Consider the Cucurbit | Zucchini & Corn Pancakes

We've all seen blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, banana pancakes, really really thin pancakes, good ole buttermilk pancakes - but how bout zucchini pancakes?

Yes, I said zucchini. Blame it on the fact that it's growing like crazy in the garden and we can hardly harvest fast enough, and now I'm on a mission to include it in every meal possible. In the last two weeks alone, I've made zucchini soup, quinoa stuffed zucchini, sautéed zucchini, zucchini pizza, raw zucchini dipped in hummus, and - you guessed it - zucchini pancakes. So yeah, you could say I'm becoming very well acquainted with this vegetable. 

I've found that by digging deeper into the distinct personalities of different fruits and vegetables, I've gained the confidence to introduce more farm fresh produce into my repertoire. So because knowledge is power, here's the low down on all things zucchini !

Botanical facts

  • Zucchini are in the Cucurbit botanical family. Fellow members of the cucurbit family are cucumbers, melons, and winter squash like butternut, kabocha, and acorn squash. 
  • Specifically, zucchini are part of the Cucurbita pepo group, which also includes scalloped/patty pan, crookneck, and delicata squash. 
  • In the kitchen, zucchini is considered a vegetable; however botanically zucchini is technically a fruit!
  • Zucchini first evolved in the Americas, although varieties of squash known as "zucchini" were also grown in Italy - though they came much later than their emergence in the Americas. 

Garden tips

  • In your home garden, give zucchini seedlings plenty of room to allow for air circulation and prevent disease / pest issues. I like to give at least 2 feet of space when planting zucchini transplants. 
  • Harvest early and often! For better or worse, zucchini are incredibly prolific and can grow 1 to 2 inches a day. While overgrown zucchini are still edible, you'll find extra-large zucchini have pulpy, watered down flesh and large seeds.
  • Zucchini are known as "heavy feeders" - which means they require high soil nutrient levels to produce healthy fruit, so be sure to apply compost and natural fertilizers like fish emulsion throughout the growing season. 
  • Recommended summer squash varieties: Costata Romanesco (aka Cocozelle squash), Golden Glory, Y-Star (Patty Pan), Eight Ball

CULINARY WISDOM

  • Tried and true culinary companions for summer squash:
    • butter, olive oil, eggs
    • basil, marjoram, oregano, dill, tarragon, mint 
    • garlic, walnuts, pine buts, lemon
    • parmesan, feta, goat cheese
    • peppers, tomatoes, corn, rice, leafy greens
  • Zucchini and other summer squash varieties feature thin skins that are edible, so no need to pull out your peeler! In fact, the skins are where the most nutrients live, so all the more reason to simply chop them and go when preparing your recipes. 
  • Zucchini blossoms are delicacy that are best stuffed with soft cheese and fried. Or to keep it really simple - just slice the petals and scatter them as a floral garnish on salads and soups. 

Now that you know more about zucchini than you ever needed/wanted, here's the recipe for zucchini & corn pancakes with a herb yogurt sauce. The shredded zucchini makes the cakes moist and tender, and the corn adds surprising bursts of flavor. Paired with a bright and light herbed yogurt sauce and some simple-dressed greens, these little puppies are a great vegetarian main dish morning, noon, and night. Makes 9-10 pancakes.

Zucchini + Corn Pancakes with Herb Yogurt Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs | beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour (for gluten free, simply use a gluten free flour mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pound zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini) | coarsely grated
  • Kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup red onion | finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic | minced
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed basil | finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

Herb Yogurt Sauce

  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 clove garlic | minced
  • 1 lemon | juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

For the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, salt, pepper, and spices. Add the grated zucchini, corn kernels, onion, garlic and basil and stir until combined. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop the batter in scant 1/3-cup measures into skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side; lower heat if pancakes begin to brown too deeply before middle is cooked through. Add more oil between batches if necessary. Serve the pancakes warm or room temperature, topped with a dollop or or two of the herb yogurt sauce.

Herb Yogurt Sauce: Simply whisk together the yogurt sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.