Okay, this is what I think, before even a glimpse into Larousse Gastronomique – “fritters” imply frying. Fritters do not result or benefit from a lot of rules. Got a dab of this veg or that fruit – or a boodle of it either – then add an egg or two and some flour and a bit of salt and maybe some chopped aromatics and fry it up in spoonfuls and you’ve got a fritter. The amount of flour depends upon the amount of veg or fruit versus how many mouths you have to feed. I’d bet in olden times you’d be hard-pressed to find a corn kernel or strip of zucchini in a hard-times fritter.
I didn’t grow up with fritters. They weren’t a staple in my family’s food arsenal. Dumplings, yes; fritters, no. Obviously we put more stock in boiling than in frying. But not always. Anyway.
As a matter of fact the first fritters I remember eating – and they were mysterious to me – were the corn fritters made by Leo’s mother, Ida Mae. And those weren’t round puffy well-coated fritters at all (like the apple fritters you guiltily reach for in the baking section at Price Chopper), they were flat like pancakes but lacier, with sweetcorn kernels in them. I don’t remember if she served them sweet or savory, but I’ve adapted her instructions, “oh, nothing, easy, simple, little egg, little flour, corn...”, and learned to make them savory – with chopped garlic and a bit of hot pepper and onion in with the corn, but then to top them when they’re just out of the buttery pan with a few drops of maple syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt. I’m making those tonight.
We’ve been enjoying zucchinis up the yingyang because they’ve been plentiful in my garden this year and I l-o-o-o-o-ve the flavor, the freshness, the wateriness, and it will be a cold dark day in heck before I buy one in February from the culinary department store, from California, or Egypt, or wherever. So enjoy them I have, while I may, with no apologies, especially to Leo, who’s been on the verge of being a baby about them, sniffling a bit, squinching his eyes and fists, about to give voice to dissent; dissuaded perhaps because of my attitude, which is – Just do it! Eat the wonderful soba noodles and zucchini strips with ricotta and olive oil and lots of pepper, and a little parm that awaited him after an Audubon meeting the other night. And perhaps he was dissuaded from any hissy-fits the next night when I made zucchini fritters in the form of fat little pancakes sprinkled with chopped parsley, Hungarian peppers and Egyptian onions and lots and lots of freshly and coarsely ground black pepper. And topped with that great ricotta from Maplebrook Farms – a pint of that good stuff goes a very long way.
I took a platter of those to our beach gathering to mix and mingle with all the other great food and they were polished off quickly, further quenching any even faint zucchini roars from Leo the Lion.
Unfortunately, a quick circuit of my zucchini vines finds very few pending ones coming along, so that season seems to have just about spent itself. For this year.
A season that has not quite renewed itself is that of fennel – apparently it is available as an early summer crop and again as a late one. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d kept a bulb of it in the fridge for far too long and when I pulled it out the other day and, after skinning it of some of the outer layers that had aged rather unfortunately, sliced it thinly, I combined it with tiny cubes of muskmelon and chopped garlic and teensy squares of Hungarian pepper and thin slices of Egyptian Onion, all of which I dressed with a bit of white balsamic vinegar and olive oil and, again, lots of coarsely and freshly ground pepper, and some sea salt, only to discover that this unlikely mating – muskmelon and fennel – was an absolute holy alliance! I only hope that the end of melon season overlaps the beginning of fennel so that I can experience it once again. Without recourse to the Egyptian department store; which, of course, I would never do.
Keep this in mind, Dear Reader, because it is one of the few instances that I’m giving you notice of something that’s about to come IN to season rather than just going out.
Corn, however, will be here for the duration and so I offer you:
Ida Mae’s Corn Fritters
I say these are Ida Mae’s, but when I asked Leo if his mother’s corn fritters were savory or sweet, he said “corn’s sweet, maple’s sweet, how could they not be sweet.” I think hers were an egg, a little bit of flour, the corn and possibly some salt. But this sweet/savory is the way I have adapted, and we both like them this way.
· 2 eggs, whisked until frothy
· 2 tablespoons flour
· 2 cups cooked corn kernels
· 1 tablespoon chopped onion
· 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or cilantro berries
· 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
· 1 teaspoon chopped mildly hot pepper – Jalapeno or Hungarian
· Salt and pepper
· Olive oil and butter for frying
· maple syrup for topping
Combine the first 7 ingredients – egg, flour, corn, onion, cilantro, garlic, and pepper – the batter should not be thick and pasty, but light and slightly runny. Then add salt to taste – start with half a teaspoon.
Drop by soupspoons full into a hot mixture of olive oil and butter and fry over medium high heat until golden, flip and do it again. Eat hot with just a few drops of maple syrup.
Fritters are simply a way of incorporating food onto the table or into our gullets; mixing vegetables, fruit or fish, fowl, or ... mushrooms into a paste of some sort, whether it be tempura, choux, waffle. Larousse Gastronomique translates fritter into ‘beignet’. Yes, that’s New Orleans for donut, of course. It really is just spreading real food out thin with flour and egg. It’s what we do.
Go for it!
I leave you with a photo of the fennel and melon salad