Crispy-edged summer squash fritters – imbued with the distinctive flavors of toasted cumin and fried black mustard seeds – are an unexpected and delicious way to make use of your summer squash stores. The fritters are served with a cooling green onion and cilantro raita and a handful of sweet cherry tomatoes.
I know exactly what to do with certain produce. Tomatoes? Smoked sea salt and tons of white pepper. Watermelon? Sumac and chili powder. Radishes? Lime juice and sea salt. Okra? Salt generously and sauté until crisp. But, until recently, I had yet to find my go-to summer squash recipe.
Sort of. It had previously been sautéed to golden in a ton of butter and finished with fresh mint. But my kids WILL NOT EAT THAT. They’re also not wild about summer squash roasted or baked. We’ve had a ton of summer squash in our CSA lately, and reader, I cannot and will not eat it all by myself. Enter summer squash fritters.
These fritters have two really great things going for them. First off, they are fritters. Meaning they’re fried: golden and crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. I tried a few variations, and this one made with corn meal and flour was easy to work with and cooked up beautifully.
The other thing these have going for them is toasted cumin and fried black mustard seed. The spices combine to add punch to summer squash’s understated flavor profile. Cumin is toasted in a dry pan just until fragrant, while black mustard seeds are fried in olive oil just until the first few pop, and the result is spices that really stand out, even when mixed into the fritter batter.
Green onion and cilantro raita is a perfect, effortless accompaniment. I blended Greek yogurt with cumin and mustard seed, chopped green onion, and cilantro. Lastly, I added a big pinch of chili powder and a drizzle of the mustard-infused olive oil. Consider making a double batch since this raita also makes a delicious addition to a plate of salt and pepper-sprinkled tomatoes.
And in case you’re wondering, three out of four family members loved the fritters. My youngest daughter refused them, but she also doesn’t like tomatoes and therefore cannot be trusted on anything food-related.
- 3 teaspoons cumin seed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 teaspoons black or brown mustard seed
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 green onions, ends trimmed and minced, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 bunch cilantro, stems and all, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 4 medium summer squash, ends trimmed and shredded
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- 6 green onions, ends trimmed and chopped
- 2 large eggs
- reserved cumin
- reserved mustard seed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup fine or medium grind cornmeal
- neutral, heat-tolerant oil for frying
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved *optional
First, prep the spices. Set a small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seed and, shaking the pan a bit, cook just until seeds are fragrant, 1 - 2 minutes. Grind toasted seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Reserve 2 teaspoons ground cumin for fritters. Heat olive oil in the same skillet, then add mustard seeds and cook just until the first few pop, 1 - 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set pan aside to cool. When cool, strain mustard seeds from the oil. Reserve 2 teaspoons seeds for the fritters and the oil for drizzling over raita just before serving.
In a medium bowl, stir to combine yogurt, lemon juice, green onions and cilantro, 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and fried mustard seeds, and sea salt. Cover and set in fridge while you make the fritters.
In a large bowl, toss shredded summer squash with 1 teaspoon sea salt; set aside for 15 minutes.
Scoop squash from accumulated juices, wringing with your hands as you go, and set in a large flour cloth or other clean kitchen towel. Twist up the ends and wring as much water as you can from the squash.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir to combine squash, green onions, eggs, and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Fold in flour and cornmeal. The mixture may seem dry at first, but just keep folding and the flour will absorb. Set batter aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Set a wire rack on a baking sheet and slide into the oven. Set temperature to 200 degrees F.
Heat a large cast iron or other heavy skillet on the stove with the dial turned just past medium (roughly 5-o'clock). Add oil to a 1/4-inch depth. When oil shimmers and is fragrant, add dough in 1/4 cup scoops. Press down gently once you set them in the oil. There should be enough room to cook 5 or 6 at a time. Cook, nudging just a bit to prevent sticking, 4 minutes or until the edges appear deep golden brown under the surface of the oil. Carefully flip fritters using a fish spatula or tongs, and cook 3 - 4 minutes more. As cooking proceeds, edge heat down to medium and reduce cook times slightly as needed. Keep cooked fritters warm on the prepared wire rack in the oven.
Just before serving, spoon raita into a serving bowl and swirl with a spoon. Drizzle with reserved mustard oil, and sprinkle with chili powder and reserved green onion and cilantro. Serve fritters with a big dollop of raita and a few cherry tomatoes.