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Southern "fried"

 

A seasoned egg white and panko bread crumb coating yields a satisfying crispy crunch to veggies, without all the fat and calories of traditional frying.

A seasoned egg white and panko bread crumb coating yields a satisfying crispy crunch to veggies, without all the fat and calories of traditional frying. Photo by: Leah Sullivan

 

 

The South" (the saúth), noun. The place where: Tea is sweet and accents are sweeter. Summer starts in April.  

 

Macaroni and cheese is a vegetable.  

 

Front porches are wide and words are long. 

 

Y'all is the only proper noun.  

 

Chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.  

 

Everything is darlin'.  

 

Someone's heart is always being blessed.  

 

Pecan pie is a staple.  

 

I saw this on a canvas the other day and thought, "Well, that pretty much sums it up." We Southerners are known around the world for our charming quirks -- Southern hospitality and friendly smiles, country music and rock and roll, and, of course, Southern soul food.  

 

As much as I love all of the wonderful aspects of home, sadly we're also know for our staggering obesity rate. Even worse, Mississippi all too often comes in at No. 1 on the lists of all things unhealthy. I personally think that in addition to inactivity it's got to be all that fried food. We've come up with a way to deep fry just about anything editable: fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried mushrooms and fried cheese. Hell, we even fry our homegrown vegetables, turning something perfectly healthy and nutritious into a coronary waiting to happen. Fried okra and fried green tomatoes with a side of plaque for your arteries, anyone?  

 

I once heard fellow Mississippi girl Oprah Winfrey say, "When we know better, we do better." That stuck with me for some reason, but I don't know if it's as simple as that. It's hard to change something that you've grown up with and known your entire life. Some things are just ingrained into our very being. Even though we know, we know, we know that it's killing us. Why is that?  

 

So, maybe instead of giving our greasy Southern favorites the boot we can come up with a compromise and just tweak things. Swap out the bad stuff for good stuff without sacrificing flavor and texture. Is that even possible? Sure it is!  

 

Healthier option 

 

For me, it's all about the crispy crunch when it comes to fried food. I've tried a million different ways to recreate that same crispness without all of the fat and calories, something to satisfy that insatiable craving that's a part of my Southern heritage. And after much trial and error, I have a winning concoction. First, prep whatever it is you plan on "frying." The great thing about this recipe is it works with pretty much anything -- eggplant, squash, zucchini, okra, green tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms, whatever your inner fatty desires. Just make sure to get your veggies of choice as dry as possible after you wash and chop them.  

 

Next, start an assembly line: In one bowl combine 1 cup egg whites, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper. In a second bowl combine 1.5 cups of panko bread crumbs, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a little Cajun seasoning. Add a little grated Parmesan to the panko if you'd like.  

 

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray well with nonstick spray. Dip each individual piece of veggie into the egg white mixture, roll in the panko mixture and place on the cookie sheet. Don't crowd them now; use two cookie sheets if you need to. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until your "fried" veggies are golden and crispy. Serve with your favorite low calorie dipping sauce and enjoy, guilt (and heart attack) free. 

 

Leah Sullivan of Columbus has been on a productive journey to a healthier lifestyle and shares some of her experiences with Dispatch readers. Follow {Nourish} on Facebook.

 

 

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