If you have a garden, or have a neighbor who’s growing things, the odds are good that you’ve been the recipient of a zucchini windfall at least once. At first it seems rather delightful, but as they start to increase in size, and inversely, decrease in flavor, it’s pretty easy to get sick of ’em pretty quick.
There is only so much zucchini bread you can make with those giant watery guys and they require a lot of prep to make them tolerable for a stir-fry or to grill.* As a culinary confession, I adore zucchini bread, in the same way I have a deep-seated fondness for all of that 1970s cooking that relies heavily on canola oil, yogurt, veggies used wantonly in desserts, and, like, raisins. This is no doubt because it was the kind of food I was raised eating (lots of casseroles, lots of grainy bread, lots of margarine, lots of canned fruit cocktail).
A friend once remarked to me that people tend to imprint the clothing styles of when they were younger (i.e. someone who started their professional life in the 1980s might still favor skinny ties, for example), and I think the same is definitely true for cuisines. We’re all time-stamped with the era when we came into our own as cooks, which may be part of the reason it can be so hard to expand one’s repertoire of staples.
That being said, if you’ve been bequeathed some zucchini, consider making these. They are so scrumptious that it is worth buying zucchini specifically for this purpose, I kid you not. Plus: vegetarian!
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer, makes about 2 dozen**
4 zucchini (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
6 scallions, chopped fine
9 oz. feta cheese (get the good stuff, no grainy cow’s milk Athena here!)
small bunch parsley, chopped
small bunch mint, chopped
1 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten
olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
3-4 limes for serving
Grate the zucchini and then remove excess moisture, either by spreading out in one layer on a clean kitchen towel or in a colander set over the sink, lined with paper towels.
When the zucchini is drained, put it in a bowl. Crumble over the feta, then add all the other ingredients except the eggs and flour. Add the eggs, mixing well to combine, and the fold in the flour, making sure all the dry bits are incorporated.
Heat a large skillet and add oil to a depth of about 1/4-1/3 inch. Fry tablespoons-sized spoonfuls of the mixture in the hot oil, pressing down a little so they cook evenly. They’ll need about 2 minutes a side, but you want them golden, so use your judgment.
Drain on paper towels. Serve with lime wedges. Pretend you’re on a terrace in Corsica, with the scent of salt water and the maquis in the air. Vacation for underachievers, right there.
*True confession: I kind of categorically refuse to salt things to get the extra water out. I know this probably means I am using about 18 metric tons of olive oil when I fry eggplant, but I just can’t ever get the salinity out without repeated rinsing, which means I’m pretty much putting back the water I just spent an hour of prep time waiting to get removed and, just, no.
**I halved this with no discernible loss in quality, just used 2 small eggs instead of 3.