Monday, April 16, 2007

Zucchini pancakes

What do you do with a zucchini that doesn't require any other ingredients, yet isn't totally boring? That was the dilemma facing me a few days ago. I didn't want to grill since it was raining, and I didn't feel like sautéing since I find sautéed zucchini kind of boring. Roasting could be a good idea, but it's much more interesting when zucchini are mixed with some other veggies, which I didn't have. That's when it dawned on me -- how about zucchini pancakes! I've never made them and was dying to try this dish I remember my Mom making. It's common in Russia to make oladyi (pancakes) with all kinds of vegetables and zucchini were one of our favorites.

I didn't have a recipe, but the one I improvised seemed to work incredibly well. The only extra ingredients necessary to make this dish are flour, eggs, salt, and oil (all of which are staples). I threw in some scallions since I found them lying forgotten in a drawer of my fridge, and then fried my pancakes in sunflower seed oil (the olive oil of Russian cooking). It's perfect for frying since it doesn't burn and imparts a great aroma to your dish (at least if you buy the real stuff from a Russian store). But if you don't have sunflower seed oil handy, canola oil will work just fine.

Serves 4 as a side dish

3/4 Lb zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions (optional)
Salt and pepper
Sunflower seed or canola oil for frying
  1. Grate zucchini on the large holes of a box grater (or using a food processor). Squeeze it in handfuls over a sink and move to a bowl.
  2. Add flour, egg, scallions, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Mix well and taste for salt. Since the batter contains raw egg, it's best to cook a little piece before tasting to be on the safe side, but if you've ever eaten unbaked brownie or chocolate chip cookie batter, this is no more dangerous.
  3. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough oil to make a coating 1/8 inch thick. When oil is hot (moves as easily as water when you tilt a pan), add the batter a spoonful at a time (each spoonful makes one pancake). Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel and repeat with the rest of the batter adding more oil as necessary. Serve immediately with sour cream, yogurt, or plain.


Anonymous said...

Is it Boston air? I have to laugh really hard. This is exactly what I made last night for dinner, although I used different flours, added tarragon and water! So funny!

Helen said...

Hi Bea,

Tarragon -- that sounds like an awesome combination. What flour did you use?


Katerina said...

Looks amazing as usual. Zucchini is such a favorite.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the blog you don't seem partial to pasta, but I cannot resist mentioning that I have a much lazier way of using zucchini and eggs.

Slice the zucchini as thinly as possible and sautee in olive oil while the pasta cooks. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, season generously with pepper and parmesan---essentially you are aiming at a saturated parmesan solution.
Drain the pasta, toss with the zucchini while still sauteeing, remove from the stovetop, add the egg mixture.

Nothing wrong, as usual, with adding onions to the sautee and/or garnishing with parsley.

Helen said...

Hi Giacomo,

Your zucchini pasta recipe sounds wonderful! What exactly does the egg do? Does it turn into a thick sauce of sorts around the pasta? I am so curious now that I want to try it. I am actually quite partial to pasta :) But I am a bit of a pasta snob, so I don't tend to indulge in it unless it's home-made.


Anonymous said...

Hi Helen:

the egg mixture becomes a cream, because the hot pasta quasi-cooks it. Of course if it actually cooked it would curdle and that would be bad, but the pasta is not hot enough.

The classic recipe is pasta alla carbonara essentially what I wrote but with bacon instead of zucchini, with the technique changes that naturally entails.
It has got to be one of the most famous and common pasta sauces in Italy. I'm surprised that it is not in the US too!

You should definitely try both the original and the vegetarian version. They are also great time savers, obviously.

Finally, home-made pasta and the professionally made version are not substitutes, as far as I can tell.
No matter how snob you are, you cannot make your "dry" pasta; at most you can buy the super-fancy ones that boutique shops sell for $8/lb---and I don't, so I cannot know what I am missing, if anything.
You can make Piedmontese-style egg pasta, of course, but you'd never use that for a carbonara of any sort.

Anonymous said...

sounds very similar to what my korean grandmother used to make for us in her kitchen!

Anonymous said...

Found this via Google. Needed a second egg - too much dry flour left with only one egg.

My wife loves them!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I had too many Zucchini from the garden & didn't know what to do with them all. I made the pancakes last 2 weekends. Yummy!

Unknown said...

This is a *delicious* recipe - thank you!! I didn't have scallions, so I threw in a couple tablespoons of garlic which, thankfully, sweetened as it fried or my kids would have mutinied. :-) My pancakes didn't look delicate and lacy like yours, though, which is also how I remember my Russian friend's blini being. My pancakes were rougher and I couldn't get them to flatten out in the pan much. I'm thinking I either used too much zucchini or grated it too coarsely? I used the largest holes on my grater.

Anonymous said...

This my recipe I was making for years and my daughter still love it :
4-5 white zukkini
1 egg
1 medium potato
1 medium onion
4-5 tbsp of semolina

1. Grate zukkini, potato and onion, mix together in a medium bowl
2. Add egg
3. Add semolina, mix well
4. Meanwhile heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil in a pan
5. Add salt at the very last moment before frying, otherwise it will be too much liquid from zukkini
6. Fry

Anna said...

I have a lot of trouble frying pancakes. Zucchini pancakes or potato pancakes always come out raw on the inside. I probably take too much batter or they may not be squished thin enough or I have to use higher heat or maybe a lid? I have no idea. Can you maybe let me know what you mean by a 'spoonful'

Helen said...

I use a soup spoon filled with a heap. If you were to use an American measuring Tablespoon (they vary, so you'd need to get a half round shape one). It would be 2 scooped and leveled Tbsp. Flattening them out is important. It is also important to not add too much flour. The batter should be runny enough that it start to flatten out on its own when you put it in the pan. and yes, you do need relatively high heat and more importantly a skillet that conducts heat well.

Anna said...

Thank you very much Helen! I will try again.