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Author Notes: These little fritters are the quintessential summer appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Adults love them, kids love them, even picky eaters love them. They’re as addictive as they are easy to prepare. The basil leaves become crispy as they fry, while the lemon zest adds a bit of zing to the batter.
But that’s not all: this recipe is also extremely versatile. Try substituting the zucchinis and basil with baby eggplants and fresh mint… or okra with purple basil… or sweet peppers with sage. The possibilities are exciting. —Viviane Bauquet Farre
Makes 36 fritters
For the tomato coulis
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots – skinned, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves – skinned and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes – peeled, seeded (seeds strained and juices reserved, about 1/3 cup) and coarsely puréed in the bowl of a food processor or 1-15 oz (425gr) can whole, peeled plum tomatoes – coarsely puréed in a food processor
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- tomato juice for thinning the sauce if needed
For the zucchini fritters
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 large egg
- 2 baby zucchinis (about 6” long) – ends trimmed and cut crosswise in 1/4” slices
- 24 basil leaves – large ones torn in half, small ones left whole
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (use microplane grater)
- high heat vegetable oil for pan-frying
- For the coulis - Heat a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and shallots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the shallots have softened, but not taken on any color. Add the garlic and wine and continue cooking until the wine has completely evaporated and reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and reserved juices (or the puréed canned tomatoes), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and slow-simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce has thickened but is not dry. Add the salt and pepper and simmer for another minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
- To finish the coulis - Place the sauce in the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and thin with a small amount of tomato juice if needed, to the desired consistency. Set aside.
- For the batter – Mix flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the water and whisk until batter is smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
- To make the fritters – Whisk the egg into the batter until well blended. Add the zucchini slices, basil and lemon zest and stir well, separating the zucchini slices so they’re well distributed through out the batter. There should be enough batter to just coat the ingredients.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat. Add enough oil to the pan to come 1/8” up the sides. Grab one slice of zucchini and 1 or 2 pieces of basil with a spoon (Fingers help with this job too!) and drop the fritter into the hot oil. Repeat so that the fritters lay in one layer in the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan or the fritters will stick together and it’ll be harder to flip them. Sauté the fritters for 2 to 3 minutes until golden-brown. Flip the fritters and continue to sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until golden-brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all fritters have been used, reducing heat to medium-high when the pan gets very hot so the oil doesn’t burn. Sprinkle the fritters with sea salt to taste.
- To serve – Place fritters in the center of each plate. Spoon the tomato coulis next to them or spoon in individual serving bowls. Serve the fritters piping hot.
- Cook’s note: These fritters also make a fabulous hors d’oeuvre. Serve them on a large platter with the dipping sauce in the center.
- Cook’s note 2: Using baby zucchinis is essential for this recipe. Larger ones have too much moisture. They’ll get soggy as they cook and cause the hot oil to splatter.