Recipe: Crispy Zucchini & Potato Skillet Cakes with Tomato Jam

Photographs © 2011 by Stewart Waller. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press

*    2 small zucchini (about 8 oz.)
*    1 medium russet potato or other starchy potato, peeled (about 8 oz.)
*    1/2 small red onion (about 2 oz.)
*    1/4 cup finely crushed saltine cracker crumbs
*    1 large egg, lightly beaten
*    1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
*    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
*    Vegetable oil, for pan-frying

These little cakes are as crisp as chips on the edges with slightly creamy centers, just like good latkes. They make a great side dish, but they also make a lovely little appetizer when topped with sour cream and caviar or smoked fish, or with something zesty like Tomato Jam.
Makes about 1 dozen

1) Grate the zucchini, potato, and onion into long, thin strands on the large holes of a box grater or with the shredding disc of a food processor. Transfer into a colander and let drain for 3 minutes. Press the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible and let drain for another 2 minutes. Pick up the vegetables in small handfuls, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and then transfer into a large bowl. Stir in the crackers, egg, salt, and pepper.
2) Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 inch into a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Cover a wire rack with several layers of paper towels and keep near the stove to drain the cakes. (See page 106 for tips on pan-frying.)
3) Working in batches of 4 or 5 cakes at a time, spoon rounded tablespoons of the vegetable mixture into the skillet and gently flatten the mound into a cake that is about 1/2-inch thick in the center. Cook the cakes until the edges are golden brown and they are set in the center, about 2 minutes, then flip them over. (If they bend in the center when you try to turn them, they’re not ready.) Brown the other side, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the cakes to the paper towels to drain. Add a little more oil to the skillet between batches if needed.
4) Sprinkle the hot cakes with a little more salt and serve hot.

What else works? You can replace the zucchini with summer squash or more potato. Do not omit the potato because its starch helps keep the cakes intact.

Tomato Jam
*    2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
*    1/4 cup finely chopped onion
*    1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger
*    3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
*    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*    1 teaspoon ground coriander
*    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
*    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
*    1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
*    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
*    1/4 cup sherry vinegar
*    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
*    6 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
*    1 teaspoon kosher salt
*    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
*    1/4 cup honey
*    2 tbsp. lemon juice

This is a little sweet, so it’s jam in my book. It’s also spicy, so it perks up foods that could use a little zip. Think of it as a sophisticated combination of ketchup, chile sauce, and chutney. It’s good on sandwiches, on vegetables (especially field peas), on crispy fried things, on meatloaf, and with cheese. This small batch will keep in the refrigerator for a few months without sealing the jars.
Makes about 3 cups

1) Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cloves, allspice, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, and tomatoes.
2) Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and almost all of the liquid cooks away, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the salt, pepper, and honey, increase the heat and boil until the jam is shiny and thick, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let the jam cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
3) Transfer the jam into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store covered and refrigerated for up to 3 months.

More recipes from the cookbook:
*    Herbed Summer Squash and Pasta Salad with Crispy Chicken Thighs
*    Blackberries and Peaches in Basil Syrup with Cornmeal Pound Cake
*    Purchase The New Southern Garden Cookbook

Tags: Recipes, sides