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Water Cooler: Zucchini fritters are the perfect Earth Day treat

UPDATED: Thu., April 22, 2021

Although all agricultural practices affect the environment in some way, it’s no secret that meat production takes some of the heaviest toll with its use of land, water and feed and the production of animal methane.

It is also a large contributing factor to the global loss of biodiversity. That’s why one great way to celebrate Earth Day is to abstain from eating meat for the day, and it doesn’t have to be as boring as you might think.

There’s more to plant-based eating than munching on salads every day. Plant-based foods can be flavorful and comforting, and Greek zucchini fritters are a testament to that. Traditionally, they are vegetarian and not vegan, but they are flexible enough to easily omit any animal products. Called kolokithokeftede in Greek, these fritters incorporate a variety of herbs, alliums and vegetables, making them great not only for Earth Day but as a fresh and satiating snack throughout the warm season. This recipe also comes in handy for gardeners who need some fun options for eating up a large zucchini harvest. For this recipe :

3 cups of grated zucchini

1½ cups of feta cheese (optional)

1 bunch of finely chopped basil

One-half bunch of finely chopped dill

1 bunch of finely chopped mint leaves

3 chopped green onions

Zest of two limes

1 teaspoon cumin

One-half teaspoon red chili flakes (or less if you don’t like spice)

2 eggs (or vegan egg substitute)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

One-half cup all-purpose flour

Place cheesecloth or a kitchen towel over a bowl. Grate the zucchini directly onto the towel and sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of salt. Toss to distribute the salt and let sit for about 20 minutes. Squeeze the shredded zucchini in the towel to extract the excess moisture. This results in a lighter, crispier fritter.

Remove the zucchini from the towel and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add in the finely chopped basil, dill, mint and green onions as well as the cumin, lime zest, red chili flakes, feta cheese and eggs, substituting or opting out of any ingredients as desired. Stir until thoroughly combined, then sprinkle in the flour mixing only enough to combine and being careful to not over mix.

Add the olive oil to a nonstick pan over medium heat. Portion the fritter mixture to your liking with a spoon, add to the pan and flatten gently with the back of a spoon. Cook until golden brown and then flip, just like a pancake. Once both sides are crispy and golden brown, transfer them to a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Enjoy the fritters plain, or you can dip them in a yogurt sauce. You can make a refreshing yogurt sauce with the following:

One-half cup Greek yogurt (or strained yogurt or vegan yogurt alternative)

The juice of one lime

1 tablespoon honey (or agave)

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Garnish with lime zest for serving. To bring out the flavors in the dipping sauce, combine the ingredients the day before and refrigerate overnight.

This is just one version . The combinations for fritters are endless and can be a great way to use up extra produce or to have a go-to plant-based snack. Make them with potatoes, or make the Bengali version (piyaju) with red lentils and onions. These make for a great gluten-free option as the lentils act as a main ingredient and a substitute for flour. Chickpea fritters are another Greek staple. Have fun this Earth Day trying delicious, plant-based foods.

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