Zucchini Fritada

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield: about

    8

    Servings

Appears in

Its Ladino name reveals the fritada’s origin in Sepharad (Old Spain). In fact, the dish—containing vegetables, eggs, and usually cheese—was so identified with Jewish life there that a continued taste for it was a telltale sign that a professed converso was still a Jew in his heart. As David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson point out in A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews, servants’ testimony to the Inquisition about fritadas eaten cold on Saturdays betrayed their employers as secret Jews or Judaizers, as surely as did the hot Sabbath stews that were made without pork.

Also known as almodrote as well as several other names in the Diaspora, these crustless casseroles, enriched with roasted eggplant, sautéed spinach, or zucchini, and oven-baked now, are extremely popular, especially among Jews from Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans. Warm or at room temperature, fritadas are ubiquitous at the desayuno brunch served with a host of salads after morning services on Shabbat and holidays, or as a first course at meatless Sabbath dinners.

This well-flavored zucchini version has plenty of pizzazz. A family favorite, it is especially nice for Shavuot, Break-the-Fast, and simple light suppers whenever our greenmarket overflows with either juicy emerald zucchini or the pale green Middle Eastern varieties and fragrant herbs.

If you can find the delicious zucchini blossoms—or better yet, grow them yourself—they make a stunning presentation, a bright orange starburst folded into the center of the cheesy casserole.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds zucchini trimmed and scraped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces feta (about 2 cups), crumbled
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed shredded kashkaval or kasseri cheese, or a mixture of shredded Muenster and grated Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons matzoh meal
  • ¼ cup fresh snipped dill
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 6 to 8 fresh zucchini flowers, if available

Method

Shred the zucchini in a food processor or over the large holes of a hand grater. Transfer the zucchini to a colander, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, and weight it down (I use a small plate or bowl topped with a heavy can) so that it can drain for at least 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt, and using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

While the zucchini is draining, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Add the onions salt and pepper lightly, and sauté about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft and translucent. Add the drained zucchini, and cook, lifting and turning, about 5 minutes, until the zucchini loses its raw look. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mash the feta in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, then stir in ¾ cup of the kashkaval or kasseri (reserve about ¼ cup for the topping), the matzoh meal, dill, scallions, and mint. Add the cooked zucchini and onions. Season, if desired, with additional pepper (it will probably be well salted from the cheese), and mix well.

Generously grease the bottom and sides of a deep 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet or similar size ovenproof pan, pour in the zucchini batter, and smooth the top. If you are using the zucchini flowers, arrange them decoratively. A starburst pattern (form a wide X, then make a vertical line of blossoms through its center) is especially pretty in a round pan. Sprinkle the top with the reserved cheese.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the fritada is firm and golden-topped, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the fritada rest until set before cutting.

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