Author Yasmin Khan on food, the Mediterranean, and the meaning of home
On the Greek island of Lesvos, refugees from the nearby Moria camp gathered in a fish restaurant for lunch.
The owners had converted the restaurant to a nonprofit dedicated to feeding refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. Families sat around tables, laughing, chatting, and playing music.
In 2020, Moria burned down leaving 13,000 people unsheltered. Before the fire, the camp was often called a living hell by those stuck in it.
But for a few hours a week, refugees could forget their political status. They could get lost in the taste of delicious food and be reminded of home.
This is one of many stories Yasmin Khan tells about the power of food in her third cookbook, “Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus.” Khan’s food writing is more than just recipes. We speak to her about the stakes of a good meal in the moments you feel you have little else.
Below you’ll find an example of one such recipe.
Zucchini & Feta fritter
These herb-packed fritters make fantastic appetizers or even good sandwich fillers, popped into pockets of pita bread with some pickles and greens. They have the added bonus of being just as tasty at room temperature as they are when hot, so are useful to make ahead of time if you are having guests over, or to take on a picnic.
3 medium zucchini, grated (about 1 lb 5 oz/600g)
4 green onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
large handful of dill, finely chopped
large handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1/2 cup/65g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
⅔ cup/125g feta cheese, crumbled
sunflower oil, for frying
salt and black pepper
makes about 16, serves 4 to 6 as part of a mezze
Place the grated zucchini in a colander, either over a plate or in the kitchen sink, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, tossing the vegetables a little to make sure they are evenly coated. Set aside for 30 minutes for the salt to drain the water from the zucchini, then, using your hands, gently squeeze them to remove any excess water.
Place all the ingredients except the feta in a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly combined. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of black pepper before gently folding in the crumbled feta.
In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, spoon 1 heaped tablespoon of batter for each fritter into the pan. You’ll need to cook these in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Lightly press them down with the back of the spoon, flattening the fritters slightly, then cook for about 6 minutes, turning halfway, until cooked through, golden, and crisp on both sides.
Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and keep warm while you cook the remaining fritters, adding more oil as necessary.
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