Mark and I hadn't been to the Melrose Place Farmers market in well over a month. The last couple of times we'd gone I wasn't impressed with what any of the merchants had on display. It had gotten so samey and for some reason, even though it was the middle of summer, none of the stands seemed to have any fresh corn or heirloom tomatoes. This weekend, however, all of that had changed. If I didn't have to have a job and I could spend all my time cooking and eating, I would have just loaded up. When everything looks so lovely and fresh I occasionally loose all self-control and buy bags and bags of produce, far more than I could ever consume only to have half of my treasure wilt and rot before I've had the pleasure of deciding what to do with it.
This trip, I vowed to be reasonable. I picked up some zucchini and summer squash and at a stand specializing in the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes you could ever imagine, I selected three orangy-yellow tomatoes so bright that they practiaclly glowed from within. According to a small index card that was placed beside them, they are a variety known as "Earl of Edgecombe" and they come from seeds that originated in New Zealand. Don't you love knowing where you food comes from?
The fritter recipe comes from the July 2005 issue of Olive Magazine and the vinaigrette recipe comes from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.
(For the vinaigrette)
2 medium yellow tomatoes, quartered
2 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic or white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
a couple grindings of black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
(For the fritters)
3 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 large red chilli, minced
2 large eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil (for frying)
(For the salad)
a couple handfuls of mixed baby greens
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/3 cup kalamata olives, coarsley chopped
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
First make the vinaigrette. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until pureed, yielding 1/2 cup. Set a strainer over a medium bowl and pass the puree through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula. Set aside the juice and discard any solids.
Whisk in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until combined. Add the tarragon leaves 15 minutes before serving. Makes 1 cup.
To make the fritters, in a large bowl mix the grated zucchini, red onion, minced red chilli, the two eggs, flour, and toasted cumin seeds. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. The mixture might seem a bit dry at first, but once you season it with the salt and pepper, it should loosen up. The salt draws out the moisture in the zucchini.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
To cook the fritters, heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when it starts to ripple, drop the fritter batter into the skillet. I used a 1/3 measuring cup to keep them all about the same size, although you could do them smaller. You will probably only be able to fit about 3 fritters in the skillet at a time. Cook the fritters for about 3 minutes per side, flipping once. Place the cooked fritters on a cookie sheet and place in the heated oven, while you proceed with the rest of the fritters.
To serve, mound some of the baby greens on each plate. Top with two fritters, some of the quartered cherry tomatoes, olives, and scatter with the crumbled feta and chopped mint. Drizzle over the yellow tomato vinaigrette and grind over some black pepper.
It's no surprise that all these flavors work well with each other. Zucchini and tomatoes are the best of friends and can always benefit from the salty tang of feta and the rich, pungency of Kalamata olives. The mint and tarragon give the whole thing an herbal freshness. As for the fritters themselves, they happen to have an unexpectedly delicate, fluffy texture. The zucchini keeps them moist and gives them a very mild flavor that serves as a base for the sweet red onion, the spicy red pepper, and the toasty cumin.
One especially pleasing thing about the fritters is that they can be made in advance. To serve they can be placed on a cookie sheet and warmed in the over at about 300 degrees F until warmed through, or they can be microwaved with out becoming rubbery.