I know what you’re thinking; you don’t even need to say it: It’s time for a fritter intervention. A frittervention? Here, I’ll go first: My name is Deb Perelman and I have a fritter problem. And I really do. I pretty much want to fritter all the things, all the time — broccoli, zucchini, apples, parsnips, an Indian medley, leeks (here), and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, I actually have to hold myself back, and try to evenly space my fritter episodes throughout the year, so not to pique your concern about my fritter consumption. It’s not easy because no matter how many times I talk it out in a circle of understanding peers, I fear I will still think that fritters are the answer to most food dilemmas, most of the time.
They’re the ideal toddler vegetable delivery method. Aside a bowl of lightly dressed mixed greens for the lunch I’m supposed to be having (not, cough, leftover pizza), a couple fritters make it all worthwhile. Alone on a plate, dolloped with a creamy yogurt sauce, they’re a happy afternoon snack. And formed intentionally tiny, they belong at a cocktail party. As do you.
In my defense, I hadn’t frittered in nearly six months before I slipped. The last time, it was broccoli and it was angled specifically towards the toddler set. There was parmesan and only a tiny, non-threatening amount of garlic. The goal was not to ruffle any overtaxed young mealtime feathers. So, of course, you know what happened: my sample population, my toddler, refused to eat them. In response, these fritters don’t care. (Sorry, kid.) There’s more garlic, lemon zest, salty, crumbly feta cheese and they’re flecked with kicky Aleppo pepper. That’s a smoky cumin yogurt on top. They’re dotted with tart pomegranate seeds. Once again, you probably already know what happened: “More please!”
Nevertheless, they want to go to a party with you and I think you should let them. In a December that is to the gills with buttery cookies, decadent cheese plates, stiff drinks and rich roasts, they might even be a little island of moderation, as decked out with tiny red bulbs as the nearest windowsill.
One year ago: Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Two years ago: Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese, Creamed Onions with Bacon and Chives and Sweet Corn Spoonbread
Three years ago: Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding, Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin and Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Four years ago: Pepita Brittle, Cottage Cheese Pancakes, How to Max Out Your Tiny Kitchen and Leite’s Connsummate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five years ago: Black Bean Pumpkin Soup, Apricot and Walnut Vareniki, Chicken with Chanterelles and Pearl Onions and Our Approach To Food Photos
Six years ago: Dreamy Cream Scones and Shrimp Cocktail, Artichoke-Potato Gratin
Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Smoky Yogurt, Pomegranate
Makes 18 2-inch fritters
I prefer fritters with a lot of vegetable and just the faintest amount of batter, loosely tethering the vegetable chunks to each other. It will seem weird as you put the piles of batter in the pan — “these are going to fall apart!” — but gently nudge any loose pieces back on the pile and I promise, once they’re cooked, they will stay together and their flavor will be crisp and clear, uncluttered by an eggy, soft batter.
1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets, i.e. stems and leaves removed), cut into generous 1 to 2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
3/4 teaspoon table salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful pomegranate arils
Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, until firm but tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.
In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs). Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.
Heat oven to 200 degrees F and place a tray inside. On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then the tray in the oven to keep them warm until needed. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.
Do ahead: Fritters both freeze and reheat well. To warm and recrisp them, lay them on a tray and toast them at 400 degrees in the oven until crisp again.