Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini Pancakes and Creamed Corn

Creamed corn topped with zucchini pancakes and a tomato
and avocado salad simply dressed with lime juice, salt, & pepper.
When Summer rolls around, the bounty of fresh vegetables available increases, particularly for those who frequent farmers' markets. Even supermarket shoppers find goodies like fresh corn, peaches, and melons, that while available all year round, are more plentiful in the warmer months (and are more likely to have been grown somewhere in the same hemisphere).

If it's hot outside, I'm less apt to want to mess around with cooking or eating meat and more inclined to attempt making an interesting meal out of produce. Like zucchini, which is everywhere. A few weeks ago, I spotted a monster-sized specimen on the sidewalk next to the local community garden. Fred Flintstone could have used it as a club, it was so hefty. Whoever picked it up probably fed their family for a week with it. For this recipe, I chose to use much smaller squash, but heck, if you have some giants lurking in your backyard garden, by all means put them to use! These pancakes borrow heavily from Polish placki, usually made with potatoes, with the delightful addition of fresh herbs.

As for creamed corn, I have never met anyone who eats the gloppy, overly-sweet, canned version voluntarily. Fresh creamed corn is another animal entirely, with better texture and flavor. I tried to make it a little leaner than most recipes that add a ton of heavy cream by cooking the corn in light milk, and adding some half and half at the end for flavor. It's thick and not too rich, almost like fresh corn grits, but chunkier.

Zucchini Pancakes

3 medium zucchini, peeled and grated (about 5 cups grated zucchini)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro, etc.)
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1/2 cup flour
oil for frying

Place the zucchini into a colander set over a bowl. Add the salt and toss well. Allow the zucchini to drain for about 30 minutes. Place the zucchini in a clean tea towel and squeeze out just about all of the moisture. You should have about 1.5 - 2 cups of zucchini after this process.

Place zucchini in a bowl and beat in eggs. Stir in flour; the batter will be extremely thick. Stir in herbs and green onion.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan. Drop the zucchini mixture into the oil by heaping tablespoonfuls, spreading slightly into a pancake shape. Cook over medium-high heat until browned on bottom, then flip and brown on the other side. Remove fritters from pan to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Cook fritters in batches until all batter has been used up. Don't crowd the pan - make only 3 or 4 at a time, and replenish oil as necessary. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Creamed Corn

6 ears fresh corn
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup half and half

Holding each ear upright in the middle of a large bowl, cut the kernels from the corn with a sharp knife. Also run the back of your knife along each ear to scrape out any pulp and milk that might remain.

Add corn and pulp to a dutch oven or large saucepan and add a pinch of salt, the sugar, and milk. Cook over low heat until the corn is tender and much of the milk evaporates, about 40 minutes. For a creamier corn, use an immersion blender to partially puree it, but if you don't mind the chunks, leave as is. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, using a whisk to combine well. Raise the heat, add the half and half and cook for a few minutes to warm through. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

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