With an abundance of sweet just-picked zucchini, these weeks in late summer are a veritable zucchini-fest. Zucchini is such a mild and neutral vegetable–the perfect accompaniment to poultry or fish; great in frittate, easy and quick to prepare. Zucchini require no extensive cleaning (like spinach or swiss chard), no pre-blanching, and generally takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.
My mother makes wonderful fritters with zucchini, and is especially fond of the blossoms of the zucchini plant. These blossoms are the most delicate and perishable byproduct of the zucchini plant, since they live for only a very short while off the plant, and must be harvested early morning, before they close and shrivel up in the afternoon sun.
When picked in the morning, they can be kept in the fridge for several hours and used later in the day. My neighbor Beppi has a zucchini patch in his garden and has invited me to raid the zucchini plants any morning I want. Today, I decided to take him up on his offer as I tiptoed into his garden very early this morning. I found a basket and clippers waiting for me on a stone wall right beside the zucchini patch.
The only advance preparation required for these fritters is the grating and salting of the zucchini. Zucchini are mostly water, therefore, when they are used as a component of another dish, like fritters, they need to be drained and squeezed. I use the food processor to grate them, then place them in a colander with a couple of teaspoons of salt to help dehydrate them. The batter may be made up to an hour ahead, but not longer than that, since the zucchini will continue to exude water into the batter and will eventually render the batter too thin.
I’m serving these as part of a first-course salad of green oak leaf lettuce, orange cherry tomatoes, topped with a dollop of fresh goat cheese. They are great, however, on their own as a snack.
Mom’s Zucchini Fritters
makes approx. 20 fritters
6 medium zucchini, grated (should yield about 4 1/2 grated zucchini, before salting)
1/2 c flour
3/4 c grated pecorino cheese
3 large eggs
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1/3 c olive oil for frying
Grate unpeeled zucchini using grater attachment of food processor, or grate by hand on the coarsest side of a box-grater. Place in a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Allow to drain for at least a half-hour and up to an hour.
After a half-hour, the zucchini should have shrunken in volume and there should be a nice bright green pool of salty water underneath them. Discard water.
In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients for batter–it should resemble a thick pancake batter.
In small handfuls, squeeze the zucchini between both hands and place in the batter. If using zucchini blossoms, simply chop coarsely and add to batter.
In a broad nonstick skillet on high heat, preheat oil for a minute or so. Drop in batter by the tablespoon–if the first tablespoon of batter doesn’t begin sizzling immediately, allow oil to heat further before adding more batter. Do not crowd the pan. Once the pan is 3/4 full, lower the heat to medium. Fry until golden on both sides–approximately 3 minutes per side, depending on the strength of your burners.
If you are making more than one batch, hold the first batch in a preheated 275 degree oven until ready to serve.
May be eaten hot, warm or cold.