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Monday, August 08, 2005

It's Zucchini Season!

Zucchini and other summer squash are in season right now and I've been experimenting with Zucchini pancakes. You didn't know you could convert squash into pancakes? Neither did I, but they're quite good.

The goal is to get the zucchini to brown and stay crisp. But the zucchini is full of water, so it wants to steam. One could attack this problem by salting the zucchini, draining it in a colander for half an hour, and finally squeezing out the water. But that's too time-consuming. Also, salting and draining is supposed to make the squash less bitter, which I consider a drawback.

So instead, you grate the zucchini coarsely and mix in some cornmeal (or flour or minute-oats or some other starch). The ratio I've been using is about two tablespoons of cornmeal to 1 medium squash, but it doesn't matter much. The cornmeal absorbs the water and binds the zucchini into a patty. If you saute the patty at this point, you tend to get cornmeal mush with crunchy zucchini embedded in it: the mush seems to protect the vegetable.

This mush is actually pretty good, but I haven't succeeded in browning it. To get a pretty, browned, pancake, you need to stir in a beaten egg too. Oh, and you need more oil than the thin coat you'd use for sauteing. The celebrity chef Emiril has a recipe for Zucchini Bam! cakes along these lines.

And that's how you take a wholesome vegetable, and it a few simple steps turn it into something attractive and delicious, and still maybe somewhat healthy.

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