If I were forced to identify only one dish that summed up my Mom’s cooking, one dish that burned bright in my memory and lingered on my palate years later, it would be – no, not apple pie, meatloaf or lasagna – zucchini pancakes. Amidst her Dilly Beans and mac and cheese, the Christmas Eve cheesecake and barbecued spareribs with artichokes, zucchini pancakes are the quintessential summation of Mom’s work in the kitchen.
They were born out of both creativity and desperation. They appeared late each summer when zucchini exhaustion set in and the dark green squashes grew larger and larger. With the din of dinner complaints rising, Mom found an exciting new way to put zucchini on the table. And could a recipe be any cooler? As anyone who has eaten zucchini bread knows, it is equally comfortable being both sweet and savory. We would joyfully sit down to a plateful, dripping in real maple syrup. They were practical, delicious, inventive and comforting. Stepping way out of the late 70’s comfort zone she created a family classic. That’s what you taught me in the kitchen Mom. That’s what I carry with me today.
I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years. Bisquick gave way to potato starch whose flavor sits happily in the background. Fresh basil – and tarragon, when I have it – replace parsley. The ratio of zucchini to batter is much higher. Less like breakfast cakes, the ones I make today are cooked over medium low heat, getting brown and crisp on the outside while remaining wet and gooey inside. These days I usually serve them with a yogurt sauce, bright and fresh with mint and paprika or cayenne. But I have to admit, maple syrup is still my favorite.
Mom’s Zucchini Pancakes
- 4 cups grated zucchini, about 2 medium
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbs fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 tsp Spanish Paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- Cream, as needed
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 2 tbs chopped mint
- Paprika or cayenne
- Place grated zucchini in colander, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and leave for 15-20 minutes.
- Squeeze water from zucchini with your hands and place in large bowl with egg, basil, garlic, parmesan, paprika, pepper and potato starch. Mix. If the batter is too dry, stir for a minute and then add a tablespoon or two of cream as needed. This is pretty thick batter.
- Mix together the yogurt, mint and paprika or cayenne to taste.
- Cook one small pancake to check seasoning and adjust with additional salt and pepper, fresh basil and cheese, as needed.
- Cook over medium-low heat in 2-3 tbs pancakes, turning once. The low heat allows the outsides to get crispy and brown, while the centers remain creamy.
- Serve pancakes with a dollop of the yogurt sauce.