The zucchini (courgette) is sort of the wallflower cousin to the cucumber. Cucumbers are snappy, juicy and crisp when fresh; a cool addition to salads and sandwiches, or perfect with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. All the while, the zucchini stands by; plainer when munched on raw, mild-mannered and unassuming — but the one with greater potential, in my opinion.
Zucchini is best when it’s given a little extra attention. It’s the shy one of the family, but once you coax out its mystery, it opens up a world of possibility. Sure, I love a great dill or sweet pickle, but give me roasted zucchini any day. Cucumber bread? Yuck. Zucchini loaf? Heaven.
I love zucchini for its sweet creaminess, especially when offset by a spritz of citrus or a drizzle of good balsamic. High in potassium and vitamins A and C, zucchini are a staple on my grill and a frequent snack, fresh out of the fridge. They add body to soups and stews in the fall, compliment heavy roasts in the winter and light sautés through the warmer months. Truly this gourd is a powerhouse in the kitchen.
Usually relegated to the supporting cast, these little fritters are bundles of zucchini-goodness. Brightened by lemon zest, a fistful of herbs and spikes of red chilli, I adore them as a side to any grilled meat or as a tasty nibble all on their own.
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium)
Zest of one lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)
1 small shallot, minced
1 small red chilli, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
Using a box grater or the grating attachment on a food processor, grate the zucchini. Place zucchini in a thin layer on a kitchen (or paper) towel. Cover with another towel, and leave to dry for approximately 30 minutes.
In a bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, except for the beaten egg. While stirring, add the egg slowly and thoroughly combine. Gently fold in the dried zucchini.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, drop heaped tablespoons of the batter into the oil, flattening them slightly with the back of a spatula. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crisp. You can also tell when they are cooked by pressing slightly on the surface – the fritter should feel like a cooked pancake; firm but with a bit of spring.
Repeat until all the batter is used. Keep warm in a low oven, or serve at room temperature garnished with lemons and a scattering of fresh parsley.
Makes about 12.
• I usually use a tiny ice cream scoop to portion the batter.
• These are lovely served hot with a dollop of sour cream or sweet chilli sauce.