Squash, courgette, zucchini, call it what you will, but the vegetable is threatening to take over the world! Or, at least the market (and certainly the garden). It’s everywhere, it’s cheap… and it’s one of the main ingredients of Mark Bittman’s “vegetable pancakes” from his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, a recipe that we recently sampled. (It’s also one of the book’s “20 essential vegetarian dishes.”)
It’s an ingenious concept, actually — combine 1 lb grated zucchini (or turnips, winter squash or sweet potatoes) with half a grated onion, one egg, one cup flour, salt and pepper. Add a bit of milk to form a thick batter. Grease up the griddle and you’ve got yourself some fritters. Easy peasey, right?
Except… they didn’t taste very good.
Instead of a light, bready texture, the pancakes (photo above — I served them with some leftover ratatouille) were gluey in the center, as if the batter hadn’t cooked enough. Should I have cooked them more? I’m not sure. It’s true my pan was too hot at first, but after the first batch, I thought I had the problem under control. No, it was as if the zucchini sweated too much, making the center soggy. Indeed, Mark B.’s general instructions for “the basics of vegetable pancakes and fritters” (which I read after I made them, clever me) say: “Water is the only potential pancake problem. If you’re using raw vegetables high in moisture — like zucchini or onions — after grating, wrap them in a towel (or gather up in fistfuls) and give them a good squeeze.”
Apparently, I should have spent less time last night constructing the perfect kir (so hard to find the proper proportion between the creme de cassis and white wine) and more time squeezing vegetables.
And yet… in her book Barefoot Contessa at Home, Ina Garten has a recipe for zucchini pancakes, which I tried a few weeks ago. It calls for:
3/4 lb zucchini (vs 1 lb), grated
2 tablespoons onion (vs. 1/2 onion) grated
2 eggs (vs. 1 egg)
6-8 tablespoons flour (vs. 1 cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder (vs. none)
Salt and pepper
Combine ingredients in the same manner as Mark B. (Note: there are no instructions to squeeze the veg) and fry on the griddle. These pancakes turned out light and delicious, without a hint of gluiness. Was it luck? Skill? A better recipe? You tell me.