If you can resist eating all of them while making them, you could prepare the patties a day or two in advance to take on a summer picnic or barbecue.
On the drive from the airport to where I was staying with friends, Athens felt a lot like Mashhad in Iran, the city of my mother, where I went to school. In the markets of Athens, however, I felt I was back in Tehran, in the Tajrish bazaar, going back home after a long day. The cafes reminded me of Istanbul, and the majestic ancient ruins — Western civilisation’s foundation stones — of Rome.
More than anywhere else perhaps, Athens felt like home. The concept of a fluid and multiple home washed over me, and I felt I truly belonged to Tehran, Mashhad, Rome and the Italian south, and all the land in between. Greece, however, is on the other side of the “fence”, inaccessible for us without permission to enter the West, and therefore a destination with heavily guarded borders for migrants on small boats. And, yet, for a country on “the other side”, it is remarkable how Middle Eastern its capital feels, especially in its hospitality. On my first night there, our hosts took us to a humble but absolutely delightful barbecue eatery — something similar to a kababi in Iran, or a trattoria in Rome, for
lack of a better description.
The place is famous for serving all your grilled meats and chips on paper — a lot less hassle and cleaning. But before they brought us our mountain of every kind of grilled meat, we were served velvety fava dips, bright tomato salads with feta and rusks called dakos that undoubtedly would remind you of the Tuscan panzanella, filo triangles with cheese and honey, and these incredible zucchini patties, which have a Turkish cousin called mücver. While cute cats roamed the halls unbothered, too irresistible and meowing at our feet for a share of grilled meat, we feasted in a haze of joy and culinary ecstasy.
People used to make these patties only in summer, the season of courgette abundance, when they hollowed out courgettes to make dolmas/dolmades; their name, kolokythokeftédes, literally means kofta of courgettes. If you can resist eating all of them while making them, you could prepare the patties a day or two in advance to take on a summer picnic or barbecue.
Makes about 12 patties
2–3 teaspoons salt, for salting
200g feta cheese, crumbled
Handful of chopped dill
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup plain flour, approximately
4 tablespoons oil, for pan-frying, approximately
Coarsely grate the zucchinis into a bowl. Rub and squeeze the zucchini with the salt, to help release its water, and leave for 15–30 minutes. Drain off the excess water, then squeeze the pulp to make sure it’s all quite dry, as this is the secret to delicious kolokythokeftédes.
In a clean, dry bowl, mix the zucchini pulp with the feta, dill, spring onion, eggs and a sprinkling
of black pepper. Sprinkle the flour over and gently mix through until just combined; it’s very important
to not overwork the batter.
Heat 2–3 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan. When sizzling hot, dollop in about 2 tablespoons of the batter and flatten it with the back of a spoon. Fry a few patties at a time over medium–high heat, flipping them midway to make sure both sides are golden; it only takes a few minutes for each batch to cook.
Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
Serve immediately, possibly with some fizzy (Greek) wine and perhaps some tzatziki. Alternatively, in a courageous attempt at self-control, you could prepare the patties a day or two in advance to take on a summer picnic or barbecue.
Images and text from Pomegranates & Artichokes by Saghar Setareh, Photography by Saghar Setareh. Murdoch Books, $49.99. Learn more here.
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