Adventures in Zucchini

“We’re sorry ma’am. But, the new TSA regulations don’t allow you to carry on liquids, cheese, or zucchinis the size of your head.”

Good thing I flew back from Illinois on Monday, before all the new airport security chaos, or I’m guessing that I would have had to ditch this monster of a squash at the airport. As it was, all I got when bringing a bag full of just a couple of zucchinis from my great-aunt’s garden was “What the heck is that thing? Oh, it’s a squash.

On the plane, I started to ponder… is it still local produce since I was flying back to Seattle anyway? And, is it still organic since I took it through an x-ray machine? No matter. It’s still garden grown squash of the enormous variety, and what’s more fun than that?

Back home, I decide to try my hand a second time at making the courgette and cheese patties recipe in Fresh magazine (July 06, p18). The first time was a bit of a disaster. They ended up well flavored, but watery and mushy. This time, after grating, salting and soaking the zucchini in water, I made an extra effort to squeeze out the water. Cheesecloth would seem to be the best choice for this task, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I used a strainer and mashed the zucchini shreads until they were fairly dry. Still, after adding the listed quantities of flour and eggs (and a substitution of freshly grated parmesan for the feta), the batter was still really moist. Too moist to hold up into the cakes that I was picturing. So, I added a bit more flour, and then a bit more, and even more still. Finally, the batter was starting to resemble a thickish pancake batter so I stopped. There was still no way I was going to be able to mold these into little rounds, but on a hot griddle, they held together and browned like potato pancakes would. Unfortunately though, while they were not watery and the flavor was tasty, they were still limp… without any of the crispness I was hoping for.

I’ll include the recipe here, but honestly, I can’t recommend it. Maybe the third time is the charm, but I think I might try to find a different recipe this time. If you’ve made these before and have some tips on how to end up with crisp little bites instead of rubbery rounds, please let me know!

Zucchini and Cheese Patties
(Serves 6 as a side)

3 zucchini
2 t salt
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
3 eggs
6 T all purpose flour (I used about 12 T)
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
2 t chile flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Shred the zucchini, with the skin on, with a cheese grater and in a large bowl sprinkle the salt over and mix well with your hands. Cover with a damp cloth and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then rinse, and drain very well by wrapping the zucchini in cheesecloth and squeezing until no more water comes out. Then, let the zucchini rest for another 3 to 5 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil to medium, and then add the onions and garlic and reducing the heat to low. Add the zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes until just softened. While that is cooking, beat together the eggs and flour to make a smooth batter. Add the cheese, herbs, chile flakes and salt and pepper. Then, beat in the zucchini mixture (it will still be warm).

Heat a flat bottomed skillet or griddle to medium-high and add the frying oil. When hot, drop about a quarter cup of the batter per cake, giving a bit of room between each. Fry each patty on one side for about 2 minutes and flip. When golden brown on both sides, place on a paper towel to remove any excess oil before serving.

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  • Tanna

    And they look so pretty. What in that ingredient list is making them rubbery – they look like they should be crisp. I hope somebody has a clue for you. I’m really interested because they look great and I always need good zucchini recipes.

  • Tanna

    Oh, wonderful picture!!

  • Nicole

    These look wonderful! I’m going to pass this one on to some friends!

  • peabody

    Holy Cow that is one big squash.

  • http://n/a Kathleen

    I do see what you mean by them being “rubbery rounds”. I think maybe the additions of flour & stirring caused the gluten to do whatever it does — can’t remember all the technical jargon –and it became gluey. Maybe you could try this recipe from Martha Stewart — her’s look nice & crispy.

  • http://n/a Kathleen

    By the way, if you don’t mind telling, where was your reunion in Illinois? I’m originally from IL & so I’m just curious :) I hope you had a nice time.

  • matt

    I AM LOVING THE PHOTOGRAPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mae

    Though you weren’t satisfied with the end result, they still look gorgeous!!! The photos are stunning!

    You know, my friend’s mum grew these in her garden and my friend, not knowing what to do with one of these gigantic produce, gave it to me as they thought i’d be able to turn it to something delicious. Errr… it took me nearly two weeks to come up with something! In the end, i cooked half by peeling them, took the insides out and chopped them to cubes and stir fried them with chorizo and prawns with red peppers and springonions, ginger and garlic. The other half was added in a Philippine dish called ‘tinola’ which is chicken soup. They were delish but i wish i had thought of more creative ways like these pancakes. Maybe next year :)

  • jenjen

    These look great, I wonder what they ouwld have done if you weren’t allowed to take the zucchini on the plane?
    I love how that top patty is so delicately perched on top of the stack that it looks like its about to fall off. Just perfect.

  • Kristina

    I think your mistake is in the amount of fat you cook them in. My mom and I adore potato latkes and you simply MUST cook them in about 1/4 inch of melted shortening. Then it doesn’t matter how thin the batter is – the thinner the better – and they sort of end up like crispy little hash brown like patties. I would try them again and just cook them in more fat. Not the most wanted advice in the world, but for a special occasion or just every once in a while, it’ll be worth it!

  • L

    Thanks all!

    Hi Kathleen – It was in Pike County, near Griggsville and Pittsfield… very much farm country. You are probably right that I shouldn’t have added so much more flour… but I wanted them thick.

    Kristina – yes, I think you are right. They definitely needed more fat. Last time, I cooked them in a deeper pan, but it had rounded sides so they were too greasy (and still not crisp). This time, I used a non-stick griddle, and the oil wouldn’t stay put, so they kind of cooked dry. Next time, I’ll go with a deeper, flat bottomed pan, so they have smomething to sizzle in.

  • Geneve

    I guess I’ll have to leave my monster zucchini’s at home when I fly in a few weeks ;).
    Your zucchini cheese patties look fantastic!

  • Gabriella

    classic. I saw that photo up on flikr and laughed so hard.

    I just updated my links in my blog and added yours. xo Gabriella

  • shammi

    Well, your rubbery rounds still look DEEElish! What gorgeous photography! :)

  • jules

    love your zucchini pic

    • Lara Ferroni

      Thanks I used it later if you know what I mean he he

  • lobstersquad

    well, they still look gorgeous, if that?Ǭ¥s any consolation.