After having barely so much as looked at a frying pan in the last month, I finally had a chance to do some serious cooking this weekend. And by serious, I mean seriously unhealthy. Both Friday and Saturday night, I made pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. Pasta fit for four, eaten by two… On Saturday, a friend and I even devoured TWO kinds of pasta. But how could we not devour the handmade pumpkin and goat cheese ravioli, which had been shipped to my friend all the way from Texas?!
Pasta from Texas? you ask. YES, it IS that good. And my friend who was gracious enough to share the pasta with me happens to be the son of the guy behind Civello’s Raviolismo in Dallas, from whence the pasta came.
Even though I think I could eat handmade ravioli every meal of every day, I figured that by Sunday, it was high time to pay up for the past nights of gluttony. If only food could taste carb-y and buttery, without being full of carbs and butter…
That’s when I came across Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for zucchini fritters. The photos looked sooooo good that suddenly I was all a-flutter for fritters. But what I especially appreciated about Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, was that even though the fritters looks as good as if they were totally carb-y and buttery, they weren’t.
So with the remaining vegetables I had in the fridge, I set out to make a (relatively) healthy, and oh so satisfying breakfast. I heavily modified the original recipe from SK, but one very appealing aspect of fritter recipes is they’re very forgiving and allow for all kinds of improvisation. The word “fritter” applies to such a wide variety of dishes, and can be made using an endless array of ingredients and flavors: potatoes, apples, jalapenos – savory, sweet, spicy. And they also come in endless styles, some healthier than others, but when all is said and done, they are deliciously hearty.
I did apply some basic fritter techniques that are useful for all kinds of fritters –
1) eggs and flour are useful binding agents, but you can scale down on both for a lighter fritter
2) a well oiled cast iron skillet is your best friend when cooking these little guys
3) add another component if you want to turn fritters from a side dish into a meal. This time I added a yogurt sauce and a golden-fried egg (also cooked in the cast iron skillet)
Leek Asparagus Fritters
enough for about 8 3-inch wide fritters
The lovely thing about fritters is that you can add or subtract any number of ingredients. This recipe was inspired by one for zucchini fritters, but I only had half of a zucchini left in my fridge. Don’t have asparagus on hand? Try some finely chopped broccoli. No leeks to be found? Two to three scallions will work well to imitate the soft onion-y taste.
Fritters also keep well in the fridge or freezer. If refrigerating, they will last for about four days. If freezing, they’ll keep much longer. Before cooking frozen fritters, thaw in a refrigerator. Fry in hot olive oil over medium heat to re-heat.
For the fritters:
- 1 small zucchini
- 1/3 lb asparagus, or about 10-15 thin spears
- 2 small to medium leeks
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon ground sea salt, plus extra for the boil
- fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 4 oz plain yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- a pinch of nutmeg
- lemon zest or finely chopped scallions for garnish
- additional eggs for frying
Wash all the vegetables, paying special attention to the leeks, which often get sand in between the leaves.
Set salted water in a small stock pot to boil (about 1 teaspoon should do). This will be used for blanching the vegetables.
Shred the zucchini using an attachment on a food processor or a cheese grater. Since I only had to worry about one zucchini, I used a cheese grater. Cut the asparagus at a steep angel to get thin slices. If the asparagus is thick, you can use a peeler to cut into ribbons. Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the leeks.
Once the water is boiling, add the vegetable and boil for about 2-3 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. This will preserve the color and prevent further cooking. Dry vegetables either by gently squeezing out excess moisture with your hands, or using a cheesecloth or dishtowel. Removing this excess water is important for making sure that your fritters are fritter-y, and not soggy.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the flour and spices. Gently stir in the vegetables with a wooden spoon, making sure that they are evenly coated with the flour/egg mixture.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Butter is optional, but I like the additional flavor you get when using it. But it must be used with olive oil to prevent browning since you should be frying at a high temperature. When the oil is hot and a little shimmery, drop the fritter mixture using a slotted spoon into the pan. Don’t try to over crowd the pan, because this will make flipping more difficult. I cooked four at a time in a 12 inch wide skillet.
Cook on each side for about 4-5 minutes, or until browned. While one side is cooking, prepare the lemon yogurt sauce. Mix the yogurt with the lemon juice, and add a pinch of salt and nutmeg. Set sauce aside until ready to serve.
Once the fritters are done, remove to a paper-towel covered plate to absorb excess oil. Right after you have removed the fritters is the perfect time to fry up a couple of eggs. I used the same pan and oil for the eggs as I had for the fritters. The fritters should still be hot by the time the eggs finish, but if you’re worried, you can put the fritters in an oven on it’s lowest setting to keep warm and crisp.
Serve the fritters with a dollop of yogurt sauce, and a golden fried egg.