A close-up of five zucchini fritters served with marinara sauce

Zucchini Fritters

WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.

A close-up of five zucchini fritters served with marinara sauce
Zucchini Fritters

This year, my husband and I decided to become members of a local CSA (Community-Supported Agricultural system), and decided to become members of Steed Farm, the local CSA in our hometown. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a CSA is a system where the consumer has the opportunity to subscribe to the local harvest of a local farm or collective of farms (Click here if you’re interested in seeing my CSA video-its good stuff!).

I recently received my first share of produce, which was super exciting. No joke…we probably came home with about 7 pounds worth of produce. Among all of the goodies I received, I had two very large and hefty zucchini fruits. After trying to figure out how I was going to prepare them, I had an ‘A-ha!’ moment: Why not turn them into fritters?!?! I had most of the ingredients, to do so.

The Moment of Truth

After experimenting with this dish three different times, and modifying each of the ingredient quantities, I am proud to announce that I finally came up with a recipe that I am super proud of. Folks, I present you with my very tasty zucchini fritters. These fritters contain feta cheese, which naturally gives these the salt and amount of zing these babies need. If you don’t want to fry them, no worries! I included a step which shows you how to bake ‘em. These fritters are pretty low in carbs, which is why I opted for Almond flour in my recipe. But you can use whatever other type of flour you’d like! The flour ratio should still be the same.

A vertical stack of zucchini fritters

A couple disclaimers before I proceed:

  1. The quality of the skillet you use matters (take it from me). If you opt for frying, these fritters are prone to sticking on the bottom of the skillet and WILL crumble a part if you do not make sure that you do not have a non-stick surface.
  2. WARNING: These fritters are addictive. Even though they are low in carbs (per serving), you may wind up wanting to eat the whole batch. Just a heads up…

Aright, alright…here’s the recipe!

Zucchini Fritters

WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: low-carb, vegetarian
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 197kcal

Equipment

  • Cheesecloth
  • Skillet
  • Spatula

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchinis medium
  • cups almond flour
  • 8 oz. feta cheese crumbled
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 onion small
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. cooking oil

Spices

  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Finely dice onion into ¼" cubes, and set aside.
  • Coarsely chop zucchini into 1” Cubes, separate them into three batches. Place each batchinto a food processor and pulse for about three seconds, two-three times, untilthe zucchini pieces are roughly ¼” in size. Repeat this step for each batch.
  • After all of the zucchini has been pulsed, take a cheese cloth, and squeeze as muchof the water out of the zucchini chunks, until almost all of the liquid has drained out. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
  • Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl, except the oil. Gently stir untileverything looks evenly mixed.

Cookyour zucchini fritters using one of two methods:

  • Frying:Heat your large skillet to medium heat, and add the cooking oil. While theskillet is heating, take your batter, and create balls which are about one-one anda half inches in diameter. Creating the mini patties is best to use with atablespoon. Gently drop each medallion-sized patty into the skillet, and allowto fry on each side for about 2 minutes on each side (no more than three minutes),until each side is golden browned. Try not to fry more than five patties at atime. Repeat until all pieces are cooked.
  • Baking:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once oven has pre-heated, lightly grease a largebaking sheet, and form mini patties the size of 1-1.5 inch medallions. Bakefritters for about 25-30 minutes, until the fritters have golden browned.
  • Enjoy your zucchini fritters with some marinara sauce, or sour cream!

Nutritional Information per serving (serving size- 4 fritters):

197 calories/ 10 grams protein/ 14.3 grams fat/ 8.6 grams carbohydrates/ 6 grams of fiber / 7 WW smart points (green plan)

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Farm to Spork: Meet Dell DeChant

Dell DeChant, Associate Chair and Master Instructor of The University of South Florida’s Religious Studies Department. 

When we examine the overall scope of our food systems, we must acknowledge the diverse array of characters involved within the equation: Some folks may be farmers, while others may be local business others. Others, in this particular case, may be academics. I recently had the privilege to meet Dell Dechant, the Associate Chair and Master Instructor of The University of South Florida’s Religious Studies Department. For the past ten years, DeChant’s work has focused on the concept of Food Sovereignty, a concept we will delve into throughout the course of this article. His work is seen beyond the classroom, and evident throughout the town of Newport Richey. As a longtime New Port Richey resident, DeChant has been involved with several local food movements, including his efforts in helping the city establish and adopt a community gardening and urban farming ordinance, both of which encourage the growth and cultivation of food.

What better way to learn about the character and breadth of DeChant’s work, than by sitting down, over a casual lunchtime chat? The following is an annotated transcript of our recent interview, which took place at Roses Bistro, a local restaurant located in the heart of Downtown New Port Richey. As a note, our interview has been annotated and lightly edited for clarification purposes.

