Hey, I had the caramel lying around, why not? This was a passing fancy from the weekend whereby I adapted one of my favorite apple fritter recipes. The big difference is the way you need to treat the zucchini before you fry it. Zucchini is, as I mentioned repeatedly last week, very wet on the inside. Thus if you don’t take care to remove as much of that moisture as you can, you get very limp and spongy fritters that soak up quite a bit of oil. What’s the best way to do that? Salt. Apply a light sprinkling to the surface of your slices, and in a few minutes beads of moisture begin to appear.
What’s happening? Osmosis. Now I want everyone to open their textbooks to page 252 to the heading Osmosis and Solute Concentrate Differentials. Lorraine, please begin reading out loud from the top. I’ll read along with you: Osmosis is the net movement of water across a partially permeable membrane from a region of high solvent potential to an area of low solvent potential, up a solute concentration gradient... You, yes you! The one asleep in the back, are you paying attention?!
Alright, I’ll grant you, osmosis is a tricky (alright yes, maybe even boring) thing to try and explain. Yet it’s really a very simple concept. The idea is that when you have pure water and a solution (in our case a solution of pure water and salt) on either side of a water-permeable membrane, the pure water flows outward at a higher rate than the solution flows in. Hence, the watery thing that you apply salt to experiences a net loss of water. When that thing is a slice of vegetable flesh like zucchini (or eggplant), the cellular structure also begins to collapse as the little bags of water we call “cells” start to deflate and leak their contents into nearby air pockets. The texture of the slice goes from thick and crisp to thin and pliable.
It tastes better than it sounds. Especially when you employ a fritter batter that’s nice and crunchy, like this one made with corn meal:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
First, peel the zucchini and slice it thinly. Apply a light spinkling of salt and place the slices on a few layers of paper towels. Let sit for 10 minutes, then press the slices lightly between the towels to extract as much moisture as you can.
Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another (the Muffin Method again…handy, isn’t it?). Combine and stir briefly until the mixture forms a lumpy batter. Dip zucchini slices and fry in 375-degree vegetable oil for roughly one minute per side.
This batter is not especially sweet, which is nice for a thing like a zucchini fritter, which inhabits a sort of neither-sweet-nor-savory no-man’s land. That is, until you dip it in the tomato caramel. As Rachel Ray would say…yummo.