I meant to make this recipe and post it on Monday in honor of Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, but we were in the process of moving to a new apartment. So a bit belatedly, here’s my take on the classic zucchini fritter, which is a great way to make any kind of summer squash into something entree-worthy. As a seasonal bonus, it pairs beautifully with the tomatoes that are just now getting ripe enough to harvest in Michigan. The one I sliced up for last night’s dinner was our first German Queen, which is some kind of “heirloom” variety, whatever heirloom means when you’re buying it at a big box store.
There are dozens of ways to fritter your squash. I tend to prefer a high ratio of vegetable matter : batter, so I use just enough egg and whole wheat flour to bind the shredded squash. To keep them light despite the whole wheat flour, I separate the eggs and beat the whites to stiff peaks before folding them in (hat tip: Mark Bittman). For flavor, I add a minced onion, some garlic, a handful of sharp cheese and a generous sprinkling of Old Bay, the latter inspired by a mock “crab” cake recipe. For the sake of convenience, I prefer pan-frying to deep-frying, although if you have a deep fryer, I’m sure they’re crisper and more delicious that way.
I don’t think they taste a thing like crab cakes, but they can certainly serve the same role—they work as an appetizer or small plate on their own, as a sandwich on a bun with some coleslaw, or as the centerpiece of a more substantial meal accompanied by a salad or cup of soup or some other side dish.
Although they’re tasty plain, they really want to be served with something creamy and tangy, possibly with a little (or a lot) of heat. If you plan ahead at least 24 hrs, Alton Brown’s chipotle crema would be perfect. On shorter notice, some canned or re-hydrated dried peppers blended with some Greek yogurt and a little mayonnaise does the trick. Other options: some avocado slices and black bean salsa, ranch dressing (especially combined 1:1 with a good salsa), crème fraiche or sour cream, or just plain mayonnaise perked up a bit with some fresh lemon or lime juice and minced or powdered garlic.
I’ll be back to fretting about calorie counts on menus and Food, Inc. and things that won’t kill you soon. But first, I have a lot of books to unpack.
Recipe: Summer squash fritters
- 3-4 medium-sized zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan, or crookneck (between 1 1/2 and 2 lbs)
- 2 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 cup shredded or crumbled sharp cheese (cheddar, feta, gouda, etc., about 2 oz )
- a small onion, or half of a larger one
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1 t. Old Bay seasoning
- 2-3 T. canola or peanut oil
1. Shred the squash—this would be extremely tedious without a food processor or a sous chef, although you might be able to get away with a fine dice. Place the grated or diced squash in a colander, sprinkle the salt all over and toss to distribute the salt evenly throughout. Let it sit in the sink for at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, dice the onion, mince the garlic, and combine with the cheese in a large bowl.
3. Separate the eggs—you can throw the yolks directly in with the onion, garlic, and cheese. Beat the whites until stiff peaks form.
4. Whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and Old Bay.
5. Press the squash against the sides of the colander to wring out as much moisture as you can. Add the well-drained squash to the onion and egg yolks. Mix to coat everything lightly in egg.
6. Preheat a large skillet on medium-high.
7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the zucchini-egg-onion mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overwork it—you don’t want much gluten to form or the pancakes will get tough, although the bran in the whole wheat will actually help prevent that too.
8. Add the beaten egg whites to the zucchini mixture and fold in gently until just combined. You want to preserve as much of the air suspended in the egg whites as possible.
10. Test the pan for heat by flicking a few droplets of water at it. They should jump and sizzle. If they don’t, turn the heat up. Add 1-2 t. oil to the pan and tilt to coat the surface evenly.
11. Form the mixture into patties with your hands and drop into the pan. My fritters usually end up about the size of my palms, so I imagine bigger hands = bigger patties. You don’t want them to be too thick or they won’t cook through—about 1/2” at the most. Smaller is always an option.
12. Cook until the underside is very brown—about 4-5 minutes—and then flip very gently. Cook for another 4-5 minutes and then remove from the heat. Continue until all of the mixture has been cooked. If they seem to be getting very dark in less than 4-5 minutes, turn the heat down.
Recipe: Chili-yogurt sauce
- 2-3 dried chilis (I used one small habanero, one small cascabel, and one small red chile) or 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or more)
- 2 T. mayonnaise (optional)
- salt to taste
2. Drain and remove the stems and seeds (you can add the seeds later if you want more heat, but it doesn’t really work the other way around). Alternately, remove the chipotle from the can.
3. Blend the chilis with the yogurt and mayonnaise, if using, in a food processor or blender. Add enough reserved seeds to make it as hot as you want it and salt to taste.