It seems like a lot of my stories revolve around broken dishes. This one is no exception.
It was early Sunday morning a couple of years back, the sun already beating down mercilessly on our big windows. The birds were conversing outside our window in a language known only to madmen and themselves, waking me from my sleep, pulling me away from another sweet dream about beaches, salty hair, the wind blowing all around. Greg was sleeping by my side, his face smushed into the pillow, his long body tangled in the sole cover he allowed me to keep on the bed during these hot summer months. Five minutes awake, I was already restless, thinking about all the things I need to do, all the things I would rather be doing.
I held myself at bay. For the next thirty minutes, I counted sheep, made plans, stroked, hummed, and even tried to go back to sleep. None of it worked. Then, growing even more frustrated by the mere fact of my restlessness, I got up to grab a book. It kept me occupied for another hour, allowing me to lose myself in other worlds, other countries, all away from my impatience, my sense of being caged, the nagging responsibilities, the to-do lists.
But after the magic wore off and the words, which were a comfort only 40 minutes ago, became unbearable yokes of tension, I knew I had to get out of bed. So with much tugging and prodding, begging and pleading, I managed to wake him up. But I knew that would only be the first step.
Truth is, I don’t like waking people up. It makes me feel guilty. And the guilt, intermingled with my anxiety, quickly turns into more anger. But rather than directing it at myself, I find another victim – usually, the very person who won’t get up, my best friend, my partner. So there, now you have it – my admission of guilt.
I jumped out of bed, making my way across the small studio apartment to the little, perfectly-arranged kitchen enclosure in which I spent most of my hours at home. With the bounty of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) basket still lying on the counter and clogging the fridge, I knew I wanted to make something with the season’s most abundant vegetable, the zucchini.
So I began grating. And grating. And grating. Four gigantic zucchinis sat there on the counter, eyeing me accusingly, egging me on to hurry up. Meanwhile, Greg begrudgingly woke up, and, disturbed by the racket in the kitchen, made his way to the shower, eyeing me accusingly. And I continued to grate. The piles of zucchini shreds were endless, filing bowls, spilling on the counter, taking over the whole kitchen. My hands ached and my knuckles stung from where I scraped them on the grater. And still, the remaining courgettes stared at me accusingly.
By the time Greg came out of the shower, visibly less angry, I had finally finished grating everything. Then came the stage of draining the zucchini, which was no less frustrating, albeit slightly briefer. Into the bowl with the drained zucchini went dill, salt, dried onions, flour, eggs, oil, and other accoutrements. I had preheated the skillet while Greg was making coffee. The dill zucchini fritters mixture stood on the edge on the counter, waiting for its time in the sun. Peace was momentarily bestowed.
And then, I turned abruptly to grab more oil for the frying pan. My hip (or was it my hand?) caught the bowl, sending it tumbling to the floor. We froze, watching it in slow motion, and yet it all felt so quick. The glass bowl shattered, sending shards flying everywhere across the kitchen floor. The mass of dill, eggs, and oil spread, pooling in unappealing piles around the broken glass. The floor became greasy in mere seconds, and the only sound that broke the shocked silence that ensued was the sizzling of more oil on the hot pan. We were too shocked to speak.
The silence didn’t last long. The space that was mere moments ago barely big enough for two people became filled with broken glass, dirty batter, accusations, protests, and muffled admissions of guilt. We worked together to scrape the pools of grease and vegetables into garbage bags, finding that the oil was spreading everywhere as we did so. We washed and dried the floor repeatedly, barely avoiding getting glass lodged in our soles. We were angry and upset, but at least we worked together. Eventually, we even grew to laugh at my clumsiness. We ate toast for breakfast.
Since then, I have made dill zucchini fritters many times over. I have grown fond of omitting the eggs and flour, replacing them with nutritional yeast and starch, finding the almost-bare taste of the zucchini and dill to hold up well to the heat of the pan. These fritters have become quick dinners, relaxing breakfasts, and, on this last weekend, eaten cold as an impromptu lunch while packing boxes. They have become comfort and home. And not a word has been spoken since about the Incident of the Spilled Batter.
- 1-2 large zucchinis (about 1.5 cups grated)
- ½ cup dry onion flakes (using dry onions is key here. I find zucchini is wet enough as is, even with all the squeezing-out)
- 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon Tamari-style soy sauce
- a few chopped sprigs of dill, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder/ potato starch (or regular flour, or a different gluten-free flour. Whatever binder you have on hand should work)
- For garlic-dill sour cream:
- vegan sour cream (optional)
- 1 garlic clove (optional)
- a sprig of dill (optional)
- Line a colander with paper towels, enough to cover and leave enough of an overhang to produce a small bag. Grate zucchini and place it in a colander. Wrap paper towels around the zucchini and make a bag, squeeze thoroughly to ensure you get out all of the water you possibly can. Transfer dry zucchini shreds to a bowl.
- Chop dill. Mince garlic, if using fresh.
- Add all other ingredients except the last three optional ingredients to the bowl with the zucchini. Mix well to combine. Test to see if you can form patties that hold their shape with your hands; if needed, add more arrowroot powder/ potato starch. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
- When ready to fry patties, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large, heavy bottom pan. Heat pan to medium heat. When oil is hot, shape mixture into patties with your hands and add to pan. Let fry on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, depending on your oven. Turn patties over with a spatula, lower heat to medium-low, and cook for 3 an additional minutes. Transfer patties to a paper-towel lined plate when done. Let stand for two minutes.
- Chop a sprig of dill and one garlic clove finely and mix with to vegan (or regular) sour cream. Serve with fritters, and sprinkle with more chopped dill.