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Zucchini plays patty cake 

I like summer squash. Really, I do. But the relationship comes with conditions. I can't do it sauteed.

An unfortunate thing happens to sweet rounds of zucchini when cooked in oil in a skillet. They inevitably get overcooked, resulting in mush that tastes more like soap suds - a flavor I like to forget after a few childhood rounds of a Palmolive-saturated dishcloth dispensed by my mother.

In spite of my zuke aversion, I haven't given up on one of the most prolific members of the summer garden patch - thanks to the box grater. When shredded, zucchini maintains its crisp texture and sweet flavor and holds up like a champ when pan-fried as a patty.

The version below, from cookbook diva Deborah Madison, is a vegetarian's midsummer dream come true. With salty notes from the capers, crunch from the pine nuts and herby surprises from parsley and chives, this patty is chock-full of flavor and can hold its own inside a burger bun. On its own, she's pretty as a picture, especially when topped with sliced cherry tomatoes.

Zesty Zucchini Skillet Cakes
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen by Deborah Madison

4 cups grated zucchini (from 4-6 medium squash)

Coarse salt

2 eggs, beaten, or 1/2 cup pureed tofu

3 tablespoons chopped chives

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup chopped parsley

3 tablespoons chopped marjoram or 3 teaspoons dried (alternatively, use oregano)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup capers, rinsed

Olive oil for frying

Toss grated zucchini with 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside to allow water to release while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. With your hands, squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the zucchini.

Place zucchini in a large mixing bowl and to that, add the rest of the ingredients. Combine with a large spoon so that ingredients are thoroughly mixed. To check seasonings, fry a small pinch of the mixture and taste it for salt and pepper. Season accordingly.

Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop batter and prepare it for frying. Heat a skillet and line the pan with olive oil. When pan is hot, unmold batter from measuring cup and gently press into a patty. Place patty in pan and cook over medium heat until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve immediately or hold in 200 degree oven until all patties are cooked. Top with sliced cherry tomatoes.

Culinary questions? Reach CL's Kitchen Witch at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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