A much sought after appetizer served at all Greek taverns today. In the old days it was considered a poor man’s’ keftedes (meatballs), for the people who could not afford to buy meat. The mixture is very similar to the one for the crust-less pie, but needs to be drier, so squeeze more liquid out of the grated zucchini. Similar appetizers are made in the winter with greens (horta). Spinach, chard or mixed wild greens can be used, and the fritters are called hortokeftedes.
Scroll down for Oven-roasted Patties, a VARIATION I developed for EATING WELL magazine
part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).
Makes 6 to 8 meze servings
4 cups grated zucchini (3-4 zucchini)
1 cup finely chopped onion, or bunch of scallions finely sliced/chopped, white and most of the green parts
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated hard myzithra, kefalotyri, Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 1 cup toasted whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon Greek dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil and safflower oil, for frying
1 cup thick Greek yogurt (optional) or tzatziki
Toss the zucchini and onion with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and let them drain in a colander for at least 1 hour. Squeeze handfuls of the mixture to extract as much water as possible.
In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, parsley, cheese, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, egg, basil, oregano, and pepper to taste.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 1/2 inches of a combination of olive and safflower oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.
Make a test fritter: Stir the zucchini mixture and, using a spoon, scoop a heaping tablespoon (about the size of a golf ball). Fry in the hot oil, turning once, until browned, about 3 minutes. If too wet, adjust the texture with more breadcrumbs, as needed. Also correct the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as necessary. Fry the rest of the fritters, in batches, and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Serve them hot or warm, accompanied with thick yogurt, if you like, or tzatziki. Also good at room temperature.
Oven-roasted Zucchini Turnovers
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Oil a baking sheet, or better line the pan with parchments paper and brush it with olive oil.
Stir the zucchini mixture and using a spoon or a ¼ measuring cup, scoop from the zucchini mixture and with the help of a second spoon dredge in the breadcrumb-flour, shape into a flattish patty and place on the lined baking dish. Shape the rest of the mixture then brush the patties liberally with olive oil and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Depending on your oven, you may need to flip the patties after 15 minutes to get them evenly baked.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, with yogurt on the side, if you like…