Garden2Table Recipe Corner: Zucchini & Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Mint Dip

Aug 8, 2021 | Recipes

Photo:  snaped.fns.usa.gov

By Cassandra D’Antonio (SEMG 2012),
Chair of the Garden2Table Committee

Zucchini is in the garden and on the menu in this month’s column. The approaching end of summer means the arrival of prime zucchini season. From what I have heard from many of you, they are also taking up space on our counters and being stored in sacks in our pantries or cars waiting to be wanted by friends and family and baked or cooked into something more creative than bread.

Zucchini plants are quite easy to grow and when healthy, they produce abundantly. Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash in the Cucurbitaceae plant family, alongside melons, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers. Although zucchini is often considered a vegetable, it is botanically classified as a fruit (it has seeds).

Nutritional Benefits of Zucchini.  Besides being just a large water-ladened fruit, according to Healthline.com (12 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Zucchini), zucchini provides the following 12 evidence-based nutritional benefits:

  1. Contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Cooked zucchini is particularly high in vitamin A, though raw zucchini contains slightly less.
  2. Boasts several antioxidants that may provide various health benefits. The highest levels are found in the fruit’s skin.
  3. Rich in water and fiber, two compounds which can promote healthy digestion by reducing your risk of constipation and symptoms of various gut disorders.
  4. Its fiber may increase insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels, potentially reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  5. Its fiber, potassium, and carotenoids may lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease.
  6. Rich in manganese, lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins A and C — nutrients which contribute to healthy vision and may lower your risk of age-related eye conditions.
  7. Rich in water and fiber yet low in calories, all of which may help reduce hunger and help you feel full — potentially leading to weight loss over time.
  8. Rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamin K and magnesium, all of which can help strengthen bones.
  9. Test-tube and animal studies indicate that zucchini extracts may help kill or limit the growth of certain cancer cells; however, human research is needed.
  10. Animal research shows that zucchini seed extracts may help limit prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate that commonly causes urinary and sexual difficulties in older men.
  11. Testing in rats reveals that zucchini peel extracts may help keep thyroid hormone levels stable; however, research in humans is needed.
  12. Can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews, sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and more.

Herbs & Spices: Before we get to this month’s zucchini-based recipe, let’s talk herbs and spices, which add a lot of fat free and very low-calorie flavor, and have some real health benefits. Used in small amounts, they add flavor to your food, and also boost your immune system. When cooking for guests, be aware that some people are highly sensitive to spices yet are fine with herbs. Here are some examples provided by Ralph C. Brauer’s Healthy Cooking Tips:

HERBS: 

Fenugreek: This amazing herb can regulate your glucose level and help to keep you feeling full for a long period of time.  This heart friendly plant is also rich in iron.
Thyme: Add thyme to your dish to facilitate digestion and enjoy the flavor and the vitamin C found in this herb.
Rosemary: This herb is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B.
Mint: This plant helps digestion and prevents bloating.  It is also known for its soothing and calming effects.

SPICES:

Garlic: A super flavorful additional to any meal, garlic contains numerous compounds with many potent medicinal properties (11 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic).
Cinnamon: Sprinkling some cinnamon on your food regulates blood sugar and improves cholesterol.
Cayenne pepper: Use half a teaspoon to improve digestion and regulate your glucose level. It also improves cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Turmeric: This medicinal spice is loaded with health benefits as it fights bacteria and boosts the immune system. It is also considered to be heart healthy due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is used both as a spice and an herb.
Ginger: This powerhouse little root is great for digestion and can relief an aching belly.

We often consider food and wine, wine and cheese, and other food and drink pairings, but there are also great seasoning and vegetable pairings. Though the key is to experiment and find the flavor combination that you enjoy, here are a few to consider.

  • Basil loves tomatoes, and they return the love.

    Photo:  Jamie Oliver.com

  • Chives and parsley enhance the flavor of many vegetables.
  • Dill tastes great with green beans.
  • Marjoram pairs well with Brussels sprouts, carrots, and spinach.
  • Mint goes great with tomatoes, leafy greens, and other vegetables.
  • Oregano complements zucchini.
  • Rosemary goes great with squash, peas, and cauliflower.
  • Garlic goes great with everything, especially zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.

Cooking & Baking With Zucchini. New York Times Cooking has an Editor’s Collection called “Zucchini for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.” Unfortunately, unless you have a subscription, it is difficult to access these 49 fabulous and creative recipes (Zucchini for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner), such as Zucchini Pancakes, Zucchini & Egg Tart, Marinated Zucchini with Farro, Chickpeas and Parmesan, Zucchini Carpaccio, Lemony Zucchini Slaw, and even Zucchini Flan, to name just a few. After reading them all, one thing is clear: zucchini is prone to mushiness, and it is often critical to squeeze the water out of the zucchini before mixing it with other ingredients to avoid a soggy dish. The King Arthur Baking Company offers some of the best recipes and tips for baking with zucchini. According to King Arthur “In baking, consider zucchini as an ingredient like bananas or applesauce. It adds wonderful texture and moistness to baked goods and helps bulk up cakes and breads and muffins with a boost of nutrition, too!” (Baking with Zucchini).

Zucchini & Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Mint Dip

Photo:  NYT Cooking

It was difficult to select just one of these many recipes for August’s featured recipe, in the end, I chose Melissa Clark’s Zucchini & Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Mint Dip, (Source: Melissa Clark for New York Times Cooking) because these crispy fritters make a great appetizer and ideal cocktail accompaniment. As described by Ms. Clark herself: “Hot, salty, crunchy: They can be devoured in one or two bites.”

Serve these crispy fritters with a creamy dip of yogurt, mint, and garlic, and watch them disappear.


Yield
| 3 dozen
Time | 1 hour

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed   2  large carrots, grated (about 1 ½ cup)
1 tsp baking powder   1  large zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 tsp tsp coriander   2 scallions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp kosher salt, more for serving   1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup cup milk, more as needed   1/2 cup plain yogurt
1  large egg   1 Tbsp  mint, chopped
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest   1 Tbsp  extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper      

 Preparation

Step 1: To make the batter for the fritters: in large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, coriander and ½ tsp salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together milk, egg, lemon zest, and pepper.

Step 2:  Pour dry ingredients into wet; whisk until just blended (do not overmix). Batter should be slightly thicker than cream. If batter is too thick, add milk; if too thin, sprinkle with additional flour. Stir in carrots, zucchini, and scallions. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Step 3:  To make yogurt dip: using a mortar and pestle or the back of a knife, mash together garlic and ¼ tsp salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic paste, yogurt, mint and 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 4:  Fill a wide saucepan with one inch of olive oil; heat until the temperature registers 375⁰ on a deep-fry thermometer (or until a small drip of batter browns immediately). Line a cookie sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, drop battered vegetables by the tablespoon into the oil, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until golden all over, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer fritters to the cookie sheet to drain. Transfer fritters to a platter or plate; sprinkle with salt and serve with yogurt dip.

Notes:  According to the comments included with this recipe, some have used a non-stick pan or well-seasoned cast iron griddle with just a small amount of oil to fry to fritters, and they have turned out great. While others baked them in a 400⁰ convection oven for 10 minutes and then flipped and baked for another 8 minutes; not as crispy as frying – still delicious. Others have substituted chickpea/garbanzo flour for a gluten-free dish.

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