Sweet potatoes grown by growers in the New Port Richey FarmNet

1. [The Funky Spork] Tell us about yourself, and the academic work that you do.

[DeChant]: I would like to first begin by clarifying that the study of Religion is the study of culture systems, the study of language, history, and the way cultures interact with one another. We also look at the study of the Sacred Legitimation of a culture. What do we value? What do we place meaning in? What we value and what we find meaning in is a Sacred component of our life experience.

Agrarianism or experiences within popular culture can also be considered within the examination of Religion. What I study are manifestations of the Sacred within contemporary culture: That can look like traditional expressions of what we call religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and so on. But manifestations of the Sacred can also occur in seemingly secular aspects of culture: politics, economics, and the media.  For example, in terms of manifestations of the Sacred: What does it mean for a culture to embrace the acquisition of goods and consumerism as a source of meaning, value, purpose, and identity?   In other words, what are we, as a culture, willing to make sacrifices for? What are we willing to put all of our energies into for the sake of enrichment, empowerment, and for self-understanding? These are some of the nuances that attracted me to Religious Studies.

2. [The Funky Spork] How do you intersect the academic work you are doing in religious studies with the Food Sovereignty and justice movement?

[DeChant]: My study of religion and contemporary culture eventually led me to the study of Religion and Ecology, and Religion and Food Systems, two areas that I have been working on for the past ten years. I helped to establish the Urban Food Sovereignty group, at the University of South Florida.

My work in Food Sovereignty also extends to New Port Richey. In our town of New Port Richey, we have a sustainable movement called FarmNet. FarmNet is an effort to establish a sustainable community inspired by agrarian ideals – like Food Sovereignty.  FarmNet unites local farmers together with local markets and restaurants, supports locally owned and operated businesses of all sorts, hosts Farm to Table evenings, and promotes seasonal harvest festivals. As a result, more residents are learning about the local foodshed and seasonal produce, what businesses are locally owned and concrete actions that can be taken at a local level to restore community, local economics, and Food Sovereignty.  Folks are beginning to ask local businesses about the sources of their food ingredients, and these businesses, in-turn, have been listening.

3. [The Funky Spork] Can you explain what Food Sovereignty is, and what it means?

[DeChant]: Food Sovereignty is the opportunity and the right for persons to determine their own food systems. This includes the farming, the gardening, and the actual production, and processing of their own foods. This allows individuals and their communities to have that opportunity and fundamental right to make decisions about how they will produce, acquire, and share their food with others.   The Food Sovereignty movement emerged several decades ago in the Central American region, with roots dating to the Via Campesina movement, where indigenous farmers and people had become displaced from their land and dispossessed of resources to produce food due to the encroachment of industrialized agriculture (link). The Via Campesina Movement began as an effort of indigenous people who re-inserted control over their own food production and food choices, so they could determine what was appropriate for them and their community independent of control from large, multi-national corporations, as well as their own government.

One nuance regarding Food Sovereignty in the US is the challenge of individuals in urban environments having the ability to produce their own food. The challenge involves food that is produced in immediate local urban environments, according to local seasons and local knowledge; a process which is clearly superior to food that is produced using industrial methods and then shipped into urban environments. In fact, to add to this argument, the contemporary scholar Wendell Berry observed that for two generations beginning with the Baby Boomer Generations, US Culture has lived with the costly luxury of living thoughtlessly about the sources of our existence: The sources of food, water, clothing, and community. The cost of this luxury impacts sources, such as distant individuals working in exploitative conditions, and the destruction of our environment’s natural resources, along the way.  US culture has largely not had to worry about where our food comes from or how it’s produced. The vast majority of US society primarily thinks about their food sources in terms of the industrialized outlets (such as grocery stores, restaurants, or food delivery services). Because of this luxury, both ignorance of and indifference to the way food is produced, the distance it travels, the working conditions of farm laborers, the treatment of animals in CFOs, the damage to done ecosystems, the decimation of wildlife, and so on.  We consume food without context or care – and we can do so because of the industrial food system.

As with other elements of our industrial consumerist culture, the industrial food system sacralizes over-production, over-consumption, convenience, speed, and low costs, and indifference to the negative consequences of production.  These patterns therefore result in large amounts of food waste. Correspondingly, because of the same forces that are at work in the industrial food system is at work throughout the industrial system of the United States and the West. Ironically, those same forces are what also result in impoverished people having an inability to purchase food.

4. [The Funky Spork] What are the intersections between religion, and food?

