Cooking from the Farms: Zucchini Cook Off

Posted on August 12, 2010

My son has been away for the past three weeks, working on a produce farm out in Michigan.  He asked me to not write about his adventures in my blog and, because I promised, I will not.

I can tell you however that he emailed me the other day looking for a couple of fritter recipes – one for corn, and another for zucchini – because, like many kitchens around here, the Michigan farm kitchen is full of corn and zucchini lately.

We like to make vegetable fritters every so often.  When one is tired of eating vegetables in the expected ways – steamed, sauteed, grilled – a fritter shakes up the routine, revives interest in a vegetable that may be in danger of becoming dull.  Right about now in August is when I begin to detect a little zucchini boredom in my fellow diners.

The zucchini fritter recipe I use is a variation of one I saw Ina Garten make on the Barefoot Contessa not long ago.  I wrote down what I remembered of the ingredients and method after I turned off the television. When I tried them for the first time at the beginning of this zucchini season, everyone loved them, even the vegetable averse.  Fry any vegetable in a batter and people are bound to love them, even someone who might never put a slice of zucchini in his mouth otherwise.

Not that that zucchini refusenik is anyone I would know.

Since that first batch, I have made Ina’s variety many times.  They are a cinch and a great way to use up about a pound of zucchini at a whack in order to make a delicious dinner dish.

But then the August/September issue of Saveur magazine arrived in my mailbox, touting itself as “The Greece Issue” and full of fantastic, fresh, and mouthwatering Greek food and recipes.  Such as a recipe for Kolokithokeftedes.  Or, as translated by Saveur, zucchini fritters.

These fritters looked as apppetizing as Ina’s, but different: where hers are more like a crunchy but light and fluffy pancake, Saveur’s were rounder like a croquette and crispier all over.  Perhaps it was time to test which version I liked better.

So that is what I did today.

Dinner provided the testing ground, a fun project at meal time.  There was much to talk about and compare and many fritters were consumed in the process.  We were split right down the middle in our preferences, but completely in agreement that any zucchini fritter – whether light and ethereal inside or crunchy and packed with cheese and vegetables – is a suppertime treat.

If you try either, or both, let me know what you think.

The Zucchini Fritter Showdown

I unintentionally made adjustments to Ina’s recipe.  This happened by writing down the recipe as I remembered it after the fact.

I intentionally made a few changes to the Saveur recipe, and I did so in order to use what I had on hand, and also to keep the two flavor profiles fairly similar for the taste comparison.  Feel free to look up the originals on the Food Network’s recipe database and in Saveur’s most recent issue if you want to try these as originally devised.

Take the time to dry the zucchini well, as directed in both recipes below.  A good and absorbent clean kitchen towel is your friend.

Zucchini Pancakes, Ina Garten style

  • about a pound of zucchini
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying

Grate the zucchini and the onion in a food processor fitted with the grating blade.  (Alternately, you may use a box grater and do it by hand.)

Wrap the vegetables in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as you can.  This will probably be quite a bit.  When fairly dry, put the vegetables into a large mixing bowl.  Add to this the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper, and the beaten eggs.

Mix thoroughly without overmixing.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add to it enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Do these in a few batches and do not overcrowd the pan.  Keep the first few fritters warm on a baking sheet set in a low oven while you cook the rest.  When all are finished, serve immediately.

Saveur’s Kolokithokeftedes

  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying

As directed in the previous recipe, grate the zucchini and the onion in a food processor fitted with the grating blade.  (Alternately, you may use a box grater and do it by hand.)  Wrap the vegetables in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as you can.  This will probably be quite a bit.

When fairly dry, put the vegetables into a large mixing bowl.  Add to this the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and the beaten egg.

Mix thoroughly without overmixing.  This mixture will be drier than the Ina Garten style pancakes.

Form the mixture into 12 balls between your hands and flatten these slightly.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add to it a half-inch of oil on the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, place about 6 of the fritters into the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Repeat with the second 6.

Keep the first batch of fritters warm on a baking sheet set in a low oven as you cook the rest.  When all are finished, serve immediately.

©2010  Jane Ward