Beignets de courgettes

Zucchini fritters

This is a French take on a dish I discovered on a Greek island. The fritters are surprisingly light and go well with tzadziki. They can be served at cocktail hour, as a veggie alongside grilled meat or fish, or as part of a mezze spread (see below for suggestions).

The trick to achieving lightness is to squeeze and press as much liquid as possible out of the zucchini and onion once they’ve been grated. A beaten egg white also lightens the batter. The fritters should be fried as soon as the batter is ready.

The amount of oil needed depends on the size of your pot or skillet. The oil should be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. It can be reused by filtering it into a jar through a sieve once it’s cooled down, and will keep for about a month in the fridge.

The quantities below will make about 16 small fritters.

1 medium zucchini
1 medium onion
1 sprig fresh mint
2 sprigs fresh dill
2 sprigs fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60 g) flour
1 tsp. baking powder

1 egg
1-2 cups (25-50 cl) oil for frying

Rinse the zucchini, slice off the ends and grate finely. Pile into a measuring cup, without tamping it down. You are aiming for one cup (1/4 liter) of grated zucchini. Any extra may be reserved for another use or discarded.

Transfer the grated zucchini to a sieve over the sink. Squeeze and press down to remove as much liquid as possible. Leave to drain.

Peel and quarter the onion. Chop finely in a food processor, or grate by hand (this is easier said than done). Measure — this time you are aiming for 1/2 cup (1/8 liter).

Turn the grated zucchini into a large bowl. Now transfer the onion to the sieve and press down as you did with the zucchini. Leave to drain.

Finely slice or snip the fresh herbs. Add to the zucchini. Add the salt and grind in some black pepper. Now add the drained onion. Stir well to blend.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, but do not add yet. Line a large plate with paper towels for draining the fritters as they are done. Have the oil ready in a heavy-bottomed pot or skillet.

You can pause at this point if you like. Once you resume, things will go quickly.

Separate the egg. Beat the white until it forms soft peaks.

Stir the flour and baking powder into the zucchini mixture. Blend well. Gently fold in the beaten egg white. Stir to blend.

Heat the oil over high heat. When it shimmers, add a small bit of batter. If the oil sizzles around the batter, it’s hot enough. If not, let the oil heat a bit more.

Now fry the fritters in batches. Drop a heaping teaspoon of batter into the oil. Repeat, but do not crowd the pan. Flip the fritters as they start to brown. When golden, remove to the paper towels. Start a new batch, and continue until you’ve used all the batter.

Serve hot. If serving the fritters as part of a mezze spread, they pair nicely with spicy eggplant caviar, herbal tomato salad, tangy fava spread, tarama, bresaola and, especially, tzadziki. To make your own tzadziki, stir a little grated cucumber into Greek yogurt. Add a minced clove of garlic, a spritz of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you’d like to make the fritters ahead of time, you can reheat them for about 5 minutes in a medium oven.

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