As gardeners and cooks know, zucchinis, especially in summer, present a cornucopia of this green goddess fruit. There are even cookbooks devoted to zucchinis, mixed with other ingredients. Plus with the internet, cooks are flooded with selections of zucchinis for steaming, frying, boiling, baking, roasting, just to mention some. Other dishes mix this vegetable, shredded with ground meats and vegetables. Furthermore, shredded insides of zucchinis are easily scooped out and mixed with other foods. When returned to the carved boat-like shell, they bake in the oven. More information on this method is in the tips and tweaks section below.
I first prepared zucchini when my husband and I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for several years in the mid-1970s while we studied Jungian psychology. We moved a few times, and for two years lived in a rural area, where we were pleased to have a small plot of land; there, I created a garden. A close neighbor, being a friendly Swiss farmer, gladly spread fresh manure on our plot! I can’t recall who rototilled it in for us, but someone must have since we never bought a rototiller. After waiting a few weeks for the manure to breakdown, I planted zucchini, along with other vegetables, probably tomatoes, maybe string beans and for sure Armenian cucumbers, which we love to this day. And there began my zucchini-cooking love affair! I probably purchased my zucchini cookbook at an American bookstore in Zurich.
Being fully retired for over a decade, and cooking daily, in addition to moving to a smaller home without as much upkeep; I’ve started growing and cooking with zucchinis, a lot. I love experimenting with t his fruit, whether they’re small, six inches or extra long, or especially when I forget to pick them and they grow large, yes, the size of a baseball bat! This recipe is one I concocted which succeeds with the large ones, as well as with smaller selections. I relied a little on my zucchini cookbook, plus, from personal experience – my 50 years of cooking.
1 1/2 pounds of zucchini, grated, about 4-5 small
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs, plus extra if needed
1/4 cup flour, plus extra if needed
4 scallions, chopped fine
1/4 -1/2 cup grated cheese, your favorite melting one – Parmesan, cheddar, Fontina, Gouda, or Gruyere
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 – 1 tsp Italian herbs
2-5 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil, divided
1 (If using a very large zucchini, over 2 feet long, and several inches in diameter, cut out well the center part with seeds, scrap all the stringy insides out too.) Grate the zucchini, skin on or off, into a bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Let the zucchini sit for about twenty minutes on the counter. Drain off the liquid. Place the zucchini in a large piece of cheesecloth, or wrapped on a clean cotton dish towel. Squeeze out, pressing down on the cloth, once or twice to get rid of more liquid.
2 In another large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil. But, only use the 1/4 cups of bread crumbs and flour, until more might be needed. Stir in the the zucchini; mix gently. The consistency of the mixture should be somewhat dry, but not terribly so. Add a bit more flour, maybe a tablespoon or two, if necessary. And/or do the same with the breadcrumbs. Let the mixture sit, covered, for fifteen minutes to meld.
3 Heat thoroughly for a few minutes, 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan on medium heat. Using a tablespoon, form a large mound of the mixture. Carefully place about six of them in the hot pan. Cook about 4-6 minutes on one side, patting them down slightly with a spatula. Flip them over, and cook the other side for about that same amount of time. Add more oil as needed until they cook up golden and crispy. Be watchful and don’t let them burn. Place on paper towels to drain a bit of fat, and to cool them slightly.
4 Serve warm or at room temperature with tarter sauce, Ranch or salad dressing, chili sauce, sour cream, or your favorite dip.
TIPS AND TWEAKS:
- Add cayenne pepper for more of a kick, at step 2.
- For stuffed zucchini, chose 4-6 medium ones. Slice them horizontally, from one end to the other. Scoop out the insides of each one, as you leave a half inch thick piece of the vegetable at each end and about that much too on the bottom and sides. Pat the inside of each one partially dry with paper towels. Also, with a little pressure, strongly pat until slightly dry, the filling you just removed. Let the filling sit aside for fifteen minutes. Discard any more liquid that has accumulated. In the next step, sauté, in three tablespoons of oil for about ten minutes in a large fry pan assorted vegetables – celery, onions, green pepper, and mushrooms. Use one half to one cup each, measured before cooking. Add one and a half cups cooked long grain rice, half a pound of ground pork, beef, or chicken, plus half a cup of grated cheese. Add all this to a large bowl. Season as you like, salt pepper, etc. Squeeze over the mixture the juice of half a fresh lemon. Add several tablespoons of tomato sauce to this, and stir to combine. Gently add the filling to the hollow zucchini shells; don’t pack too full. Arrange zucchinis slightly touching each other in a baking dish about 9 x 13. Sprinkle over each zucchini with additional cheese, if desired. Add about one half to one cup of chicken broth to the pan to keep the zucchini from burning. Cover, and cook for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees, or until zucchini can be poked easily with a fork, and too that the meat is cooked through. Halfway through cooking, remove the foil to brown cheese topping a little. Pour extra filling in a separate casserole, cover and cook alongside the stuffed zucchini, and cook a bit less than the 40-50 minutes.
- These fritters are excellent served as an accompaniment to chicken, fish, pork, beef. They compliment most any main dish.