I feel like I’ve been wanting to make zucchini pancakes (or fritters, I’ve seen them called both. They’re the savory small kind of pancakes, not zucchini bread-esque sweet ones) since approximately the dawn of time. Though, when I think about it a little bit more carefully, it’s more like since about mid-July.
Remember Sofra Bakery and Cafe, which I mentioned a while back? (More accurately, which I gushed over, swooned over, and nearly asked to marry me, even though Joel, I think, would have been slightly peeved if I had run off with a bakery-cafe. I, on the other hand, would have been very well fed. But perhaps starved for conversation. Anywho…) When we were there, I watched (I have a terrible staring habit sometimes) as a young woman, wearing aviator sunglasses if I remember correctly, sprang up to fetch her order when her name was called, and walked back to her seat carrying a dainty copper tray laden with a stack of slim golden cakes, flecked with green. What were they? Whatever it was, I had missed it. My eyes darted up to the menu and scanned over it again. They had to be the zucchini pancakes. I was instantly consumed by food envy.
Then I turned back to my flatbread, stuffed with cumin-spiced sausage, oranges, green olives, and yogurt sauce, and I was pretty much entirely happy again. But, zucchini pancakes stayed on my mind.
I think they’re one of those things that are considered the thing to do when your garden, and refrigerator, and counter tops are overrun by zucchini at the peak of the season. The ones at Sofra were described as Turkish-style zucchini pancakes. Do they even have a problem in Turkey with too much zucchini come August? (I expect an answer to that from someone.) It turns out, though, you most certainly should not wait until you’re at your zucchini-wit’s end before you make these. They’re worth making at your zucchini-wit’s beginning, even!
As luck would have it, we wound up not having a particular overabundance of zukes this summer. I had made plans, people, and they were thwarted! I barely got to do half the things I had schemed up for zucchini. Maybe not even a third! And, then I started waking up to 45 degrees in the morning, and it started to look suspiciously as though summer was going to end without a single zucchini pancake gracing our table.
But then yesterday, I saw them in two separate places. First, there’s a picture of them on the front of the gorgeous new Food52 cookbook (due out October 25th and now available for pre-order, actually) – which I have a recipe in, by the by! Toot, toot! It’s so exciting!!! That whet my appetite. Then, I was flipping through an issue of Food & Wine magazine from earlier this summer and a recipe for zucchini-ricotta fritters from Mario Batali caught my eye. Zucchini and ricotta?! Seriously??!! That was the last straw, the kick in the pants I needed. I decided that my day had had quite enough editing, statistics, grading, and planning for one day. It was time for a trip to the market where I picked up two of the sturdy green squash. Then, home to grate, stir, scoop, and fry.
You should be impressed I got any photos because these crispy, sizzling little guys practically grow legs as they come off the griddle and go leaping right into your mouth. They form a delicate crust around the outside, which encases a center that is wonderfully tender and slightly sweet from the ricotta. This is shot through with slinky threads of zucchini, neither mushy and limp like thoroughly cooked zucchini nor spongey like raw zucchini, but right in between. Sturdy enough to assert its presence, but just barely. And, the lemon zest, garlic, and scallions give them a remarkable degree of fragrance, far more complex than I had expected and thoroughly enticing.
I followed Batali’s recipe pretty closely, but I did make one – fairly important – change. He has you mix the shredded zucchini right into the rest of the ingredients immediately. But, I highly recommend you let it drain and then give it a squeeze first. Zucchini, once cut, beads up with moisture like an icy glass on a hot, humid day. All of that moisture will sog up your fritters too much, especially since they already get a good deal of moisture from the ricotta.
These make a fabulous (potentially appetite ruining) pre-dinner snack, appetizer, or light dinner, or even breakfast. Sprinkle them with a pinch of sea salt and serve them all on their own, or, to really make it a meal, serve them accompanied by labne or Greek yogurt, perhaps with a spoonful of feta stirred in, and a bit of tomato confit on the side. Is zucchini season really drawing to a close? I just got started!
Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters (makes 16-20) adapted from Food & Wine August 2011
- 2 medium zucchini (14 oz – 1lb total)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced (only the white and light green portions)
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, well drained
- 2 large eggs
- the zest of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- a pinch of baking powder
- olive oil, for frying
- labne (Middle Eastern yogurt cheese) or Greek-style yogurt, for serving
- tomato confit, or finely chopped tomatoes, for serving
- Grate the zucchini using the side of a box grater with the largest holes. Put the zucchini in a colander in the sink and allow it to drain for 30 minutes. Then, mound the zucchini in a towel or (I find this works the best) a potato ricer(!) and squeeze out the excess moisture. (If you use a ricer, you’ll have to do this in several batches.) Put the zucchini in a mixing bowl.
- Stir the garlic, scallions, lemon zest, ricotta, and eggs, along with about a tsp. each of salt and pepper, in with the zucchini, until well mixed. Add the flour and baking powder and stir just until incorporated.
- Get a baking sheet ready by lining it with paper towels or brown paper. Heat a skillet to medium-high and add about 1/4 inch of olive oil (or a tad less, but you need it well coated) and heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Then, drop generous spoonfuls of the batter into the skillet. Use a spatula to flatten them. Fry them until the are brown and crispy on the bottoms, then flip and fry the other side. This takes several minutes per side. Transfer the cooked fritters to the lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter until it is all fried.
- Sprinkle the fritters with a little pinch of fleur de sel, or feta cheese, if desired. Serve accompanied by the labne/yogurt and tomatoes. You can also store the fritters in an airtight container in the fridge, with paper towel between layers, for a couple of days. To reheat, transfer to a baking sheet and heat in a 35oF oven until they’re hot and lightly crispy again.