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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cure the Cooking Rut: Zucchini Feta Pancakes

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Zucchini Feta Pancakes - Photo by Rachael Brugger (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Rachael Brugger

Early August brings on a brief but annual culinary rut, an odd confession, we realize, given that right now fresh garden fare is in peak abundance and gifts us with a daily cornucopia of seasonal produce for ingredients. As the zucchini harvest piles up on the kitchen counter this time of year, we can feel a bit overwhelmed and uninspired. We crave a fresh-cooking groove.

However, we’ve learned that just like any artist, at times, needs to rekindle a creative muse, we garden-cooks also need a spark of culinary inspiration, especially when we have a bounty of fresh fare to savor.

Here are three tips we’ve discovered for breaking out of a summer-cooking rut, followed by a summer breakfast classic we serve at our Inn Serendipity Farm and Bed-and-Breakfast, which will cure any summer cooking rut that ails you.

1. Flip savory and sweet.
Twist the expected menu and serve a familiar dish in a new way. For example, most folks expect pancake to be bread-like and sweet, swimming in a pool of syrup. The recipe for Zucchini Feta Pancakes below provides a savory alternative to traditional pancake fare, served "naked” with no syrup or toppings. While they are a breakfast staple at Inn Serendipity, you could readily serve them for a quick supper.

2. Add a strong companion flavor.
Adding in a distinct, unexpected flavor to a dish also perks up the palate. The feta cheese in these pancakes enhances the flavor in an unusual, distinct manner.

3. Blend in fresh company.
Sometimes it isn’t the ingredients or the recipe that grows a bit stale. Just like you sometimes need a fresh recipe, it's also nice to invite fresh faces to gather around the table and share a summer meal with you. Living at and operating a bed-and-breakfast, we’re blessed with a near daily dose of new interesting and inspiring people coming through my kitchen, providing the ultimate in keeping life fresh.

These zucchini feta pancakes provide a surprising twist on standard sweet pancakes, originating from our backpacking days in Australia and New Zealand. Another reason to enjoy these now: The recipe really only works with fresh zucchini. We’ve tried making this in January with frozen zucchini, and the texture is totally different. Enjoy in summer!

Recipe: Zucchini Feta Pancakes
Recipe from Farmstead Chef (New Society Publishers, 2011)

Yield: 5 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 4 cups fresh zucchini (or any summer squash), shredded
  • 1 cup Feta cheese, finely crumbled (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup green onions or chives, finely chopped
  • 1 T. fresh mint (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • canola oil for frying

Preparation
In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, zucchini, Feta cheese, onions, mint, salt and flour. Mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter mixture.

Heat oil in a 6-inch skillet until very hot; we sometimes use an electric fry pan so we can fit more pancakes at once. Drop about 1/8 cup batter for each pancake. Cook on both sides until browned and crisp. Serve immediately and garnish with edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, borage or a sprinkle of bee balm flower petals.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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