This recipe came to me by way of The Food Project’s weekly Wednesday cooking competition, in which groups of Interns from TFP’s 3 sites (Lincoln, Boston, and the North Shore) are pitted against each other Iron Chef style to battle it out over an ingredient theme. Two Wednesdays ago, the theme was zucchini, and the winning team made a riff on these cakes from Nigel Slater’s book The Kitchen Diaries.
John came home raving about the cakes, and having a fridge full of zucchini, a garden full of dill, and Mr. Slater’s book in the pantry, we made our own batch of cakes that same night for dinner. And then we made them again two nights later, and then again for brunch on the weekend, and then again last night. So, um, you could say we like them.
Or more accurately: we love them. I might even go as far as to say this is my favorite recipe of the summer. Totally unlike any shredded vegetable patty I’ve ever had, these are more like little zucchini dumplings – think the texture of the softest ricotta gnocchi, but with a crisp outer crust. Richly flavorful, meltingly tender, and oozing melted feta, these little cakes make a pretty stellar first course served simply with a drizzle of lemon. You can dress them up with a smear of crème fraiche (I blended mine with a little basil pesto) or make them dinner with a green salad and a soft poached egg.
Makes 6-8 cakes – serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer.
Nigel Slater’s Zucchini Cakes with Feta and Dill
Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries
- 1 lb zucchini (about 1 large or 2-3 small), shredded
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 small bunch dill, washed, dried, and finely chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- Vegetable and/or olive oil for frying
- Lemon wedges to serve
Sprinkle the shredded zucchini with a little salt and set in a colander in the sink to drain for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes passes, press the zucchini against the colander and ring it with your hands to remove as much excess water as possible. Set aside.
Set a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. Once hot, sauté the onions 3-5 minutes until soft and aromatic. Add the garlic and the drained zucchini and sauté another 2-3 minutes until everything begins to brown. Add the flour and cook an additional minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the dill, egg, and feta cheese and mix to combine.
Set a large skillet over medium heat and add a good layer of oil to the bottom of the pan (about ¼ inch.) Allow to heat 2 minutes and then, using a soup spoon, carefully spoon small pancake-size portions of the zucchini batter into the pan, leaving plenty of space between each. Cook until golden brown on the bottom – about 2-3 minutes, and then using a spatula, carefully flip the cakes over and cook an additional 2 minutes on the other side.
Transfer the cakes to paper towel to drain briefly. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.