jude’s culinary journey

Frittering around

Posted 8/23/23

Who doesn’t like fritters? Even the word sounds cute. A croquette is nice, but a fritter is a delight. 

In some form or another, fritters (or patties–another adorable name for …

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jude’s culinary journey

Frittering around


Who doesn’t like fritters? Even the word sounds cute. A croquette is nice, but a fritter is a delight. 

In some form or another, fritters (or patties–another adorable name for them) are eaten in cultures all over the globe as snacks, appetizers, vegetable side dishes or desserts. 

The Greeks enjoy fritters as part of a typical mezze, a feast of small dishes eaten before a main meal; or if served with anise-flavored liqueurs such as arak, ouzo, or raki, as the entire meal. The fritters are made with such vegetables as cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes or greens like Swiss chard, and seasoned with cinnamon, dill or mint. 

In the Middle East, ground fava beans or chickpeas are mixed with herbs and spices and formed into fritters or orbs called falafel, which are tucked into warm, freshly baked pita bread along with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickled radishes and a ground sesame sauce called tahini.

Seasoned ground beef patties baked inside a suet dough are the most popular snack in Jamaica. At little stalls specializing in these savory treats, one can also find them filled with shrimp, cheese, lobster, pork, lamb and dried cod, which is called salt fish. West Africans make fritters of black-eyed peas or sweet potatoes, while in Puerto Rico, the calabaza squash, with its naturally sweet flavor, is combined with nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, and served for breakfast. 

Italians in Sicily make a savory round fritter of leftover Arborio rice, mozzarella, beef and peas; and in Trieste and Venice a fritella of sweet dough is laced with raisins and orange or lemon zest, fried and served as dessert. 

Another Italian dessert or snack is zucchini flowers filled with ricotta cheese, dipped in batter, deep fried and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

No country can hold a candle to India, where chickpea flour is used to make onion fritters called bhajias and myriad pakora pockets filled with lentils, spiced potatoes, eggplant and fish or meat, the last two chopped or ground. These are eaten as appetizers before a meal or with afternoon tea.

Food & Wine magazine once had a piece on fritters and came up with unusual ones. To name just a few it suggested: leek and mushroom; tuna fish drizzled with, of all things, honey; crisp and creamy chicken fritters and Portuguese salt cod fritters called bolinhos.

I have only one issue with fritters that sometimes steers me away from a recipe that sounds intriguing. Most of them are deep-fried, which is a preparation I do not favor. My mother never deep-fried anything, and I make fried chicken only once or twice a year, feeling just slightly queasy after chowing down.

Deep-frying is an art and one must be expert at keeping the oil at a certain temperature to assure greaseless results. 

I’ve had successful results pan-frying, or sautéing, fritters in a thin layer of oil or butter. If I have to use more oil when pan-frying, I blot my fritters on paper towels afterward, often keeping them warm in the oven (at around 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit) while I work. 

Some fritters, such as those I’ve made with crabmeat; tinned, flaked salmon; or a mixture of pork and beef (my Pakistani spiced meat patties) work well baked in a hot oven.

I’ve made fritters both sweet and savory. Corn fritters with fresh sweet, summer corn and served as a side dish with maple syrup are delicious. Eggplant, baked until soft, scraped from its skin and mixed with a bonding agent and fresh herbs makes for a crispy outer layer and creamy inner. I make a savory spinach fritter, and an even better easy and flavorful one—popular in Greece—made with grated zucchini, chopped scallions, crumbled feta cheese and bright-tasting fresh herbs such as dill, parsley and mint. These are terrific for brunch or a light dinner served with a dressed, tossed salad, or as a vegetable side dish alongside grilled burgers, fish or chicken. 

And let’s not forget fritters at the cocktail hour. These finger foods can be the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine, sangria or any tipple of one’s choice.

zucchini fritters, jude's culinary journey


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