Necessity is the mother of invention. In other words, when someone really, really needs something, he or she will figure out a way to do or get it. Sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of making a recipe and realize that I’m missing an ingredient. Actually, this happens a lot, since I’m not exactly the best organized person in the world. So, I’ll have two choices: scrap the whole thing, or find something else to use instead. I hate to waste food, therefore, scrapping is not an option. Usually, after rummaging around a bit, I’ll find something that works, and .
This idiom also comes into play when I have too much of a particular ingredient and I’m struggling to find ways to use it. Case in point – all of that fresh, beautiful zucchini  from the garden I was telling you about a few weeks ago. Now, I know that there are zillions of different ways to prepare zucchini. But, given the fact that the temperatures here have been topping out in the 90’s every day, my viable options are limited. That’s HOT, people! The last thing I want to be doing is spending any more time hovering over my stove than absolutely necessary. Since no one around here is fond of eating raw zucchini, and Mr. SGCC appears to be allergic to his grill, my next best solution is a recipe that requires very little cooking time – like these Cheesy Zucchini Latkes.
Latkes are savory fried pancakes made with grated vegetables that are bound together by egg, bread crumbs and often, flour. Traditionally made with potatoes, they’re a popular dish at Hanukkah time. We’re not Jewish, but my mother used to make latkes a lot, though she called them potato pancakes. But really, you can make great latkes with any kind of firm, gratable vegetables – like zucchini.
In my latkes, I’ve used a base of coarsely grated zucchini and onion, panko crumbs and eggs. A lot of latke recipes call for flour. I don’t think they need it, so I leave it out. If your latke mixture seems too loose, you can certainly add a few tablespoons of all purpose flour to “tighten” it up.
I’ve also added a pile of shredded pepper jack cheese to my latkes. It makes them all melty and gooey inside. Just like with butter, everything is better with cheese! You don’t often find cheese in traditional versions of latkes, as it isn’t pareve . But if you don’t follow Jewish dietary laws , you’re as golden as these latkes are. Hey! At least I didn’t add bacon, although, I was tempted to.
Latkes are super easy to prepare and have a mercifully short cooking time. Once you have your ingredients all mixed together, all you need to do is scoop them into golf ball-sized blobs and fry them in a mix of butter and oil. It only takes a few minutes on each side to get that burnished, crispy, crunchy outer shell, and gooey, molten cheesiness on the inside.
These zucchini latkes or pancakes or whatever you want to call them make a great accompaniment to any kind of meat, poultry or fish. They are truly lip smacking delicious. I topped mine with a schmear of some sweet and spicy red pepper jelly that I found at my local farmers market, and finished each of them off with a tiny dollop of crème fraiche. They would also be fab served with a little applesauce on the side.
So, if you’re still hiding under a mountain of zucchini, or even if you’re not, try making some Cheesy Zucchini Latkes. You’ll be glad you did.
Cheesy Zucchini Latkes
- 1 pound zucchini
- 1 medium onion
- 1 cup panko crumbs (can also use homemade or dried, unseasoned bread crumbs)
- 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 or 2 splashes hot sauce (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- olive oil for frying
- Hot red pepper jelly for topping
- Sour cream or crème fraiche for topping
- Coarsely grate zucchini in a food processor or with a box grater. Do the same with the onion. Gather zucchini and onion in a clean dish towel and squeeze all of the excess moisture out.
- Transfer the zucchini and onion to a large mixing bowl. Add the panko, cheese, eggs, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. If the mixture is too wet, add a little more panko. If it looks too dry, add more egg. You want the latkes to hold together loosely without falling apart when you fry them.
- Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. It should come up about 1/4-inch in the pan. Carefully drop 2-inch blobs of zucchini batter into the hot oil, gently flattening them out into patties. Cook the patties over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook on the other side until golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Don’t crowd the patties. Fry them in batches.
- Remove cooked latkes from the skillet with a slotted spatula and set on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Serve topped with a small dollop of red pepper jelly, crème fraiche or the topping of your choice.
Makes approximately 12 two-inch latkes.