MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE:'Zucchini, zucchini everywhere'

By Nick Roumel

This is the time of year when your well-meaning friends give you zucchini, invariably the size of torpedoes. As if the size of the zucchini is an impressive achievement in itself. It is usually presented along the lines of "Look what a large zucchini I grew!" accompanied by beaming pride, as if it were a new baby.

Please do not tell them that zucchini are more flavorful and tender if picked sooner, for it will hurt their feelings. But zucchini do grow fast, and like to hide under those big green leaves. A cute baby can grow to an unruly teenager a matter of days. Oh wait, I was talking about zucchini.

Fortunately there are uses for the abundant green harvest of summer, large or small. I'm not here to give you a zucchini bread recipe. No, I'm going to fatten you up instead with fried food.

Fried zucchini can be delicious. Its zippy crunch is a perfect foil for the fryer. The key is to not eat too many. A few are fine as an appetizer; a few more and you'll feel like that torpedo is lying in your stomach. So I recommend three or four of the zucchini fritters below, or one or two of the fried Frisbees. Along with a salad, a glass of wine, and maybe a few wind sprints.

The first recipe is a variation of the zucchini fritters you will often see in Greece; it is adapted from "Taverna, The Best of Casual Mediterranean Cooking," by Joyce Goldstein.

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Zucchini Fritters

* 1 lb small zucchini, coarsely grated (if you use a large one, be sure to scoop out the large seeds).

* salt and freshly ground pepper.

* a pinch of Aleppo or cayenne pepper.

* 1/2 lb feta cheese, or equal parts feta and kasseri, a hard Greek cheese (I used feta and Parmesan Reggiano).

* 6 green (spring) onions, minced.

* 1 small red pepper, diced fine.

* 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill.

* 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint.

* 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten.

* 1 cup all purpose flour.

* peanut oil for frying.

Place the zucchini in a sieve or colander, salt it lightly and toss to mix. Let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture. (A few runs in a salad spinner will help as well. It is important to have the zucchini as dry as possible.) Using a kitchen towel, squeeze the zucchini dry and place it in a bowl. Crumble the cheese over the zucchini and add the green onions, dill, mint, parsley, eggs, flour and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. You should have a sticky mound that holds together well.

In a deep frying pan over medium high heat, pour in the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When the oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning when the edges turn brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Serve hot with tzatziki, Greek yogurt sauce.

Tzatziki

Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce

* 4 cups Greek style yogurt (I use Fage).

* 2 small regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely grated.

* salt and freshly ground pepper.

* 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced.

* fresh lemon juice to taste.

* 3 TB olive oil.

* 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or equal amounts chopped.

* fresh mint and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley.

Place grated cucumber in a sieve or colander, salt it lightly and toss to mix. Let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture.

In a bowl, combine the drained yogurt, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and stir to mix well. Using a kitchen towel, squeeze the cucumber dry. Fold the cucumber into the yogurt mixture and then stir in the mint or the mint and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

One last recipe:

Lazy man's Fried Zucchini Frisbees

* 1 torpedo sized zucchini, sliced into 1/4" disks.

* 1 egg.

* 1 tsp Frank's Hot Sauce (ancient Greek recipe).

* 1 cup flour .

* 1 TBS "Slap Yo' Mama" Cajun white pepper blend (another ancient Greek recipe), or seasoning salt with a pinch of cayenne peanut oil for frying.

Break an egg into a bowl with the Frank's and mix. Coat a zucchini disk. Place the flour and Slap Yo' Mama into a baggie with the zucchini disk and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Fry that Frisbee 'til golden brown on both sides. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, tzatziki, ranch dressing, ketchup, and/or Frank's. Replenish the egg mixture and flour mixture as needed, until your stomach begs you to stop.

On second thought, maybe you should make some zucchini bread with the leftovers. Swimsuit season's almost over, anyway.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor.

Published: Tue, Aug 16, 2011