Our New Comfort Food: Zucchini Cakes

By Casey Seidenberg

Lettuce used to be king of our backyard garden, but zucchini has nudged its way in and currently owns the place. It is a routine and happy morning when we lift up the big green leaves to discover two or three more have ripened. Zucchini is delicious rubbed with olive oil and grilled, or roasted with fresh herbs, but our favorite way to cook our prolific harvest is to fry up a batch of zucchini cakes.

Kids are drawn to things that are called cakes, generally like things that are fried, and have fun dipping their food, so chances are your children will like these or at least be willing to try them. They are lunchbox-friendly as they hold their shape and are delicious at room temperature.

Fried foods aren’t generally considered good for us, especially when made with unhealthful fats. But this recipe uses just a small quantity of two heart-friendly oils, which are healthful fats that provide the body with energy and are important for the brain.

A friend gave me this recipe, and from that day these cakes have become a weekly staple in our house. It helps that our garden is bestowing so much summer squash and also all of the green onions, dill and parsley we need to round out the recipe. It makes for a cheap and easy dinner!

A few fun facts for your kids next time you serve up this delicious summer vegetable:

* Zucchini is a relative of the melon and the cucumber. My kids thought this was cool. There was a lot of talk about which other vegetables are cousins.

* Summer squash are completely edible, skin to seed, though winter squash have inedible shells and seeds that need to be roasted, dehydrated or cooked in some manner.

And just how healthful is zucchini?

* It is loaded with manganese, a mineral that is important for building tissue, bones and hormones.

* Zucchini is chock-full of potassium and magnesium, both of which are important for the heart, among many other functions.

* The vegetable is a substantial supplier of Vitamin C and other antioxidants that help prevent cancer and disease.

* Zucchini is full of fiber. Our bodies need fiber to keep food moving through the intestine and to remove cholesterol from the body.

* When cooking zucchini, be sure to leave the skin on to get heaps of antioxidants.

Recipe: Zucchini Cakes with Feta Adapted From Bon Appetit, Makes 12-18 patties, depending on size

11 / 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 large)

1 tsp salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

½ cup (or more) all-purpose flour

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

½ cup chopped green onions

1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill

½ cup (about) olive oil

½ cup (about) grapeseed oil

Plain Greek yogurt (optional, for dipping)

Toss zucchini and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a sieve. Press out excess liquid; place zucchini in a dry bowl. Mix in egg, egg yolk, ½ cup flour, cheese, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix in parsley, onions and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonful.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels. Serve with yogurt.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, September 6, 2012