Fritter away

How to turn about any food into a treat

Fritters are what you call a back-pocket recipe. The same technique can be employed to turn small amounts of practically anything into a satisfying and delectable treat. It's a wonderful way to take advantage of the overwhelming variety of produce that is locally available and is a handy way to use up leftovers and minimize waste. The basic formula is the same – two to three cups of a base ingredient is mixed with an egg and roughly a half cup of binder, usually flour or breadcrumbs. This mixture is then formed into patties and pan-fried in hot oil.

While a wide variety of ingredients are good candidates for a fritter, care must be taken to minimize the amount of moisture they will add to the mixture. Ingredients like broccoli, sweet corn, cauliflower and apples work best when lightly blanched or roasted. Summer squash and root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, beets and sweet potatoes can be grated and used raw but should first be salted, drained and squeezed dry before incorporating into the fritter mixture. These savory fritter recipes can do double duty as both side dish and main, breakfast or dinner. 

Broccoli Ham and Cheese Fritters

Top with a fried egg for a delicious veggie-packed brunch.
3 cups roughly chopped broccoli (include stems as well as florets)
¼ cup minced onion
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup flour (regular, whole wheat or GF flour all work fine)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt (use ¼ teaspoon regular salt)
4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
½ cup diced ham, optional
Oil for frying

Briefly steam the broccoli either on the stove or in the microwave for 3 minutes. Run the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking then drain. Squeeze the cooled broccoli dry with a kitchen towel. Chop the broccoli with a knife or in a food processor into pieces roughly the size of large peas, then transfer the chopped broccoli to a mixing bowl and add the minced onion, garlic and mustard. Crack in the egg and mix well. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl, then add this to the broccoli mixture and mix gently to combine. Gently fold in the grated cheese and diced ham. 

Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil (about two tablespoons) and, once the fat is shimmering, add ¼ cup dollops of the broccoli mixture to the pan, flattening each slightly with the back of a spoon or spatula. 

Cook for two to three minutes on the first side until golden brown, then flip and cook for an additional two minutes until cooked through and golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain. If necessary they can be held in a warm oven while you finish the rest of the fritters. Add more oil as necessary and repeat with the remaining batter.

Eggplant Fritters

1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
½ cup breadcrumbs, fresh or dry
1 egg
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
¾ teaspoon kosher salt or ½ teaspoon regular salt

To serve:

5 ounces arugula or frisee lettuce
Shaved red onion
1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half and rub each half with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the eggplant cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a colander and allow to drain for about 20 minutes. Transfer the drained eggplant to a mixing bowl and add herbs, breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan, pepper and salt and mix well. 

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add ¼ cup dollops of the eggplant mixture to the pan and flatten slightly with the back of the scoop. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining mixture. To serve, arrange the arugula or frisee on a serving platter and drizzle with the vinegar and an additional tablespoon of olive oil, then arrange the fritters on top and scatter the shaved onions over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan as desired. 

Berebere Spiced Zucchini and Carrot Fritters with Herbed Yogurt Sauce

½ pound each carrots and zucchini
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 egg
2 cloves minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1-2 teaspoons berbere seasoning
Olive oil for frying
½ cup crumbled feta, to serve

Grate the carrots and zucchini and mix with one teaspoon of the salt. Place in a colander over a bowl to drain for at least 15-30 minutes, pressing out as much liquid as you can. Crack the egg into a mixing bowl and beat well, then add the grated and drained vegetables, garlic and green onions and mix well. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, pepper and berbere seasoning to taste (some varieties are more intense than others). Add this to the vegetable mixture and mix gently to combine. 

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add ¼ cup dollops of the vegetable mixture to the pan and flatten slightly with the back of the scoop. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining mixture. Arrange on a serving platter and top with crumbled feta and serve with herbed yogurt sauce. 

Herbed Yogurt Sauce

½ cup Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small cucumber, seeded and grated
1 tablespoon each minced fresh mint, cilantro and parsley
A small pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients and taste for seasoning. Chill until ready to serve. 

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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