Unlikely Milestones

Zucchini cakes with yogurt sauce

Every once in a while, I look down at the plate of food I am about to eat, and realize just how far I have come. Even so recently as last summer I would never have considered making the meal we ate for dinner last night. But there it was in front of me: zucchini cakes with a garlicky yogurt sauce for dipping, prepared by my own hands with no prompting from anyone. And what’s more, I really enjoyed it, wished vaguely that I had made more, and have no doubt that we’ll be eating these again before the summer is out.

Zucchini, being a squash, has always been one of those vegetables (or, technically, fruits) that I have avoided eating at all costs. I disliked its squishy, slimy cooked interior texture and its blandness, and still do, frankly. But this may be the recipe that reconciles me to zucchini, being neither bland nor mushy. Actually, it didn’t taste of zucchini at all, particularly; I half imagined I was eating potato cakes for dinner, and that’s not a bad thought.

The recipe wasn’t really even a recipe, more of a guide that I found at Nosheteria, and it was the dill and feta that talked me into trying it. The bright zing of garlic, feta, and dill in the yogurt dip—some of my favorite flavors, but still shocking that I now sometimes eat unsweetened, or even savory, yogurt—were echoed perfectly in the crisp and golden brown cakes. This may even be a reason to try growing some zucchini plants in the back yard next year.

Zucchini Pancakes

Grate up a few small zucchini via box grater or food processor. Leave the skins on, but slice out the seed centers if you have particularly large specimens. Set at least a cup aside for making zucchini muffins, adding to pasta, etc.; salt the remaining zucchini shreds (you will want at least 1 C per person, more if this is your main course) and leave them to drain for a half hour in a colander over a small bowl. They will let off quite a bit of moisture; dump them into a light kitchen towel and squeeze as you would thawed frozen spinach to remove all the excess liquid. They will reduce by a third to a half in volume, but don’t let that worry you.

While the zucchini sweats it out, soften some sliced scallion, leek, onion or shallot with a clove of minced garlic. When tender, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir this mixture into the drained zucchini when it is ready with a few tablespoons of chopped fresh dill and one egg, and stir well to combine. Start adding flour a few tablespoons at a time, until you have a loose but not liquidy batter, probably somewhere between a quarter and a half cup of flour depending on the size of your egg and the moisture left in your zucchini.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and spoon in the batter a few tablespoons at a time (I use my 2-T disher), flatten gently to a pancake shape, and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. I serve these with a tangy sauce consisting of 1/2 C plain yogurt stirred up with 1 T minced garlic, 1 T fresh chopped dill, 2 -3 T crumbled feta cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. A poached or fried egg would be right at home in this company.

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