Zucchini Cakes

I’m not sure where I first followed a link from, but a few weeks ago I started reading Pioneer Woman, a blog by a citified woman who apparently met a cowboy in LA, married him and moved to his ranch in the middle of nowhere, which is where all ranches are if you stop to think about it. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, she cooks a lot and takes amazing photos (both of her food and of life on the ranch).

I spotted this recipe on a post recently where she pointed to a list of recipes that have been posted on the site, and immediately bookmarked it because they sounded like the perfect thing to accompany a summer salad (featuring some beans or fried tofu for your protein) or with a side salad of veggies and quinoa, which I consider to be a miracle grain because of how filling (and protein filled) it is. Seriously – take a quinoa salad for lunch and see how long it takes you to actually feel hungry for that afternoon snack. Try this one or this one. (This one I didn’t like so much, but maybe you will.)

Anyway, these turned out well enough. I had them with a simple side salad, and topped them with dressing from another recent “cakes” recipe – Mediterranean salad with chickpea patties, from the April 2009 Real Simple. Let’s not talk about the spectacular failure of those patties (at least not until I can make them again, this time successfully; for now let’s just say I would have had to call out for pizza if anyone else was supposed to eat them).

Back to the zucchini cakes. They are plain; in a good way for one night, but by the third night I was bored. (I used three small zucchini and made five very unevenly sized cakes.) Next time I think I will use them as a canvas rather than a centerpiece. You can easily throw some spices into the mixture to send them in whatever direction you want. Two ideas: melt some cheese on top and make a quick fresh tomato sauce to create a zucchini parmigiana. A side salad with some white beans would be great on the side. Another angle would be to add in some cumin and chili powder and serve them with black beans and salsa (and tortilla chips, otherwise you are in for a mushy dinner), which might be what I try next. You could probably also come up with a Moroccan or Indian spice combo, served with some kind of lentil salad. (Try the spices from here or here, though perhaps not in quite those amounts.) If nothing else, a little bit of hot sauce will help. Heck, just rummage around in your condiments and see what you can find.

Next time I make these there are some things I will keep in mind. There are also some things I want to point out for those who are less confident when it comes to filling in the gaps in recipes. For those of us who cook a lot this was easy to follow, but there are some tips that can help if you’re less confident in the kitchen.

  • Squeeze the crap out of your shredded zucchini. Then squeeze it a little more. I skipped that second part, and while they turned out fine they would have been even better if I hadn’t, and had just dirtied another kitchen towel. These are the perils of having to go to the laundromat. (Don’t think for a minute you can get away with paper towels, I don’t care how burly the lumberjack on the package is.)
  • Leave the stem on the zucchini, it will give you something to hold onto while you shred that last bit of it.
  • Start with the smaller amount of breadcrumbs, and then if the mix still seems wet add more. This is hard to gauge, but try making a patty and see how well it stays together, and how messy it feels (it should feel “less messy.” Isn’t that helpful?) That said, when in doubt just add more breadcrumbs a little bit at a time, mixing well.
  • Make them thin, that way they’ll come out crispier. Mine were very unevenly sized, and the thicker ones were mushier. What’s thin? Somewhere just shy of ½ an inch thick, I think.
  • You can substitute vegetable oil to fry them, but keep in mind that the patties are going to absorb some of the oil you use.
  • I’m not sure how these would reheat in the microwave – I fear they would get mushy. I quickly warmed mine on the stove in a pan with just a little bit of olive oil, but this almost burned them. (Another downfall of the too-thick patty – when reheating, the outside is overdone before the inside is warm.) Next time, I will only cook the ones I intend to eat that night all the way – the rest I’ll just cook partially, and they can finish when I reheat them.