April 5, 2011

Zucchini Cakes

We get inspiration for new recipes and dishes to try out from a lot of places: various other cooking blogs and food-related sites, meals out in restaurants, America's Test Kitchen, and conversations with food-minded friends, for example. This idea, though, came from one of my preschool students' lunch boxes.

It shouldn't be all that surprising, really - I have mentioned before that I teach at a French bilingual school in Berkeley, and these little kids eat pretty well. Of course there is a fair share of preschool standards like cream cheese and jelly sandwiches or spaghetti with butter, but I am often jealous (and a little surprised) when they open up their thermoses and I see what they have inside: mushroom risotto! Baby artichokes! Quinoa with avocado! And just last week one little girl had some cut up little pieces of pancakes flecked with green tucked into one compartment of her lunch box. I asked her what they were. "Zucchini cakes!" she said.

"They look yummy," I said.

"They are yummy!" she said.

"Did your mommy make them?" I asked.

"Yes!" She said.

"How did your mommy make them? Did she put an egg in them? How much flour did she use? Did she serve it with any sauce?"

Our conversation didn't get much further than that, but I told Michael about it and we mulled it over a bit (I'm sure I could have asked the mother for her recipe but we kind of liked the challenge). The idea is not dissimilar to our black bean cakes: a veggie or legume, mixed with some flavors, egg, and flour, and lightly pan fried. Sounds like a good idea. They are fresh and very summery, so we may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit here, but the weather has been so nice and there have been so many beautiful green things at the market that we just couldn't help it. We served them topped with tzatziki sauce and some chopped Mediterranean salad.

Zucchini Cakes (makes 10 - 12 3" cakes)

- 1 extra large zucchini (about a pound), grated
- 1/2 small red onion (or other type of onion), chopper
- 1 large clove of garlic, crushed or pressed
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of roughly crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp za'atar
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 3/4 cup of flour
- Salt and pepper to taste, plus extra salt to prep zucchini
- Oil for cooking
- Check out our chicken gyros post for the mediterranean salad and tzatziki sauce recipes.

Grate the zucchini on the largest hole of a box grater. Toss with salt, and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the salt to bring out excess water from the zucchini.  Rinse the shredded zucchini with water, then press over a strainer to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to several paper towels and press to further drain the zucchini. 

Transfer zucchini to a large bowl and add all of the rest of the ingredients except for the flour and oil. Mix everything together until incorporated, then fold in the flour until you have thick goopy mixture, much like pancake batter.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, scoop about 3 tablespoons of batter into the skillet, and cook until almost dark brown (about 4 - 6 minutes). They key is get the outside as crispy as possible.  Flip cakes and cook the other side. Plate on top of mediterranean salad and top with tzatziki sauce.


  1. These look delicious! Now I wish I bought zucchini today. I've been dying for a way to prove to the fiance that "yes, zucchini is a vegetable that we should eat"!

  2. Your zucchini cakes look great - love your photography!

    Loved to see za'atar on the ingredient list! Every weekend, my Israeli father makes a chopped Israeli salad for breakfast, to which I add copious amounts of za'atar

  3. These look SO good! I can't wait to try them! I love that you tried to get the recipe from the little girl - that's awesome!
    I'm so glad I found your site and now have new ideas for my kids' lunches. Thanks!
    I will be back!

  4. Thanks for the comments all!
    Kristen, most veggies seem to become more appealing to non-veggie eaters when they come in pancake form. Let us know if you have any success.
    Gluttenandstudent - that salad sounds like a good idea. Michael's mom brought us some za'atar from Israel and we use it all the time.
    Lynne - I was actually impressed by how much my little student was able to tell me about the recipe. I didn't get everything, of course, but I got a pretty good idea!