Sunday, June 10, 2012

zucchini & corn fritters with herbs and cotija cheese

tasty at room temperature, these little pancakies are perfect for zucchini season, when (possibly) well-meaning neighbors sneak up to your house and leave giant bags of them on the doorstep and you can't face one more chunky zucchini pasta thing. 

they are totes simple and work well for potlucks or a quick dinner. also you can make them teensy and pretend they're fancy appetizers. they were inspired by a recipe from the delightful nigella lawson (although, being british, she probably calls zucchini "courgettes"), but instead of being feta-y and mediterraneanish, i added corn and used cotija cheese, cilantro, and mexican spices for a more south of the border feel. i left the mint, though, because it really works here for some reason. 

the first thing to do is to get some water out of the zucchini. grate them (i used a food processor and it was so easy!), set the gratings in a strainer or colander over the sink, and sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt. then let it sit for 20 minutes or so while you get the other stuff ready. 

i ended up using some leftover corn that we'd already grilled, but i think some nice fresh sweet corn would be fine to use raw. cut the kernels off and put them in a bowl with a couple of ounces of crumbled cotija cheese (you could also use feta or ricotta salata) and 5 or 6 sliced scallions and a handful each of cut-up mint and cilantro. 

is your zucchini done yet? after the 20 minutes (or longer), use all your might and squeeze as much liquid as possible from the grated shards. i find it mildly therapeutic. 

then mix the vegetables, herbs, and cheese together and add another pinch of salt, the zest from one lime, a minced clove of garlic, perhaps 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder if you have it, and 1/2 teaspoon or so of cumin. it'll still be good without the spices, but if you have them, you might as well throw them in there. 

finally, add 2 eggs, beat them a little to get things going, and then add ~ 1/2 cup of flour and mix until it all comes together. try not to go crazy with the mixing at this point, though, as you don't want the fritter-pancake things to get too tough. the batter will be quite thick, so don't freak out. it'll be fine.

i like to have two pans of these cooking at once to make it go faster. add perhaps a tablespoon of oil to a largish pan and let it heat over medium until the oil shimmers. you can use less oil and/or a nonstick pan, but the oil helps them brown and crisp up better, so keep that in mind.

then dollop the batter into whatever size you prefer. i like to flatten them down a little to ensure that the middle cooks before the outside burns. but if you like that sort of thing, by all means...

cook over medium to medium-low (depending on your stove - ours runs hot) until the outer edges are getting a nice burnishy brown. you can edge a spatula underneath to check them, but i wouldn't make a habit of it. flip and get the other side nicely brown (maybe 4 -5 minutes per side), then set them on some paper towels or a rack or something. serve with limes for squeezing over and, if you want, a simple yogurt sauce. they're good with just the lime, though. and they really are oddly great at room temperature, which is nice because you can make them ahead of time and get all freshened up before company comes over or whatever.

we have them as a side for roast or grilled chicken or fish, but they would also be a good lunch with a salad or, if tiny, as little blintze-y things to eat with a kalimoxto, some gin & elderflower, a pink greyhound, or a fruity tequila & tonic. and if you still have zucchini left over, you could try this delightful salad with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and goat cheese.

*ingredients* serves 2-3-4 as a major side dish, more if making as appetizers
2 zucchini
1 1/2 - 2 ears of corn
~ 1/4 cup cilantro
~1/4 cup mint
~ 2 1/2 ounces cotija cheese
5 scallions
2 eggs
1 clove garlic
zest from 1 lime
1/2 cup flour
~ 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or hot smoked paprika (optional)
~ 1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
pinch or two of salt (optional)

*yogurt sauce* (optional)
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
pinch salt
maybe 1 tablespoon or so lime juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked paprika (optional)


  1. these are perfect on a hot summer night. i wasn't sure about the mint, but it adds a refreshing element to it. and the yogurt sauce is definitely worth making. for you texans who aren't scared of the heat, i recommend cayenne pepper instead of chipotle powder for a nice kick. and if you use fresh corn watch out for corn explosions from the hot skillet. i will definitely make these again.

    1. thanks, chops! i'm glad you liked them. i also wasn't sure about the mint, but i like it. see you soon and try to keep cool!