Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Zucchini Pancakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Farm Stand Food”

The Set-up: Ina is taking recipe inspiration from the veggies she finds in her CSA box.

The Menu: Scalloped Tomatoes, Zucchini Pancakes, Cape Cod Chopped Salad

0:41 – Ina has her weekly CSA box of vegetables from Amber Waves Farm and now she has to figure out what to make with everything, which seems kind of stressful!

1:39 – The box yields tomatoes, garlic, basil and two small-ish baguettes, which she says she can make into Scalloped Tomatoes. So that’s a few things spoken for at least.

2:16 – Apparently this Scalloped Tomatoes recipe is perfect with basically everything you could imagine and is one of Ina’s go-to side dishes. She doesn’t actually dare us to find a main course that it won’t go with, but it’s implied.

3:20 – While Ina dices the plum tomatoes we get an overview of Amber Waves Farm and the work that they’re doing in the community to educate people on farming.

4:34 – These are some lucky farmers with both Ina and Eli Zabar singing their praises. I’m convinced at least.

5:09 – Back to the Scalloped Tomatoes, which seem to consist of toasted baguette, sautéed tomatoes, and roughly chopped basil leaves.

6:12 – Now it goes into the oven with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil to bake a la a gratin. Yum.

10:44 – Onward to transform the arugula and granny smith apples in the box into a Cape Cod Chopped Salad.

11:15 – Ina tells us that arugula used to be difficult to find in grocery stores but that its popularity has increased a ton over the past few years. I believe it too, it’s my go-to green for salads since it seems to hold up in the fridge longer than other greens.

12:33 – I bet this salad tastes awesome, the ingredients in this salad are such classic combinations – cranberry/apple; blue cheese/walnuts.

13:20 – The apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard dressing makes me think of fall. We’re one butternut squash away from the ultimate autumnal salad!

14:18 – If you weren’t convinced before that this is an amazing salad, Ina just added big pieces of crisp bacon. Drops mic. Goes home.

19:47 – The last recipe is for Zucchini Pancakes, which seems like a gift from heaven because what on earth are you supposed to do with all the zucchini!? It’s everywhere!

20:29 – Ina points out that this recipe could be used for potato pancakes too, so file this one away friends!

21:46 – I never thought of zucchini as being especially wet, but Ina says it can release a lot of moisture so sometimes more flour is needed in the batter.

22:13 – Pro Tip #1: Using a combination of butter and olive oil for sautéing gives the flavor of butter, but the high burning temperature of the oil.

23:02 – Pro Tip #2: Just like with regular pancakes, you can tell that the zucchini pancakes are ready to flip when the tiny bubbles start to burst.

24:17 – Ina says if this is eating your vegetables then she’s on board. Well, sure anything pan sautéed in butter is going to taste pretty good, right?

27:30 – A round of “Ask Ina” focuses on produce-related questions. First, Sophie requests corn on the cob recipes and Ina suggests cutting it off the cob and sautéing it with butter salt and pepper. All the flavor and no dental floss needed.

28:22 – Next, Cheryl wants to know how to store fresh garlic so that it lasts longer? Ina recommends keeping the head of garlic in its paper at room temperature in a dry, well-ventilated place (ie. don’t peel all your garlic, wrap it in plastic, and keep it in the fridge.)

29:14 – Bill wonders if heirloom tomatoes really do taste different from traditional tomatoes? Ina assures him that they definitely do have a different flavor, but if heirlooms aren’t available that cherry or grape tomatoes tend to be more flavorful and roasting a tomato always brings out its best.

29:40 – Lastly, Cynthia and her family are hoping Ina can convert them into fennel lovers with a new way to cook it. Ina commiserates and says she only likes it roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. And that’s that!

Final Thoughts:
Zucchini varieties have such adorable names! Seabring, magda, and bush baby sound like characters from a children’s book.

I wonder what other grate-able vegetables could be turned into pancakes? Beets? Squash?

It comforts me to know that even Ina finds it challenging to come up with ways to use her CSA box.

Zucchini Pancakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Zucchini Pancakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
You probably realized before I did that Zucchini Pancakes are essentially the same as a potato latke. It should surprise no one that I’ve never made a latke before, so that didn’t really help me at all! Here’s what I learned along the way.

Zucchini to Flour Ratio – Ina warned us, but I was still surprised! Grated zucchini slowly releases moisture and I found myself starting with just a few tablespoons of flour thinking that was enough. As the mixture sat, even for a minute or two between sautéing batches, I’d need to add another tablespoon or two to get the right consistency. Something to keep an eye, on and next time I think I’d do what Deb at Smitten Kitchen recommends and wring the shredded zucchini in cheese cloth.

Sautéing – An opportunity to put into practice all the pan-frying I’ve done in the last year (thanks pork schnitzel, chicken piccata, goat cheese salad…) As always, resist crowding the pan and cook in batches to get a crispy golden crust; watch for the bubbles to form and burst.

Portioning – I’d recommend starting with 1-2 tablespoons of batter per pancake and spreading the batter out a little. Go for thinner and larger in circumference so that the center cooks fully.

Reheating – No need to worry about having leftovers, I found that I could reheat these on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes per side.

Zucchini Pancakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Zucchini Pancakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I needed a medium mixing bowl, box grater, small cutting board, chef’s knife and measuring spoons. I also used a large non-stick sauté pan, a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a rubber spatula, a large spoon, and a butter knife.

The Verdict:
I made Zucchini Pancakes for myself during a week when Mike was away for work. I had intended to save him some of the leftovers, but they were so good that by the time he got home from his trip all the extras were mysteriously gone…. I loved the flavor of the zucchini and onion just lightly toasted and golden, and once I had my brainwave about their relation to latkes a little dab of plain greek yogurt (Chobani 4%) was a natural accompaniment. I could easily consume a garden’s worth of zucchini if they came in the form of these pancakes, I bet you could too.

Zucchini Pancakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Zucchini Pancakes | Image: Laura Messersmith