To kick off my learning project I did some research to find out what exactly I wanted to make. As I was searching through many websites, blogs and videos, I found out very quickly that there are so many delicious options for appetizers; it was hard to narrow it down. I wanted to make something that was not too easy yet not too difficult at the same time. What helped me to narrow down my search was when my mom mentioned that she had a bunch of zucchini in the fridge. Well then, I thought, why don’t I make something with zucchini! My search began once more; but what was I going to do with zucchini? What can I do with this particularly interesting vegetable? Having never worked with zucchini before I wanted to find a recipe that explained in detail how to handle the vegetable. I came across this blog, called Smitten Kitchen, which displays countless recipes with step-by-step photos and directions, as well as other resources and cooking tips. How perfect! I clicked the recipe page and it redirected me to categories upon categories of different recipes: appetizers, breads, cakes, apples, salads, chocolate, to name a few. The list literally went on and on, but off course I just went to the zucchini section. I went through the possible options, all of which looked amazing, but my eye caught one recipe in particular: zucchini fritters. The recipe was simple enough yet still challenging for a beginner like me.
Before I began my attempt at making the fritters I wanted to educate myself, and learn, a few need-to-know cooking tips. For as long as I can remember I have always had troubles with holding, handling and using kitchen knives. Some how I always seem to cut myself in multiple areas, but, thankfully, nothing serious has ever happened. As well, I have been told that I hold kitchen knives very awkwardly, which probably results in why I always walk away with multiple bandages. As a result, I went online to see if there was any tutorial on how to properly hold a kitchen knife. Thankfully, I found many professional videos from countless culinary arts schools. This video, from LeCordon Bleu, I found to be very helpful. It was short but still contained a lot of important information for someone who is generally intimidated by large kitchen knives. As I was watching the video I realized that the way I have been holding kitchen knives is what the chef in the video deems “unacceptable”. Ooops. Apparently what I have been considering as correct is not stable and actually stresses the muscles in my arm. Well, once I heard that I immediately made sure that I was holding the knives correctly. I have to admit it was hard to get used to and I found that I was slowly resorted back to what I was comfortable with, but I really tired my best to make sure I was doing it right.
Chopping an onion is probably going to be one of the most common things to do when cooking. However, I highly dislike chopping onions because literally after one or two chops I am water works and can’t see. I have been told that there is a proper way to chop an onion without ‘crying’. As a result, I went online to see if I could learn this secret. Once again, I found countless websites and videos that could help me. This video, in particular, verbally described and visually showed the process on how to chop an onion. I was interested to see if I would be able to do this.
After I spent some time on learning the need-to-know cooking tips, I began the process for making my zucchini fritters. I set up a little station in my kitchen, in which I placed my computer with the recipe, the cutting board, some bowls, measuring cups, and kitchen knives. And away I went. Below is the recipe for the zucchini fritters as well as the process of how I brought everything together. The sentences that are italicized are my own thoughts.
Zucchini Fritters (recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen)
2 medium sized zucchini
1 teaspoon of salt
2 scallions (I just used 1 large white onion instead as we didn’t have scallions)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup of all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
Olive oil, or any other oil of your choice, for frying
To Serve (optional)
1-cup sour cream, or plain yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon of lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced garlic or crushed clove (I did not put this in as I thought it would be too overpowering of a flavor)
I began by washing and trimming the ends off of the zucchini. Next, I grated the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Now the recipe said you could also use a food processor to get more rope-like strands, but we did not have one so I resulted in using the box grater. Once the zucchini have been grated, in a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
Once the ten minutes are up wring out the zucchini. When I got to this stage I was shocked at how much liquid was actually in the zucchinis. The bowl was almost overflowing and it seemed that I was wringing it out forever because the water kept on coming and coming. I learnt afterward that the more liquid you lose the better because it prevents the fritters from becoming soggy. The recipe states that you can wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander (also known as a strainer) with a spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth. I sort of did a combination of 1 and 2. I placed the zucchini in a strainer and pressed it up against the holes as well as squeezed it with my hands.
Once you think you have released all the water, place the zucchini back in the bowl. Add more salt if needed. Mix in onions, egg, freshly ground black pepper, flour and baking powder. I attempted to chop the onion in the same way the chef did in the video. I was partly successful but I cut the bulb, so I still ended up crying. While I was cracking the egg I decided to just crack it in the bowl instead of in a separate dish. This was a mistake as I was soon after fishing for eggshells. As well, once I got to the flour I realized we did not have enough…So I had to pause my cooking and run over to my cousins house which is thankfully around the corner. After I mixed the ingredients, I placed it in the fridge for approximately 10 minutes so that the flavors could continue to merry and settle. As I was waiting for the 10 minutes to be up I cleaned my station so that I was ready for the frying.
(Before Mixing) (After Mixing)
Next, in a large skillet heat approximately 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. I learnt that by running your fingers under water and then sprinkling the water over the hot pan, if you hear a crackle then your pan is hot enough to start cooking. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture into the skillet. I used a spoon to scoop and shape the fritters, which I found to not be very successful as the portions were all different (it was not very consistent). Flatten them slightly with the back of a spatula. When I was doing this, I think I flattened the fritters too much because they quickly became thin and started to come apart very easily. But I managed.
(I flattened this one too much)
Cook the fritters until the edges are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes each side. Once the fritters are nicely golden place them on a baking sheet to cool. It is a good idea to place a paper towel over the baking sheet so that it catches the grease. Repeat with the remaining mixture. It is also important to keep the pan well oiled.
As I was waiting for them to cool, I made the topping. In a small bowl mix sour cream, lemon juice, zest and salt. I did not incorporate the garlic because I personally do not like the taste of garlic and I assumed the flavor would be overpowering.
Once the fritters cooled, it was the moment of truth. I placed a few on a plate and with a dollop of the topping.
(The end result)
THEY WERE ACTUALLY GOOD! I was very impressed with myself. They were crispy, and for the most part held together nicely. However….. I put way too much pepper. The fact that the recipe did not provide an actual amount is probably the reason why I put too much. It was overpowering, but the sour cream topping seemed to balance out that harsh flavor. I got the rest of my family to try the fritters. My mom, dad and my younger sister said they were tasty, while my older sister did not have a palette for them. I asked my family to give me a rating out of 10 and they said I deserve a solid 8/10. The presentation was nice and the flavor was good, but too much pepper. So note to self: next time when it says freshly ground black pepper, do not put more than a teaspoon… I will definitely remember this for next time.
After I completed my first appetizer I reflected on what I would do differently next time I cook, not just this particular dish, but also any dish. First off, I would check to make sure I have all the ingredients ahead of time so that I am not making unnecessary trips. As well, I would get all the ingredients out ahead of time so it makes things more organized. Second, I would use an ice cream scooper or a measuring cup to portion out and shape the batter more evenly. This way they will be a little thicker, equal size, and won’t come apart as easily. Third, in the case of this recipe, I will not use as much pepper and I will definitely crack the egg in a separate bowl so I am not fishing for shells.
All in all, I think I did pretty well for my first dish. I learned a lot and was for the most part able to apply it. I am still struggling with the knives though. Stay tuned for some more delicious eats and long blog posts!
Over and out!