Wednesday, September 9, 2009

the dangers of vermont

I have it on good authority that should you ever visit Montpelier, Vermont in the summertime, you should never leave your car door unlocked.

This has nothing to do with the safety of the car itself. The chances that you will return to find your car damaged or vanished are low. Instead, locking your car door is a safeguard against returning to find your car exactly where you left it - but with several enormous, torpedo-size zucchini piled in the front passenger seat. This is apparently common knowledge to the point where there's even a stand at the farmers' market that advertises its squash with the slogan "Worth leaving your car door unlocked for."

Being a non-driver, I did not have worry about any drive-by zucchini-gifting when I went with Bella to visit her family in Montpelier this past weekend. However, Bella's family has a large vegetable garden, and the zucchini has been producing like, well, zucchini.

I love zucchini, but I usually encounter them when they're on their best manners at the farmer's market. I can choose young slender specimens for ratatouille and risotto, and I've (thankfully) never needed to dream up ways to use the ones that are almost the size of baseball bats. Still, when Bella's mother, Bobbie Sue, planned a gathering of friends and family for Sunday dinner, and asked us to come up with appetizer ideas, I felt strangely compelled to put a dent in the basket of zucchini set out on the porch. And so I declared that I could make zucchini fritters.

Fritters are one of my favorite appetizers for informal gatherings, the kind where everyone congregates in the kitchen before dinner begins. Like all fried things, fritters are best eaten as soon as they come off the stove, so they're perfectly suited to in-kitchen noshing. And even when we reach the point in the season when everyone is heartily sick of zucchini, they're quite appealing when enveloped in light, basil-fragrant batter and fried to a crisp golden brown.

So maybe you can leave your car door unlocked after all. I have it on good authority that what you really have to fear isn't drive-by zucchini-gifting in the summer, anyway. The real danger in Vermont is someone forcing you to take their extra homegrown squash at gunpoint in the fall.

(The photography is Bella's, and that this recipe works at all is thanks to Bobbie Sue, who helped troubleshoot the frying process.)

Zucchini Fritters

The number of zucchini required for this recipe depends on their size. If you are trying to get rid of monster torpedo-size zucchini, you'll want two. If they are large, but not monstrous, you'll want three or four. And if they're small zucchini, you'll want six or seven. It may seem like a lot of zucchini, but there's not much to a zucchini once you've drawn out all its moisture.

(Recipe not for one. Deep-frying really calls for an audience. Makes two dozen tiny fritters.)

Grate your zucchini. Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over. Allow to sit for half an hour, then transfer to a colander and press to get rid of as much liquid as you can. The goal is to get the zucchini dry as possible; if you have cheesecloth, wrap the zucchini in it and squeeze. If not, take handfuls and squeeze.

Once your zucchini shreds are as dry as possible, measure out two cups' worth. (If you have a lot of zucchini left over, it can be sauteed with onion and used to fill an omelette.)

Get out a big mixing bowl and whisk together half a cup of flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, one egg, and half a cup of milk. Stir in fresh torn leaves of basil (be generous), and a little fresh thyme, if you have it.

Pour the batter over the zucchini shreds and stir gently to mix. Now we're ready to start frying.

Set a cast iron pan or other deep, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium to high heat. Pour in a generous amount of canola or peanut oil. Watch the oil. Once it starts to shimmer or tremble, you're ready to fry. (The oil shouldn't be smoking, however - turn down the heat if it is.)

Drop a teaspoon of the batter into the pan, and flatten it gently with the back of a spatula. Cook on one side until the edges are golden brown, then flip it over and cook the other side.

The first of a batch of fritters is the test run, and like the first of a batch of pancakes, will probably not come out perfectly. That's fine. If it comes out pale, your oil probably isn't hot enough; if it browns nicely but is still raw in the middle, your oil is probably too hot. Adjust the temperature accordingly.

Cook the fritters in batches of three or four, depending on the size of your pan. Transfer them to a paper-towel-lined plate as they cook, and sprinkle them generously with coarse salt. Serve immediately.


ImNobody said...

Le sigh. I would like to live somewhere where I can be driveby vegetabled.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

You people say fritter, my people say latke!

adele said...

ImNobody - It sounds like fun (and it probably is, the first time.) But seriously, there's a reason why people invented zucchini bread and zucchini muffins and a whole host of other zucchini baked goods, and it wasn't because zucchini possess properties that make them superb for baking...

Virgin - I've been told by some that onions in potato latkes are heresy. I don't even want to think about what would happen if I brought up zucchini latkes.

Adrienne said...

All this talk about too much zucchini, and I haven't gotten even ONE in my CSA this year. Is that not mind boggling? I can't believe I'm going to have to go buy some so I can eat fritters. Anyway, they look great!

adele said...

Adrienne - That is very, very odd. I thought CSAs were pretty much a way of signing yourself up for all the zucchini and squash you could eat (and then some.)

LuckyRaven said...

I don't usually like zucchini outside of zucchini bread--but this looks tasty!

Lisa said...

Yum, yum, yum. Now I want to make some zucchini pancakes. I have an old recipe that has you putting fresh mint and feta cheese in them; that's really good. Yours here look delish as well.

adele said...

LuckyRaven - It's the magic of frying, I think.

Lisa - Fresh feta and mint? That does sound good. :)

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

I've been meaning to make something like this all summer. I was going to make breaded zucchini rounds dipped in breadcrumbs and an egg yolk. Maybe I'll still get around to it..

adele said...

Julia - Mmm. Yes, do it!

~~louise~~ said...

That's too funny Adele.

There's an unofficial food holiday called Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors' Porch Day (Aug. 8th) However, Pile Some Zucchini into an unlocked car sounds just as "productive."

I didn't have a vegetable garden this year, I will have to UG buy some to try these fritters. I have "battered up" zucchini flowers but not like your recipe. Absolutely a keeper!!! Thanks for sharing...

P.S. "Bat" size zucchini are wonderful stuffed!!!

adele said...

Louise - "Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors' Porch Day?" That's brilliant. (Though if everyone does it, I think it ends up cancelling out...)

Anonymous said...

I'm a neighbor of Bobbie Sue and was lucky enough to be at the meal that featured the zucchini fritters. My name is Vendetta Marilla. Anyway, ever since I had the taste of your firsr test fritter, I've been determined to make them- Tonight!
Thanks for the idea. They were delicious.

adele said...

Vendetta Marilla - Hello! I'm glad you liked them. It was a wonderful dinner, wasn't it? I think Bella has pictures. :)

Elizabeth said...


We (Liz Zack and Mandy Gibson, remember us?? Zu??) made your zucchini fritters a few weeks ago and...they were DELICIOUS. We are still thinking about them. Right now. We think you are a culinary genius and wish you would still make us scones every weekend.

Mandy and Lizzie

adele said...

Elizabeth, Mandy - Of course I remember you! I'm glad you enjoyed the fritters!

Bobbie Sue said...

Adele--I'm going to try the fritters with summer squash, which we have this year torpedo-size abundance. Will let you know how it goes.