[DeChant]: Once again, the way I approach the study of religion as the study of manifestations and Sacred Legitimation: What do we value? What are our sources of meaning, value, purpose, and identity?  What defines us and tells us about our world?  And what are the myths and rituals that are most important to us within a particular culture or system? These questions led me to the study of new religious movements, which led me to the study of popular culture, in general, and then eventually into questions about ecology and the contemporary ecological crisis. In each of those moments of research, I was finding that there were overarching streams that lead to the manifestations of the sacred.   In terms of contemporary popular culture, examples manifestations of the sacred can be seen in holidays, sporting events, media, music festivals, logos, and consumerism, politics and other activities that relate us to government.

I eventually became interested in I eventually became interested in how our forms of sacred legitimation impacted the natural world, and this led me to the study of religion and ecology. From there, I became interested in studying Religion and food systems. The overarching correlation between all of these subjects was the study of the Sacred, and how that concept manifests into the society that we are born into. If you think about religion in a very generalized sense, all involve the consumption of food: Some traditions are explicit about the importance of fasting or adopting a particular diet, in order to live a proper religious life. Other religions may have certain foods that are symbolic of the context of their Sacred practices and rituals. For example, Christianity has a ritual meal, known either as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Religious rituals, such as the concept of prayer or saying grace have been a Sacred method when eating.  Food has been a major component of Religion from the very beginning of humanity.

5. [The Funky Spork] What are some words of advice you would offer to someone who is interested in doing more to promote food justice within their everyday lives?

[DeChant]: Learn the sources of your existence, and act accordingly.  Grow your own food (even a single plant), find local growers and support them, buy only seasonal produce, avoid industrial food (grocery chains, fast food, convenience stores), shop local, talk to others.  While individual work may seem pointless, individual commitment is critical.  A small hinge can move a heavy door.  Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus.  Greta Thunberg sat down in front of the Swedish parliament building. The work of individuals is part of the change that is occurring and can become massive and culturally transformational.  It is important to do what we can as individuals to certainly make a difference in our own life. But it is also important to move to tell others about the importance of this type of work to the degree that we possibly can. It is also imperative to involve larger institutions, particularly government (local, state, and national), to get on board with these changes and work to share the necessity of such changes with the broader community – anyone who will listen, really.  

6. [The Funky Spork] How can people find out more about the work you or the food group is doing, if they would like to get involved?

[DeChant]: The USF Department of Religious Studies and the USF Urban Food Sovereignty groups will be hosting the Tampa Bay Urban Food Sovereignty Summit on October 22. The summit will bring together local growers, gardeners, farmers, academics, researchers, local organization, and Activists that do work pertaining to food justice and sovereignty. This free public event will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. at the USF Gibbons Alumni Center, located at 4202 E Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL, 33620.

For those unable to attend the summit, we ask that you get involved with the USF Food Sovereignty group. You can also connect with the New Port Richey FarmNet’s Facebook page, and express your interest in joining the USF Food Sovereignty group. You can also directly contact me, by messaging me at dechant@usf.edu, and I will add you to our email list.


To learn more about the USF Food Sovereignty group, visit: https://www.usf.edu/news/2019/promoting-food-soveregnty.aspx

Full video of our interview discussion.

Girls Night Out-With a ‘Rican Twist! (Vegan Jibaritos)

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of my amazing girlfriends’s recently had me over for a ‘girl’s night in’, a couple Friday nights ago. It was one of the best times that I have had in a while. There was so much laughing, joking, dancing, and eating. More than that, we shared a beautiful moment of bonding. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can be really hard to for me to see my friends on a regular basis. So that particular night was really a sacred time and space for us ladies to let our hair loose, and have a good time!

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of the highlights of our girl’s night in was getting to eat some damn good homemade Puerto Rican ‘street’ food. I wanted to show my friends how to make a classic Puerto Rican dish, called Jibaritos. Jibaritos (Hee-ba-ree-toes) is a Puerto Rican-style sandwich that uses tostones (fried green plantains) as the bread. Typical Jibaritos are simple, and traditionally contain skirt or flank steak, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce (referred to known as ketcho-mayo).

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Since going plant-based, I showed my friends how to make these sandwiches with a healthy, vegan twist. Instead of steak, I used Lions Mane mushroom, and substituted ketcho-mayo with a garlic guacamole. To cut out on unnecessary fat and calories, I opted for baking my tostones, as opposed to frying them. And I must say that my remixed version of the Jibaritos sandwich was a delicious success!



You may be wondering what the heck Lions Mushrooms are. A good friend of mine who is launching a local gourmet mushroom farm gifted me with a couple pounds to try out for my recipes. When raw, they almost resemble miniature white fuzz balls (see photo below).

Fuzzy Lions Mane Mushrooms (left), green plantains (right). Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
When sliced and cooked, these fuzz balls have a resemblance akin to dark meat chicken, and emit a beautiful caramelized color and robust meaty flavor when cooked. Far from unpleasant, these delicious mushrooms make a great alternative for any recipe which calls for the use of sautéed chicken or pork (see pic, below).

