Everyone’s got their superheroes; I’m sure when I was younger they were things like Super Grover and later, Jem but these days, they’re decidedly more humble: I admire the hell out of people who manage to put homemade meals on the table everyday, as this has never been my strong suit. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent the last year or so developing recipes for very specific things — a side dish, a salad, a tart — that don’t exactly add up to be a dinner, and that NYC makes it quite easy to order in whatever parts of your meal you haven’t made at home. I’m a terrible multitasker — really, no fan of it at all — and when I’m making brioche, I’m making brioche, and not brioche with a side of a pot of beans with something braising in the oven, no matter how much I wish I were.
It also means that more often than not, I have a 4 p.m. panic as, whoops! someone will soon be hungry and I have no idea what’s for dinner and true to form, this happened last Tuesday. For the better part of two days, I’d been elbows deep in a truly epic cake I was making for the book but it turns out that even when you’re the grown-up in the house, cake does not equal dinner, which of course crushes all of my earlier hopes and dreams about adulthood. Often we’ll have something around that can become dinner — eggs for omelets, vegetables for salad or even flour for a quick pizza dough — but we’d just returned from vacation and the fridge was sparse. For once, however, what I scratched together exceeded my expectations, in the form of zucchini fritters from the zucchinis that seem to be growing in my fridge this summer; I never remember buying them but they’re always around.
The fritters were more or less like potato latkes, minus the potatoes. I followed most of the tips I’ve assembled over the years for making latkes — always in a cast-iron pan; using a food processor to shred if you have one, because it makes the rope-iest strands; vigorously wringing out the water in a cheesecloth — but have added one more, something I picked up from Melissa Clark last year: I add a little baking powder. I know that for latke purists this is probably heretic, but you wouldn’t believe how amazing it makes them, how they just lift off the pan when they’re flipped. They’re attention grabbers. Of course, latke purists probably aren’t making zucchini fritters in August anyway, and that’s their loss because these were such a delicious meal. I was in a rushrushrush (like I said, I never plan well) so I just stirred a little lemon juice into sour cream for a topping, but think a crushed clove of garlic would be delicious there too. If you want to make them more of a meal — and you know we did — they’re just begging for a fried or poached egg on top.
One year ago: Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Two years ago: Melon Agua Fresca and a Cubed, Hacked Caprese
Three years ago: Dimply Plum Cake and Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Four years ago: Smoke-Roasted Stuffed Bell Peppers
Five years ago: Moules a la Mariniere
Adapted a bit from Simply Recipes
Yield: About 10 2 1/2 inch fritters
1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying
To serve (optional)
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.
Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as I’m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.
In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. You’ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.
Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.
In a large heavy skillet — cast iron is dreamy here — heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.
For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top, trust me.
Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again.