I am crazy for vegetables.
Seriously. I mean, I would never expect to subsist on them alone (and have literally no desire to), but I love all things vegetable so much that if you asked me for a last-meal request, it would likely be a well-designed salad.
At home, on a day-to-day basis, I tend to keep my veggie preparation pretty simple. Raw or steamed, with minimal adornment, besides maybe a little butter. Sometimes I’ll go crazy and roast stuff, but 95 percent of the time, my side dishes of choice would be perceived as pretty boring, to the layman.
For clients and company, and on those days where I simply want to be a little more theatrical and extravagant with my veggies, I will design a more complex dish. We all know that most of us could use more veggies in our diets, but some people might need a little more coaxing to really enjoy them.
Fritters are a great way to dress up humble veggies, showcase whatever is in season, enhance less-flavorful specimens in the off-season, and turn vegetables from a simple, boring side dish, to a more substantial and central dish. Even the most picky eaters seem more apt to eat a vegetable that is enhanced with cheesy goodness and fried to crispy deliciousness.
Fritters can be made with almost any vegetable you can imagine and are a great way to use up random items in your produce drawer. The biggest key is to be sure the vegetables have been squeezed of excess liquid to get a good crunch and avoid soggy fritters. Here, I’ve used a mixture of daikon radish, cauliflower, zucchini, and onion, heightened with bold pecorino and parmesan cheese. This recipe serves as a great base for seasonal additions and is chock-full of vitamins and minerals from the daikon and cauliflower, both members of the cruciferous vegetable family, the most nutritious of all.
To dress these up further, you could easily mix up the cheese for unique flavor combinations. Additions of seasonal veggies—things like peas or asparagus in spring; corn or bell peppers in summer; squash, root veggies, or dark, leafy greens in fall and winter—create alluring flavor profiles and new textures and will often change the fritter completely. I often wind up eating these by themselves as a stand-alone meal or a “snack” (usually while I’m cooking them… it’s called quality control), but they really make an incredible side dish served alongside grilled or roasted meats or as part of a potluck or picnic spread. Serve with lemon wedges, sour cream, tzatziki, or another dip of your choice, if desired.
Shredded Vegetable Fritters with Pecorino and Parmesan
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes 12 fritters
1 daikon radish, grated and squeezed dry
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 green onions, sliced
1 small handful parsley, chopped
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup pecorino cheese
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup almond meal or ¼ cup einkorn flour
Butter, to fry
- Grate zucchini and daikon and squeeze dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place in a large bowl. Pulse cauliflower in food processor until finely chopped. Alternately, grate on the large side of a box grater. Add to bowl with daikon. Add onion, green onion, parsley, cheeses, egg, and almond meal to bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- In a large pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. When hot, pick up about ¼ cup of the mixture, using gloved hands, squeeze excess liquid out with your hands, and shape into a flat fritter about ½ inch thick. Place in butter, then repeat with remaining mixture, being careful not to crowd in the pan. You’ll likely need to cook in batches.
- Fry fritters on first side until deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip over using a spatula, and cook other side. When cooked, transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and keep warm in a 200°F oven. Repeat with remaining mixture until used up. Discard any liquid remaining in the bowl from the veggies releasing their moisture from the salt.
- Serve fritters hot or at room temperature with accompanying condiments.
Image from Briana Goodall.