Why It Works
- Squeezing out most of the water ensures the fritters get crispy and the squash flavor is concentrated.
- Adding cheese creates a gooey interior and a crisp, frico-like exterior.
- By combining fresh corn with the tender zucchini, you get a variety of textures in each bite.
If you grow your own zucchini or summer squash, you know it can sometimes feel like a plot device in a horror sci-fi movie. At the beginning of the season, you carefully harvest the first of the crop, cradle it like an infant, and rest it with pride on the cutting board. The next day, you have two more, and with the proud thrill of the backyard farmer, you cook up your summer bounty. The next day you have two more, and two more after that. By the end of the first week, you're nervously eyeing the stack of squash that has built up on the kitchen counter, wondering how many you can give out to your friends before they stop answering the door.
And woe betide you if you skip checking for a few days—when you return to the garden and lift up the lowest squash leaf, you'll find monster marrows lurking like goblins huddling among tree roots.
When selecting summer squash, either in the garden or the grocery store, look for medium-size specimens. Soft summer squashes have such high water content that you ideally want to get them small (eight inches in length or less), before their flavor becomes too diluted and the seeds get large and bitter. We love cooking up the newest ones with pasta, in a gratin, or just lightly oiled and grilled with a little salt and balsamic vinegar. Once they're properly charred, the flesh caramelizes and releases a wonderful sweetness. There isn't a significant difference in taste between green zucchini (C. pepo var. cylindrica) and yellow squash (C. pepo var. recticollis), but you may find that the yellow variety gets seedy when large, and generally is better when harvested at a smaller size.
The absolute best way we've found to use up an excess of summer squash and deal with oversized ones is to grate them on a box grater or using a food processor's grating disc, then squeeze out the water to concentrate their flavor. You don't have to go crazy with cheesecloth and weights to get the water out: pre-salting them will help extract their liquid, and you can squeeze the rest out using your hands.
At the end of the growing season, when we have a hankering to celebrate, we'll make a zucchini cake. To get us through the summer, though, we subsist on fritters.
For this recipe, we mix up the squeeze-dried shredded squash* with shredded onion, grated cheese, and a light batter of flour, egg, and seasoning. The cheese combines with the vegetables to enhance the melty, gooey interior of the fritter, and helps the outside get delightfully crispy and caramelized like a frico. You can use Gruyère or a sharp cheddar, but we recommend you grate the cheese coarsely to ensure you get delightful melted strands with each bite.
*Try saying that fast... oh, you did? Try saying it with a mouthful of fritter.
This year we added fresh sweet corn to the mix, since corn comes into season at the same time as squash, and it was such a success that we've decided to make it a permanent addition. It creates a more interesting texture, little popping sweet bites amid the tender zucchini. One caveat, though! Corn kernels will pop in a hot pan, so we strongly advise you use a splatter guard to avoid getting splashed with oil and turning into a fritter yourself (you can also hold up a lid as a makeshift shield).
We aim for the fritters to be a quarter-inch thick at most; about a quarter- or third-cup of batter is about right, but you can play with the size to find your preference. If you want a thicker fritter, just allow an extra couple of minutes of cooking per side.
Along with the fritters, we like to make an herb sour cream. You can use whatever delicate herbs you have fresh, but a combination of basil and chives is one of our favorites. You could also use tarragon, chervil, or even mint, but add a little at a time so as not to overpower the sauce. It's entirely optional, but we love adding a little minced anchovy to give the dip a deeper savory note (think of it as a nod to green goddess sauce), but skip it if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.
You can also choose to top the fritters with fried or poached eggs, some sautéed diced pancetta or crumbled bacon, and/or a little extra grated cheese. Frankly, we happen to think they're pretty good with no accoutrements at all.
Right now, as our bumper crop comes in, we're making a batch of these fritters at least once a week, and it's helping us get through the squash harvest with our sanity intact. Now if you'll excuse us, it's been a few minutes, so we'd better go check the zucchini patch.
July 27, 2017
For the Herb Sour Cream:
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (about half a lemon)
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 anchovy fillet, finely minced (optional; omit to keep the dish vegetarian)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Fritters:
2 pounds (900g; about 4 medium) zucchini or other summer squash, ends trimmed
1 medium yellow onion (10 ounces; 280g), peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob (about 1 cup; 8 ounces; 225g)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (4 1/4 ounces; 120g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (4 ounces; 115g) shredded Gruyère or cheddar cheese
Olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
For the Herb Sour Cream: In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream (or yogurt), lemon zest, basil, chives, and anchovy (if using). Season with salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Fritters: Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C) and set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Grate zucchini on the large holes of a box grater, or use the shredding blade of a food processor. Transfer shredded zucchini to colander set over a bowl or in the sink. Repeat with the onion, then add to the zucchini.
Toss zucchini and onion with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Using your hands or a clean dish towel, squeeze out as much of the liquid from the zucchini and onion as possible. Transfer zucchini mixture to a large bowl and add corn kernels. Stir in eggs, garlic, black pepper, flour, baking powder, and shredded cheese until thoroughly combined and no dry flour remains.
In a large cast iron or heavy stainless steel skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, carefully drop scant 1/3 cupfuls of the zucchini batter into the skillet, then press down on them with the cup to flatten them to about 1/4 inch thick.
Cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 4 minutes (the corn will have a tendency to pop in the hot pan, so be careful; you may want to use a splatter guard or lid to shield yourself). If the fritters darken too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and cook until browned on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer fritters to the prepared baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping the pan well-oiled as you go.
Serve fritters warm, with a dollop of herb sour cream on top.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||13%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||19%|
|Total Carbohydrate 14g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||5%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 10mg||51%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|