Summer Vegetable Pancakes with Basil Chive Cream
Generally speaking, we’re eating pretty simply (albeit deliciously) now: the vegetables pouring in via our CSA share, the local farmer’s market, and our garden are just so darn delicious that you don’t have to do much of anything to them to eat really well. But, I still do like to look for new ways to use them that I haven’t tried before — hence these pancakes.
My procrastination outlet trusty recipe source epicurious.com has a really great new-ish feature: a whole section on seasonal cooking, several different feature ingredients for all four seasons. Look at all these good summer ideas! So, if you, like me, are wondering what the heck you can do with ALL your zucchini, some good ideas await. I found a recipe for zucchini pancakes with basil chive cream, and made those first. They were fabulous. So then, with the carrots and zucchini and summer squash we received in our CSA share, I made them again a few nights later: and we liked these even more.
If you’re wondering how I can stand hovering over a hot cast iron skillet pan-frying vegetable pancakes in mid-August, I will just tell you this: it has been gorgeous, gorgeous weather here. It only gets to a high of about 80 degrees during the day, and has been in the 50’s overnight. So, I throw open the windows, get a cool breeze going, and well…it just feels like fall, almost! (Which kind of makes me sad, because I’m not ready for summer to be over yet, though I do intensely adore autumn, but…not yet!)
The recipe has two whipped egg whites in it, which act like a really wonderful, light, cloud-like binder for the vegetables. The two times I made this recipe, I tried it once with whipping the egg whites and once without — it’s definitely worth the 2 minutes it takes to whip them. The pancakes made without whipping the egg whites were a little heavier, and fell apart a bit more easily. I’m just sayin’…it’s worth the time.
AND: the basil chive cream. Oooooh la la. You’ll have more than enough left over afterwards to drizzle over wedges of roasted beets, blanched green beans, roasted or boiled baby potatoes, cherry tomatoes….you get the idea! (I have tried it on…um…all of the above. That’s how much I like it.)
Summer Vegetable Pancakes with Basil Chive Cream
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2002
While the original recipe uses just zucchini, and that is a delicious way to make these too, I like to use a combination of zucchini, yellow squash, and carrot when they’re all in season. I make mine roughly 1/4 cup-size, versus the tiny appetizer-sized pancakes suggested in the original recipe. They’re delicious for a light main course with a salad or other sides, or as a first course before the main event. And one last note: the basil-chive cream is so, so good over pretty much any vegetable!
For basil chive cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 cups coarsely grated summer squash – mixture of yellow summer squash and zucchini
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour [I've used white whole wheat flour successfully]
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
olive oil or canola oil
Make basil chive cream:
In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, blend together the sour cream, basil, chives, and salt until smooth and pale green. Chill under you’re ready to serve.
Place a large colander in your sink. Put the zucchini and yellow squash shreds in the colander and toss with the 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Let the squash stand at room temperature 20 minutes in the colander, then take handfuls at a time and squeeze them firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. (If you’d rather, you can put handfuls of it on a kitchen towel or paper towel and firmly blot it dry, but I find the hand method is most effective.) You really want to be sure you get as much water out as you can, otherwise they won’t cook properly. Transfer the drained squash to a large bowl and stir in the 1 cup of shredded carrots, flour, sugar, and pepper.
Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the vegetable mixture.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Work in batches of 3, and scoop about 1/4 cup batter per pancake into the skillet, flattening and smoothing each slightly with the back of a spoon. Cook the pancakes until golden brown on both sides, flipping halfway through. Transfer the cooked pancakes to paper towels while you cook the next batch. When you’re done, sprinkle all the warm pancakes with a little sea salt.
Serve drizzled with some basil chive cream.
Makes 6 medium pancakes, enough for a light dinner for 2 with a salad or other sides.