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Recipes: Making a meal out of Greek appetizers

Flavorful meze can be the start of a great dinner or a meal on their own.

Photographs by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.

Whether it’s a warming avgolemono in the fall, a rich pastitsio in the winter, or a succulent roast leg of lamb in the spring, a homey Greek-inspired dinner is welcome any time of year. In the summer, I turn to meze – the little nibbles Greeks often serve to whet the appetite. A spread of heartier meze makes a terrific meal by itself. Here we start with mint-spiked zucchini fritters and move on to a simple, light but satisfying shrimp dish with tomatoes and feta. Though you could argue that lemon-garlic potatoes aren’t really part of a traditional meze, I think they go beautifully with the shrimp.

Zucchini Fritters With Mint

Makes about 14 2-inch fritters

I like the rustic texture of panko in the fritters, but you can substitute plain dry bread crumbs. The flour provides a little extra binding to make the zucchini mixture easier to handle.

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1¼    pounds (about 4 medium-small)  zucchini, ends trimmed

1         large onion, cut into halves or quarters if necessary

Salt and ground black pepper

1         large egg, beaten

1         tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

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Pinch cayenne pepper

2        tablespoons flour

½      cup grated pecorino Romano

½      cup chopped fresh mint

½      cup panko bread crumbs

1/3       cup neutral oil

Yogurt Sauce, for serving

Using a food processor fitted with the coarse grating disk or the large holes on a box grater, grate the zucchini and onion. In a large strainer set over a bowl, mix the grated zucchini and onion and 1½ teaspoons salt to blend and set aside to drain for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the zucchini mixture well under cold running water, drain, then pour onto a dish towel and wring out liquid over sink. Empty the mixture into a large bowl and break up clumps. Add the egg, garlic, and cayenne and stir to blend well. Add the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon black pepper and stir to blend well. Add the pecorino Romano, mint, and bread crumbs, and stir to blend well. Scoop a 2-tablespoon portion of the zucchini mixture, roll it into a ball, and flatten it into a roughly 2-inch-diameter round; repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture (you should have about 14 rounds).

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Arrange about half the zucchini rounds in the skillet (make sure they don’t touch) and cook, undisturbed, until crisp and deep golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes (the oil should bubble around the rounds visibly but gently). Gently turn them over and continue to cook until crisp and deep golden brown on the second side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Carefully remove the fritters to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Repeat to cook and drain the remaining fritters. Serve hot or warm with the Yogurt Sauce (below).

Yogurt Sauce With Garlic

Makes about 1½ cups

1½    cups plain Greek-style yogurt

1         teaspoon minced or grated garlic (about 1 large clove)

3        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

3        tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, garlic, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and parsley. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary and serve.

TIP: ZUCCHINI SQUEEZING

Salting and squeezing zucchini drives out extra moisture that would make your fritters dense and gummy. After salting, resting, and rinsing the grated zucchini, spread out a clean dish towel, pour the zucchini into the center, gather the edges and corners, and twist hard over the sink to wring out as much liquid as possible.

anthony tieuli

Salting and squeezing zucchini drives out extra moisture that would make your fritters dense and gummy. After salting, resting, and rinsing the grated zucchini, spread out a clean dish towel, pour the zucchini into the center, gather the edges and corners, and twist hard over the sink to wring out as much liquid as possible.

Shrimp With Tomatoes and Feta

Serves 6 as meze or 4 as a main course

Make sure the sauce is well thickened before adding the shrimp, which exude liquid as they cook.

2        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1         medium onion, chopped

Salt and ground black pepper

1         tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

¼      teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1         tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1         tablespoon tomato paste

½      cup dry white wine

1         large (28-ounce) can petite-diced tomatoes, well drained

1         teaspoon sugar

¼      cup chopped fresh mint

2        tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1½    pounds extra-large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), shelled and deveined

1½    cups crumbled feta (about 6 ounces)

Set the broiler rack about 6 inches beneath the heating element and heat the broiler. In a large broiler-safe skillet over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds longer. Add the oregano and tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the wine, adjust the heat to medium-high, bring to a strong simmer, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by about half, about 2½ minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and sugar and bring to a strong simmer, stirring; adjust the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes longer. Off heat, add 3 tablespoons of the mint, the parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste and stir to mix. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Add the shrimp in a single layer, nestling them into the sauce as much as possible, and sprinkle the feta evenly over the shrimp and sauce.

Broil until the shrimp are just cooked through and the feta is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Taking great care with the hot skillet, remove it from the broiler. Drizzle lightly with oil, sprinkle with the remaining mint, and serve at once.

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Pan-Roasted Potatoes With Garlic and Lemon

Serves 6 as meze or 4 as a side dish

2        pounds small redskin, Yukon gold, or creamer potatoes (1½ to 3 inches in diameter), scrubbed

3        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

1         tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon

1         tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

1½    tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano

3        tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cut potatoes in half if small (1½- to 2-inch diameter) or in quarters if larger, rinse in cold water, drain well, and dry thoroughly.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the potatoes with a cut side down in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown (oil should sizzle gently; adjust heat if necessary), about 10 minutes. Turn potatoes so that the skin side or another cut side is down and cook until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes longer. Shake the pan to redistribute the potatoes, spread into a single layer, adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender when poked with a paring knife, about 8 minutes longer. Add ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and zest, garlic, oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to blend. Add the lemon dressing to the potatoes and cook, stirring gently (take care not to bash the potatoes), until the dressing is warm and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add the parsley and stir to mix. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary and serve hot.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.
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