Some of my colleagues would emphatically not agree, but I like Monoprix, the supermarket-meets-department-store that has a branch close to my office. I agree with the colleagues that things there are expensive, but then I feel that way about everything in Paris (except for the lovely store that is also just around the corner from my office and that sells stock clearance items from some pretty useful brands like Rice and Jamie Oliver).
What I like is the packaging on their own brand. It has clean lines, bright colours and funny slogans. Yes, funny slogans. Those are usually a sign for me to steer well clear, but Monoprix gets it surprisingly right. A bright white and red striped dish towel I bought came with the admonishment “à colorier avec de la sauce tomate”. Oh yeah, I’ve been there, with the white towel and the pan of pasta sauce that I thought was clean.
Not with this particular dish towel, though. This one I stained with zucchini. If you didn’t know that could happen, join the club. I considered zucchini a mostly colorless vegetable. The only stains I’ve ever caused with zucchini came from the oil they were fried in, or the sauce around them. Turns out, though, if you shred them, salt them, let them sit for a while and then squeeze the living daylights out of them in a tea towel, they will bleed bright green fluid. Huh.
The green is really rather pretty, and the pancakes made with the pulp more than make up for the trouble of washing the dish towel. They are flavoured with leek, dill and goat’s cheese (or feta), bound by eggs and a bit of flour and are all-around lovely. With some bites you get just the soft vegetable flavour of zucchini enveloped in eggy batter, while others have a surprising hit of cheese or vibrant dill. They are even better when dipped in a tangy yogurt sauce (with some more dill, perhaps, and a good dose of salt), and awesome hot as well as warm. When they’re hot, you get the fun of cheese squirting out of the pancake when you press down your fork, but cold you can sink your teeth into actual pieces of cheese. Both are lovely, and both mean the same thing: make these. Go on, listen to Monoprix and stain a towel.
Serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as an appetizer
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 medium leek
- 100 gr soft goat’s cheese (or feta, if you prefer)
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
- black pepper
- knob of butter
- 2 eggs
- enough flour to bind the mixture (start with about ½ cup)
- olive oil for frying
For the yogurt sauce:
- 100 gr full fat, thick yogurt
- more finely chopped fresh dill
Start by thoroughly washing the leek, then chopping it into thin rings. Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the leek and sweat until soft. Meanwhile, grate the zucchini over a colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside. When the leek is done, transfer it to a bowl to cool. Wipe the skillet.
For the yogurt sauce, mix together the yogurt, dill and enough salt to make the other flavours sing. Set aside for the flavours to develop while you make the pancakes.
Chop the cheese into chunks. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and add the leek when it has cooled to lukewarm. Put the salted, shredded zucchini into a dishtowel and, over the sink, squeeze. Then squeeze some more. The zucchini will release a surprising amount of liquid, and should reduce in volume by about half. Add the zucchini to the eggy leeks, grind a generous amount of black pepper into the bowl, add the dill and mix thoroughly. Add enough flour to make a thick batter, but don’t add so much that the mixture becomes dry or stiff. Gently fold in the cheese chunks.
Heat the skillet again, and add a good glug of olive oil. When the oil is so hot that a drop of batter sizzles when slid into it, start frying your pancakes. Add a large tablespoon or so of batter per pancake, and flatten until it is about 1 cm thick. Fry until dark golden (or brown, brown works) and flip. Cook the other side until it is nicely coloured and crisp as well, then remove the pancake to a plate lined with paper towels. Continue until you have used all your batter, keeping finished pancakes lukewarm between two plates, or hot in the oven.
Dip in yogurt sauce, eat. (Or cool, put in the fridge and bring to room temperature before you enjoy them at some later moment.)