Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Necessity and All That

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. It's a good phrase, but honestly at this time of year it should really read: Zucchini is the mother of invention.
It happens all over the country every summer. Zucchini plants seem like a great idea in the Spring. Just one or two, just to yield a few nice fruits to toss into a stir fry. After the beginning of the love affair, when everything is shiny and the zucchini are all new, it's heaven. But then, just a few days later, you're sitting on seven zucchini the size and weight of a cat. After that, you find yourself doorstep bombing people with them.

In England, zucchini are called Courgettes and they are much more revered than they seem to be in America. They are longer and a little skinnier, and the deep green skins are flecked with beige. I have memories, however vague, or sauteed courgettes smothered in a rich, creamy cheese sauce. The juicy liquid of the courgette bursting through the rich decadence of the sauce with every bite.

For me, though, I adore zucchini and can't get enough of them. There is simply so much that can be done with them. They are great grilled, they make a fantastic addition to breads and muffins, you can add them to stir-fry's and casseroles. Heck, they're just pretty awesome.

My fabulous farm share has been good to me when it comes to zucchini. I've had them in steady supply for the past month or so, and these ones keep quite well in the fridge for a few days.

So when I went to rifle through the fridge for a good brunch idea (read: something to put under the goat cheese) I settled pretty quickly on Zucchini Pancakes. Of course, I played with the recipe a smidge. When a recipe calls for a small amount of onion, I've been using shallots instead recently. And then I added carrot for color and taste, and green pepper for some crunch, as I was worried the texture would be too uniform. If you're a spicy food person, I would certainly recommend throwing in a jalapeno or other chilli pepper. I, as usual, recommend a little goat cheese on top of these.

Zucchini Pancakes
Inspired by Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa at Home

3/4 lb Grated Zucchini
1 Medium Carrot
1 Small Green Pepper, diced
1 Shallot or 2 Tablespoons minced Red Onion
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (optional)
Butter and vegetable oil for frying

Grate the zucchini and the carrot and then add the shallot/onion and the green pepper. Mix in the eggs and seasoning, then the flour and baking powder. Heat some butter with a little vegetable oil mixed in in a non stick pan. Use about two tablespoons of batter per pancake. Level it out so that it doesn't mound up too much, else it won't cook all the way through. Cook each side until nicely browned, two to three minutes each.
As the batter stands, the salt will draw more liquid out of the zucchini. If it gets too thin, add a little more flour a tablespoon at a time.
Makes about 6 pancakes.

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