Herbed Zucchini-Feta Fritters from Lokanta Maya
Have you ever eaten Turkish cuisine? After I lived in London in the late ’90s, I returned to the United States with a great appreciation for the flavorful dishes of this country with its vast landscape. So when I saw that as part of the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference a few weeks ago, Didem Senol (photo above), the owner of Lokanta Maya and an alumna of the French Culinary Institute in New York, would be leading a demonstration class about the culture and cooking of her country, I signed up to learn more about it.
Among the delicious examples of Turkish cooking that we were able to enjoy during the demo were these crisp, fluffy Herbed Zucchini-Feta Fritters known as Mücver with a cool, creamy yogurt sauce. Flecked with dill, mint, and parsley with chunks of feta nestled throughout, the fritters were served to us right from the frying oil, hot yet delicate and not heavy at all. After munching on these tasty bites, a number of hands went up in the air asking where we could get her recipe for these. Then, the May issue of Food & Wine magazine arrived in my mailbox. Flipping through it, I saw that Chef Senol and her wonderful fritters were there in a feature about Istanbul and mezze. Could I make these at home and possibly hope to replicate them?
As Chef Senol explained to us, one of the keys to achieving the light texture of the fritters was to salt the zucchini and then squeeze as much water out of them as possible before adding it to the flour, egg, cheese, and herbs. That way, the batter isn’t too runny, and the fritters will crisp up nicely. I used my hands and grasped small fistfuls of the grated zucchini pieces, squeezing them with lots of might to force out as much liquid as possible. From other recipes that call for this same technique, I’d also recommend your piling the zucchini in a cheesecloth and twist and squeeze that to get the same results.
One of the other main attributes of these little delights, which comes through the moment your teeth break through the hot crust and settle into the soft interior of the fritter is how the combination of the dill, parsely, and mint complement the zucchini and brighten the flavor of the dough. There’s a grassy, springlike freshness to these fritters with each bite being lively and slightly complex without being overpoweringly herbal. I realized about two-thirds of the way through mincing the herbs by hand, running a knife over them multiple times, that I was doing it the hard way. If you have a mezzaluna, I recommend taking that route instead to save time and give you more uniform results.
Once the drained zucchini and herbs are combined with the feta, egg, and flour, it comes out looking like this. While the mixture sets in the fridge, it is the perfect time to turn to making the sauce.
As you can see from the second photo, my sauce didn’t come out looking anything like the one that Chef Senol had created. Although the recipe called for everything to be mixed separately into the yogurt, I wonder if it had all been put through the food processor which would then capture more of the color of the mint in the final product. Also, my cucumber didn’t seem to be as finely minced as hers. Next time, I’m going to experiment with the sauce a bit more to see if I can get it to be gorgeously silken and light-green-hued as hers.
I ended up shallow frying these, rather than deep frying them in a saucepan, per the instructions. This took a bit longer to cook them, but I don’t think the results came out any less perfect. I don’t have a deep-fryer in my house, so next time, I’ll have to figure out how to use that technique without making a complete mess of my kitchen and setting off the smoke detector.
These do cook up quite quickly, with the crust becoming a beautiful golden brown.
I divided the recipe in half, so I was able to cook everything in two batches. This made about 10 fritters that were about two tablespoons of batter each. Some were a bit bigger than that, so if you were more precise and uniform than I when dropping the zucchini mixture into the pan, you could get about 12-14 fritters from half a batch.
Here’s my results. While they didn’t come out looking exactly the same as the ones that our group enjoyed during Chef Senol’s demo, they were no less delicious. The hot, crisp fritters combined with creamy, refreshing yogurt sauce made a wonderful snack. I would definitely make these again, especially when faced with the end of the summer bounty of herbs and zucchini.