Zucchini fritters with goat cheese and pine nuts

Zucchini Fritters

With a ringing of bells, a man entered our store. He was slim and elegant and quite dapper in an understated 60s Greenwich Village way. He wore some of the coolest sneakers I’ve seen in a while. He walked straight to me, without looking around, and he clutched something under his arm. My heart sank. We have more people come into our store trying to sell things than the other way around, sadly. I was late to meet someone, we can’t afford to buy anything at the moment – but he held a book of photographs, and I took the time to look. They were beautiful – black and white, quite dark in tone and mood. He explained that they were of Bosnia, his home country, during the 70s and 80s. I told him we weren’t in the financial position to buy anything, however much we liked it. He turned to leave, but halfway along, he stopped. He told me he loved the store. He said that “they” were trying to squash craft and art and creativity, but that a wave was coming that they couldn’t stop. He said it would wash right over the bunkers that they build out of all the crap that they make us watch and eat and read. He was very eloquent. He said we would be okay because of a good way of life (he rubbed his belly) and a pure soul (he put his hand on his heart). It was like a strange benediction. When he left I felt a slight trace of regret – that I didn’t have more time to talk to him, maybe, or that I couldn’t help him by buying his prints.

My favorite cooking utensil – the one I use for absolutely every meal I make, is a wooden stirrer-scraper that David made. It’s made from curly maple, and it’s the perfect combination of beauty and function. It’s long-handled, but the handle is tapered, so it doesn’t fall into your pot, or fall out of your pot and clatter in a big mess on the floor. Its straight beveled edge is absolutely perfect for scraping the bottom of the pan when you add white wine, to get all the lovely caramely tasty bits mixed into the sauce. I love that David made it, and that I use it to make meals for the family. I love that it takes on the colors of the food I cook, and that, as it does, its beautiful, rippled grain becomes more visible.

Of course I used it to make these zucchini fritters!! They’re fairly simple – crispy outside, soft in, melty with goat cheese and crunchy with pine nuts. (My god they’re good! I haven’t splurged on them in a while and I’d forgotten how delicious they are!!) The fritters are lightly flavored with fennel, lemon, and basil – summery! Malcolm invented the dipping sauce. We’d been eating salted limes, and he thought that if limes were good with salt, they’d be good with tamari. The sauce is full of flavor – ginger, garlic, lime, tamari and hot pepper. It’s unusual with the fritters, but really lovely. You could, of course, make any other sort of sauce you like with them.

Here’s The Specials with Too Hot, because it’s close to 100 degrees here, and we’re melting!

1 large zucchini, or 2 small (about 1 1/2 cups, grated) coarsely grated
4 scallions, cleaned and minced. White parts and a few inches of green included
1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped into ribbons
1 t fennel seeds, crushed with a knife
zest of half a lemon
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 small slices of bread – ground into crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1 egg
salt and plenty of pepper

Olive oil for frying

You want to try to get as much moisture as possible out of the zucchini. You can put it in a strainer, with a plate and a weight on it for a while. I find the best thing is to take it in small handfuls and squeeze the heck out of it. Once it’s fairly drained, put it in a big bowl.

Add everything else. Mix well. Let the batter sit for about ten minutes, as you get the pan ready. I used a wok, and put about 1/2 inch of olive oil in the bottom. When it was hot enough to fry a bread crumb, I put the fritter batter in, a tablespoon at a time. (I could do three at once) I flattened the batter to get ultimate crispy-surface-to-soft-inside ratio.

When it’s brown on one side, after a few minutes, turn it onto the other side, and cook till brown. Remove to a paper towel to drain, and then keep warm in an oven on lowish heat.

SAUCE

1 T olive oil
3 T tamari
1 T balsamic
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 clove garlic – minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
1 t raw or brown sugar
1/3 cup water

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and lime zest. When things start to get brown, add the tamari, balsamic, sugar, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for ten or fifteen minutes. And that’s that!!

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