Necessity is the mother of invention. Does that proverb also apply to the use of a waffle iron? It would seem so.
I am not a fan of uni-taskers, and for years I viewed the waffle iron as just that: a piece of equipment that might get used two or three times a year. But now we have been shown the light. In these days of Instagram and Pinterest, there is a new trend brewing. A waffle iron is necessary for a waffle, but a waffle is not necessary for a waffle iron. It can make oh-so-much more.
The new waffling movement goes far beyond making a grilled cheese sandwich on a George Foreman grill. A few recipes now being waffled include cinnamon buns, omelets, and hash browns. However donít limit waffling to breakfast items. Brownies, quesadillas, bacon, burgers, even pizzas are being cooked like waffles.

Waffled Zucchini Fritters with Tomato Relish

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
6 medium-sized zucchini
Kosher salt
4-5 spring onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced (such as dill, basil, mint, parsley, and thyme)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tomato Relish (recipe follows)

Preheat a waffle iron. When hot, spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Use a cheese grater to shred the zucchini into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, toss well to incorporate, and transfer to a colander. Place the colander over the bowl and set aside for 10-15 minutes to draw out moisture. Squeeze the excess moisture from the zucchini, discard the water in the bottom of the bowl, and return the squash to the bowl.
Add onions, herbs, garlic, eggs, milk, and a pinch or two of kosher salt to the zucchini and whisk well. Add cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and seasonings. Stir to combine.
Spritz the waffle iron again. Make a test fritter: drop a small amount of batter into the waffle iron and cook until brown around the edges. Taste this fritter and adjust salt, pepper, and mustard powder as needed.
Once the batter has been perfected and approved, cook fritters in batches, taking care to spray the waffle iron between each batch. Serve with tomato relish.
Tomato Relish

Ingredients:
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Cook over low heat until reduced and syrupy. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Waffled Basil Pesto and Roasted Tomato Caprese Panini

Ingredients:
2 ripe tomatoes, such as heirloom or beefsteak, seeded and sliced
Olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
6 slices sandwich bread
Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Mayonnaise, about 1/4 cup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.
Spread the tomato slices onto the pan; drizzle with olive oil, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until slightly shriveled and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the over and set aside.
Preheat a waffle iron. When hot, spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Assemble 3 whole sandwiches by spreading 1 slice of bread with pesto. Top with a third of the tomato slices and a third of the mozzarella. Top with another slice of bread that has been spread with pesto. Press with your hands to squish the sandwich together. Now spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise on outside of both slices of bread. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
Place in the waffle iron and press until the cheese has melted. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally and serve immediately.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Lemon juice, to taste

In the bowl of a food processor while the machine is running, drop the garlic cloves in one at a time, allowing each clove to be chopped before adding the next.
Add basil and pine nuts, and pulse until chopped.
While the processor is on, drizzle in olive oil and process until smooth.
Add Parmesan cheese, pulse 2-3 times, and season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon juice.
Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal columnist Season Stepp can be reached at Season28@aol.com.