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Author Yasmin Khan on food, the Mediterranean, and the meaning of home

Yasmin-Khan

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

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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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