Mouth-watering cooked Lions Mane mushrooms. Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are not as common to find around, so if you don’t find any available nearby, you can always opt for fresh oyster mushrooms, which have a relatively similar flavor and will work just as well! If for SOME reason you cannot find oyster mushrooms, you can always use sliced portabella mushrooms. Just keep in mind that they won’t have the fibrous meaty-texture like the Lion’s Mane or oysters do. But the flavor will still be tasty!

Before I move onto the recipe, itself, I wanted to share a couple words of wisdom. Folks, no matter how busy your life schedule gets, please do yourselves a favor, and never forget to regularly carve time out to spend with your friends. Be intentional about cultivating the relationships you have with those around. Be purposeful in surrounding yourself with individuals who will uplift, inspire, challenge, motivate and accept you for YOU! We can either choose to allow the relationships around us lift us up, or tear us down. Make every moment and relationship count.

Photo courtesy Victoria Saunders
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Jibaritos Recipe

Ingredients:
  • Two large green plantains
  • Approximately 16 oz of fresh Lions Mane or Oyster mushrooms
  • Two ripe hass avocados
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 sliced tomato (optional)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup (optional)
  • 2 tbsp veganaise (optional)
Recommended Kitchen appliances:
  • 1-8.5”x10” baking tray
  • 1 tostonera (plantain smasher), or a plate flat enough for smashing
  • 1 skillet (minimum 10” diameter)
  • 1 set of tongs
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 large fork or smasher
  • 1 sharp cutting knife (one you like to use for chopping produce)
  • Parchment Paper
  • 1 cutting board
 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is pre-heating, take each of the green plantains and with your knife, slice off both ends of each plantain, and gently slice open the peel, lengthwise on each side. The skin peel is about 1/8”- 1/4” deep, so at this point, be able to have sliced the peel open and can take each plantain out of their tough exterior skin (images below). 

Photo Courtesy WikiHow.com

2. Take each plantain and split them directly in half. Then, take each half and carefully slice down the middle, until you get two halves from each piece. Those will serve as the ‘bread’ for your sandwiches (image of slices, below).

Photo Courtesy Carribbeanpot.com
3. Take two tablespoons of the cooking oil and gently massage each of the plantain halves with the oil until they are well-coasted. Take your baking tray, and line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the plantains are coated, line them individually on the parchment paper and let them bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. While the plantains are baking, this serves as a good opportunity to begin preparing your onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Set the garlic aside.

5. Take your onion, and slice into approximately ¼” thick slices. Set aside.

6. Take your mushrooms and cut into ½” slices. If you are slicing the Lion’s Mane, slice with the grain. Set aside.

7. Take your plantains out of the oven and either place them on the cutting board or another flat surface. Take your tostonero or plate and gently smash each of the tostones until they are about ¼” thick. Place each of the smashed plantain pieces back into the tray and take the salt and season them during this time. Place tray back into the oven and allow them to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

8. While the tostones are baking the second time, heat your skillet on medium-high. Place the remaining two tablespoons of your cooking oil into the skillet. Place 1 ½ of the mashed garlic cloves into the skillet and allow them to sauté for one minute, until the smell becomes fragrant. Gradually add the mushrooms into the skillet by gently placing them down flat-wise with the tongs. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with half of the adobo seasoning and then place the sliced onions around and on top of each mushroom. Let the mushrooms cook for about three minutes, and season the top halves with the rest of the adobo seasoning. After three minutes, gently flip each mushroom and onion piece over and allow to finish cooking for three minutes, until the other side also has a caramel brown coloring to it. If the tostones have not yet finished baking, turn the heat down to low, to keep the mushroom/garlic/onion mixture warm.

9. Slice each of the avocados in half. Place the avocado halves and remaining 1 ½ garlic clove chunks in the medium bowl and with a masher or fork, mash mixture until the avocado mixture is smooth-similarly to a guacamole. Lightly season with salt (optional). To prevent the avocados from turning brown, place the avocado seeds into avocado mixture.

10. (Optional step) in a small bowl, take your ketchup and veganaise mixture and mix well until the mixture turns into more of an orange hue. Then you have created a vegan ketch-mayo! 

11. Once the 15 minutes are up, check on the tostones (the mashed baked plantains). They should be golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool down for a couple minutes. Take each long half, and layer with the mashed avocado, and then take the mushroom/onion mixture and gently pile on each ‘sandwich’. Layer with some spinach, tomato, and even the ketcho-mayo mixture.

12. Eat, and enjoy the hell out of this potentially messy sandwich eating experience!! 🙂

4 servings

Nutritional Information:

397 Calories/ 7 grams protein/ 24 grams of fat/ 46 grams of carbohydrates/ 9 grams fiber

Did you try this recipe? Did you do any substitutions?? Comment below!