Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chiftele din dovlecei cruzi - Zucchini fritters

One of my great moments of enlightenment occurred when I realised that the kofta in malai kofta was closely related to the Romanian chiftea. Originally a Persian word, kofta generally refers to a ball of ground meat. In its various incarnations, the kofta is mixed with spices, herbs, onions, and a variety of vegetables. Variations of the word and corresponding food are to be found all over the Middle East and the Balkans. In Europe, the kofta owes its popularity to the Turks, who not only introduced their köfte to Balkan cuisine, but do a pretty good job of popularizing tasty köfte kebab, or şiş köfte, in Döner stands throughout Germany.

The Romanian chiftele I grew up with were essentially breaded, fried meatballs. These chiftele are, however, lighter than the usual meatball due to the bread, potato, and carrot that sometimes go into their composition. They're one of my favourite foods, but only when I looked for a recipe in Silvia Jurcovan's Carte de Bucate, 1987 edition, did I discover that chiftele come in many variations. Jurcovan has ten recipes, including chiftele de creier (brain fritters), and chiftele din peşte afumat (smoked fish balls). I was even more surprised to find that there were several vegetarian versions of chiftele, some of which seem to approximate the Indian malai kofta. So, for this first chiftele recipe, I decided to pick a very easy zucchini fritter recipe. Not only did I not know how to make this, but unlike the other recipes I've written about, I didn't even know how it was supposed to taste. I will give you Jurcovan's precise measurements, but I can tell you right now that I didn't follow them in the slightest (I don't own a kitchen scale), and everything turned out just fine.

Peel two medium zucchini (I used three), cut them in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and then grate them coarsely.

Add salt and let them sit for half an hour or so to let the water seep out. Squeeze all the water out of them (I was amazed at how much came out), and mix with an egg, 30 g flour, 50 g grated feta or other cheese, pepper, and a full teaspoon of chopped, fresh dill. I actually eyeballed the cheese and flour quantities -- you want the final composition to be sort of sludgy. I also added about twice as much dill, which was not a bad decision.

Finally, preheat your frying pan and put in enough oil so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered with a layer 2-3 mm deep. Use the tip of a spoon to drop small nuggets of the mixture onto the pan and fry them at medium heat, a few minutes on each side. Jurcovan advises having the little balls be no larger than 1.5 cm, but I found I liked putting in more (about a teaspoon's worth) and letting them spread out and get crunchy around the edges.

You can serve them as is, or with sour cream, or a tomato sauce, or really, I imagine, any kind of sauce you wish. Don't worry about making too many -- they tend not to last long.


Georgiana said...

yummy yummy!!! ca la mama acasa!multumesc