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Zucchini Pancakes with Tzatziki Sauce

Looking for different ways to utilize all those wonderful garden cucumbers and zucchinis this summer? The chefs at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) have a delicious suggestion: crispy zucchini pancakes with a yogurt and cucumber sauce that the Greeks refer to as tzatziki sauce. Throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, tzatziki is considered both as a salad as well as a sauce.

Cucumbers are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables and are believed to have been native to India. Extremely popular in Europe during the late 1400s, the vegetable was brought over to the New World by Columbus. Available in many varieties—ranging from pickling and slicing cucumbers to those that are yellow in color—the cucumber has a refreshing texture and taste that makes it well-suited to warm summer weather.

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, Zucchini is the Italian and American name for what the French and many English-speaking people call courgettes d'Italie, a variety of Cucurbita squash that is developed to harvest when relatively small, around 3 to 4 inches. The name zucchini stuck because the Italians were the first to market the vegetable in the small size. First introduced to the U.S. by Italian immigrants, the vegetable gained popularity and can be found today in many of our gardens and dishes.

"The pancakes below feature feta cheese and chopped walnuts to punctuate the relatively mild taste of the zucchini in these crispy fritters," says CIA Chef Lynne Gigliotti. "The yogurt-and-cucumber sauce adds richness to the pancakes, cools the heat from fiery curries, and can also be served on its own as a salad. And for all of you who have had enough pickles and zucchini bread for the year, this dish is a great way to try something new.

The following recipes are explained and illustrated in The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook (Lebhar-Friedman 2008), which is available for purchase at bookstores nationwide.

CIA's Zucchini Pancakes with Tzatziki Sauce recipe

Ingredients

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cucumber, squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint or dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt, as needed
  • Fresh ground black pepper, as needed

Pancakes

Makes 8 Servings

  • 12 ounces coarsely grated zucchini
  • Salt, as needed
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 ounce chopped dill
  • 1/2 ounce chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Chopped tarragon
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 1/2 ounces chopped toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cups olive oil for pan frying, or as needed

Directions

Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Combine the yogurt, sour cream, cucumber, and garlic in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the olive oil, mint or dill, lemon juice, and zest. Stir until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Zucchini Pancakes

  1. Place the grated zucchini in colander. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini to remove as much liquid as possible. Dry the zucchini by pressing it between several layers of paper towels.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, scallions, eggs, flour, dill, parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper until evenly blended. Fold in the feta cheese. (The pancake mixture can be prepared to this point up to 3 hours ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Stir to blend before continuing.) Fold the pine nuts into the zucchini mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300°F to keep the pancakes warm as you work. Place a baking sheet in the oven.
  4. Add enough oil to a large skillet to come to a depth of about 1/8 inch, and heat the oil over medium-high heat until the surface of the oil shimmers. Working in batches, drop heaping tablespoons of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil, leaving enough room for the pancakes to spread as they cook. Fry until the pancakes are golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of pancakes to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Serve immediately with the tzatziki sauce.

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