I am just going to pretend that the summer is not fading away, but is in full swing in all its glory. It is difficult to believe that September is a month away when summer squash, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, stone fruit, fresh herbs, and green beans are now ripening at a sprinters pace. This time of year is wonderful, with many sunny days and cooler nights, but I am not ready for fall to be around the corner. I want summer to last, as it is my favorite season.
Over this past month, I wanted to make zucchini fritters. This obsession came out of the blue. Maybe because I always wanted to make them, but never got around to do it. I like all kinds of fritters. They are fun tasting with less filler than cakes. Making fritters is like producing a solo play with just enough supporting acts to hold the production together. For this production zucchini is the star attraction with just the right amount of extra ingredients to keep its shape.
I never made fritters before, and wanted to make some that are different from the traditional zucchini pancakes I am familiar with. After some searching, I found a fritter recipe with a southwestern take on a Mediterranean classic, zucchini fritters with cheddar cheese and oregano by Deborah Madison. This recipe is from her latest cookbook, In My Kitchen, (Ten Speed Press 2017). She is one of my favorite cookbook authors and is a valuable resource for me. If you need a good vegetarian cookbook, anyone of her books are a great choices. I believe she helped change vegetarian cooking from its cardboard tasting roots in the 1970’s, to the lively and fresh cuisine it is today.
Her zucchini fritters are different. Besides using non traditional ingredients, she slices the zucchini into thin coins instead of grating them. They look beautiful and unmistakable for what they are. The zucchini slices are visible and overlap each other to form a cake with flecks of fresh herbs and clusters of crunchy cheese and bread crumbs mixed in.
I found it a little more challenging to shape each pancake, but it is worth the effort. Honestly, I am not sure how Deborah Madison artfully formed her fritters. She did not include instructions describing her process in the recipe. The several times I made them, I did the best I could with what I knew. If the thought of shaping these fritters intimidates you, please put the thought out of your head. This is your meal, shape your fritters anyway you want. Scooping up batter with a spoon and sliding the batter in the skillet works just as well. Yet please take Deborah Madison’s advice, do not apologize if they don’t turn out the way you want. You just made a homemade meal. No apologies are necessary. They might not look how you hoped, but they will still taste great.
More zucchini recipes: Zucchini Fritatta, Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachios, Marinated Zucchini
I made some changes to her recipe. First, she uses fresh oregano and a lot of it. It was too much oregano for me, (which is hard to believe because I am always adding more fresh herbs than a recipes calls for). Also oregano can get very bitter, so it is not one of my favorites. I replaced the oregano with basil. I love basil with zucchini and it worked with the cheddar. Feel free to experiment with other herbs you like, and if you love oregano, go for it.
Other variations included corn meal and corn flour independently, instead of bread crumbs. I love zucchini and corn together and experimented with corn meal to see how it would taste and work. The corn meal is grittier and does not absorb the liquid as well as bread crumbs and corn flour do. In the photograph above showing zucchini arranged on a slotted spatula, the batter was too thin. To absorb the extra juices, adding more cornmeal would give the batter more heft. Keep experimenting and see how you like it. Each option provided has its merits and I liked the taste of all of them. The breadcrumbs and corn meal had similar textures, and the corn flour made the fritter more pancake like.
Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways
- Follow the recipe for Zucchini fritters made with basil, cheddar and breadcrumbs.
- Substitute the bread crumbs with the same amount of corn meal or corn flour. (gluten-free option)
- Make the recipe but substitute the cheddar cheese with Comté or Emmenthal (Swiss), or Gruyère Cheese. Use bread crumbs with this cheese substitution.
- Make a traditional zucchini fritter and substitute the basil with dill, and the cheddar with feta cheese. Add some lemon zest as well.
With all these different variations, you can make zucchini fritters for days and use up your abundant supply of zucchini before the summer is over.
Serve the cheddar basil zucchini fritter as a vegetable side dish, or an appetizer with tomatillo salsa and yogurt. They are also delicious paired with a sauce of parsley and capers.
A Mediterranean classic given a Southwest twist. These zucchini fritters are filled with slices of fresh summer squash, cheddar cheese and fresh basil. They are light with a delicate bite of sweet zucchini and fresh herbs. The cheddar cheese is subtle and does not over power the fresh vegetables.
For more variations, substitute the bread crumbs with corn meal or corn flour. You can also substitute the cheddar with any cheese, like Swiss, Gruyere or Comte. To make a traditional Mediterranean zucchini fritter, substitute the basil with fresh dill and replace the cheddar cheese with feta cheese. Follow the same steps in the recipe.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Deborah Madison recipe in, In My Kitchen, (Ten Speed Press, 2017).
1 TB olive oil
1 lb zucchini
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs, or corn meal, or corn flour
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped basil
3 TB chopped parsley
1 -2 TB olive oil for cooking
Prepare the Zucchini.
Evenly and thinly slice the zucchini into coins. If you have a mandoline this will make your job quite easy. No more than a quarter inch. Heat up 1 TB of olive oil in a large 10 or 12-inch skillet. Add the zucchini coins and sliced shallots and a small pinch of Kosher salt to the skillet, then stir to get an even coat of olive oil over the vegetables. Cook the zucchini over medium heat and occasionally stir them in the skillet until the slices are tender, but still have some firmness in them, and starting to look dry. (No liquid in the pan). This could take around 15 minutes depending on how thick your zucchini slices are and how hot your pan is. When done, turn off the heat.
While the zucchini is cooking, chop the herbs and get the batter ready.
Mix the eggs and 1/2 cup bread crumbs (or corn meal if using) until well combined. Add the grated cheese and chopped herbs to the egg mixture and mix. Add the cooked zucchini to the batter and gently stir to combine without breaking up the zucchini slices. Add more bread crumbs or cornmeal if the batter is too wet.
Make the Fritters
Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large skillet
Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet or oven proof plate in the oven.
Test to see if the skillet is hot enough by adding a teaspoonful of the batter to the pan. If the batter immediately sizzles, then the pan is ready. Finish cooking your sample then taste for seasoning. Correct with salt if needed.
Shape and slide one fritter at a time into the skillet. I like the fritters to look somewhat flat with the zucchini slices spread out and overlapping each other. Not mushed up. I scooped up the zucchini batter with a slotted spatula or spoon, then spread out the zucchini slices to make an even pancake. Once formed, slide your arranged fritter into the skillet. I used a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the fritter to slide off the spatula into the skillet in one piece. For each batch, 3 fritters fit comfortably into a 10-inch skillet. Patiently cook the zucchini fritters on one side for a couple of minutes, until it starts to get golden on the bottom. You want to handle them as little as possible, so flip them one time during the cooking process. With a thin flexible spatula, like a fish spatula, turn the fritter over and cook for a couple of minutes more. Move the finished zucchini fritters to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.
Serve immediately as an appetizer or side dish with tomatilla salsa and yogurt or creme fraiche. Or, serve with parsley caper sauce.
I have made these fritters with bread crumbs, as the original recipe indicates, and also with corn meal and corn flour. The corn meal does not absorb the juices as well as the bread crumbs, but do add a nice texture and subtle flavor. You can add more of the filler if there is extra liquid in the bowl, or just let the juices drain out the bottom of the slotted spatula before you add the fritter to the skillet.
Any of the three options work well. The corn flour will make the fritter more pancake like.
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