the spices but no olive oil. Dip avocado wedges into whole wheat flour, mixed egg and panko bread crumbs moistened with the olive oil. Arrange avocado wedges on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 15-20 minutes. The fries should have a golden brown color at this point, if not bake for 3-5 minutes longer.
Chef’s Note: Serve your fries with a homemade dipping sauce such as garlic hummus, guacamole, aioli, salsa or cold tomato sauce.