Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Courgette patties - kolokithokeftedes (Κολοκυθοκεφτέδες)

My husband rushed into the kitchen excitedly: "How dja wannit, honey? Long, short, medium, extra large?"

"I'm only used to one size, darling," I replied, "and I'm quite content with that, thank you."

We picked the first of the crop only last week. But we have an over-abundance of zucchini in the fridge, mainly because my uncles' farm is over-producing. In fact, every day, they gather about 10 courgettes about as long as my (please forgive me) arm, and leave them in a crate under a shady hundred-year-old olive tree. When I visit them, they always ask me if I want to pick some zucchini from the garden.

"We've got courgettes for horta, and you'll find a few to make boureki, too." What they mean is that they are the only two ways that they themselves eat zucchini (they're bachelors and cook only traditional Cretan cuisine). The courgettes for horta are picked before they start getting too big, say about as large as a (please forgive me) carrot, while the ones for boureki are as long as my (you've already forgiven me) arm. Size and length are still taboo subjects for some age-groups and classes in Greece.

"What's wrong with the ones in the crate?" I asked them the last time I visited the farm.

"Oh, I was gonna chop 'em up and give 'em to the chickens," one of them told me. They do that with their excess produce, along with the potato peelings and all their vegetable scraps, as well as all the weeds in the garden.

Courgette patties - kolokithokeftedes - can be made from all sizes (do forgive me) of courgette; if the zucchini gets too (I'm sorry) large, just remove the seeds if they seem tough. They are not something you can whip up in a jiffy: courgettes have such a high water content that you need to get rid of it to make firm patties. Some cooks add tomato, others cheese, yet other eggs; I make mine completely lenten. Cheese and eggs can easily be added to this recipe; the egg helps bind all the ingredients, while cheese makes them more crusty. Tomato pulp needs to be strained before being added to the mixture.

To make 20 medium-sized patties, you need:
1 large courgette (or a few small ones)
1 onion, grated finely (I used green onion tops instead; they exude a lighter aroma)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (optional; I like the combination of onion and garlic in my food)
a posy's worth of dill, finely chopped (I used fennel, as it's growing like wildfire here; feel free to substitute dill with your favorite herb - a good alternative is mint, parsley, or a combination of these)
1/2 cup of fine breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper

The first step in making courgette patties is to get rid of all excess water in the zucchini. Grate the courgette into a colander and sprinkle salt liberally all over it. Place the colander into another container and allow it to sweat for at about two hours. Fresh zucchini will easily yield a small glass of water. Don't worry if you haven't got enough time to allow the zucchini to sweat it out on its own; in any case, you will help it along by picking up fistfuls of gratings and squeezing them of all excess liquid. To help all the herbs blend in with the zucchini, I usually mix all the gratings along with the herbs (ie, zucchini, onion, garlic, herbs, pepper) and squeeze them dry altogether.

Once you have strained the vegetable mixture well (you will end up with half the original bulk), add the breadcrumbs to the mixture and mix them in well. Then add the flour, mixxing in enough to make a stiff dough. You may need a little more or a little less, depending on how well you strained the zucchini. Shape the mixture into flat patties and dredge them in flour. Drop them into boiling hot oil and let them cook till they turn golden brown in colour, turning them over to cook on the other side. When they are done, place them on absorbent paper to dry.

Courgette patties make a great alternative to meat patties (my I-never-eat-greens son thought he was eating a hamburger when I stuck one of these in a bun) and can be served with a tomato salad, or any bean dish. This is one of the few dishes I make that doesn't freeze well.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by wanderingchopsticks.

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