It happens to everyone at one point or another: You find yourself with zucchini coming out of your ears. Maybe you have a garden, and it's the end of summer. Maybe your friend has a garden, and she's gifted several pounds of giant veg to you. Maybe the heirlooms at the farmers market were so pretty you bought too many.
Whatever it is, after a lifetime of looking for delicious things to do with the cartoonishly prolific summer squash, I've found it: The most insanely delicious zucchini dish ever.
The fritter is the creation of my step-cousin Barry Kalb, who is a gifted cook, a former journalist and restaurateur and an all-around amazing person with a super-interesting story.
Barry moved to Hong Kong in 1975 to work for NBC News, then became a staff correspondent for CBS News before heading to West Berlin in 1979 as Eastern Europe bureau chief for Time magazine. His Time gig later took him to Rome, then New York and eventually back to Hong Kong. In 1987, still in Hong Kong, he quit journalism and became a restaurateur – opening Marco Polo Pizza, the first "genuine, Italian-style" pizzeria there. The following year, he opened what he describes as the first authentic Italian restaurant in Hong Kong – Il Mercato, in the Stanley Market on the south side of Hong Kong Island. He ran it until 2002, when he returned to journalism, as an editor at Voice of America's Hong Kong bureau.
These days Barry is writing fiction; he just published his second novel, a mystery – Chop Suey: A Tale of Hong Kong, China and the Chinese People. (I'm not usually one for mysteries, but I'm looking forward to diving into this one!) He and his wife Suzi divide their time between Hong Kong and Thailand; they have a house in Phuket, which is where he was when my mom died in June. Barry flew out for her memorial (which we held, with lots of food and wine, at my mom's favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant) and to spend some extended time with Warren.
To soothe ourselves and each other, we cooked. We needed comfort food. One night I made my mom's chicken curry, a family favorite. Another night Barry made a wonderful Italian braised meat dish, scottiglia con polenta – preceded by Greek-style zucchini fritters so delicious they blew us all away.
Why Greek-style? Barry fell in love with the fritters that inspired them in Greece, where he and Suzi are building a house – on the island of Meganisi, south of Corfu, just off the larger island of Lefkada. "When we arrive in Lefkada, en route to Meganisi," says Barry, "we always head for our favorite restaurant on the island, Margarita's, which serves the best zucchini balls we've found anywhere in Greece (and which introduced us to the dish)." It was this fritter than Barry set out to recreate. What sets them apart from other zucchini fritters is tons of chopped fresh herbs – mint and dill and parsley – along with a healthy dose of crumbled feta.
I think you'll love them, and they're easy to make. You grate the zucchini on a box grater, sprinkle it with salt, let it sit for an hour, then squeeze out the liquid. Mix the zucchini with egg, breadcrumbs, the crumbled feta, herbs, ground cumin and pepper, form the mixture into patties, dredge them in flour, and fry them on both sides in olive oil.
Barry's were pretty big – about three inches, with a shape like a flattened ball – and required a fork to eat, which I'm guessing is how you eat them at Margarita's. (I hope I have the occasion to find out one day!)
For my adaptation, I made them a little smaller – finger food – and added tangy yogurt sauce with punched with lemon zest, which is wonderful with the minty thing the fritter has going for it. Got zucchini? You want this recipe:
Do try it, and let us know what you think!