For someone who doesn’t garden, lives pretty far from farms and couldn’t even keep a couple herbs alive on her kitchen windowsill, I take zucchini population control pretty seriously. Sure, I don’t have to lock my car door in August, I don’t have a CSA dumping boxes of it unceremoniously on my porch and then running away like a thief in the night, and it’s been a long time since I lived in a house with bats in the backyard, but I get it. The problem is real. We all must do our part.
But zucchini is pesky. It’s not like tomatoes, which are like the prom queens of the summer farms, perfect no matter how you dice, slow roast, scallop or sauce them. I never have enough tomatoes and they’re usually gone for the year before I am done with them; the same can rarely be said for zucchini. It can be a little slippery when cooked, weepy when raw. It’s hard to get it roasted or grilled to a crisp. Sure, it’s good battered and deep-fried, but I have a theory that my Rainbow flip-flop would be too. I’m not going to test it, though. I’m sure you understand.
So, when I find a use for zucchini that limits its less redeemable characteristics, I get a little shouty about it and demand you cook it too, things like quick, crunchy side dishes, herbed potato tortes, goat cheese pizza, pasta salads, tangled with basil spaghetti, carpaccio-ed, slaw-ed, kebab-ed, galette-d and frittered.
And cake. This is a good time to get yourself reacquainted with zucchini bread. I did this a few weeks ago when the zucchini I’d tried to ignore in the fridge started to look like it was on its way out and I had to stop being passive-aggressive about it. But I’m not fond of sliced cake for breakfast; it seems better suited to an afternoon treat. As is often the case, it was a toddler with his ridiculous weekend breakfast demands [“I WANT PANCAYS!”] that got me trying to figure out how I could make him happy while also convincing myself I wasn’t just feeding him junk. If carrot cake can be pancakes, why not zucchini bread? The result is my new favorite pancake. I know, I always call things my “new favorite” but this is! We’ve made them three times in three weeks, and I have a batch in the freezer for another weekend morning. They’re plush inside with a lightly crisped edge; they smell heavenly, they reheat wonderfully, they take well to whole wheat flours and a bare minimum of sugar and they’re a cinch to throw together. And they should totally be on your table this weekend.
One year ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Two years ago: Summer Succotash with Bacon and Croutons
Three years ago: Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons
Four years ago: Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte and Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Five years ago: Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Zucchini Bread Pancakes
The awesomest topping you could make for these pancakes is the lightly sweetened one in the Carrot Cake Pancakes. They’re also good with syrup, maple or golden, or honey. However, I used this muddled thing I do when I feel like I should be putting something healthy on top of my pancakes but really just want maple syrup, which is a mixture of 1 tablespoon maple syrup to 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt. Everyone wins, right?
A couple pancake overarching theories: Thin pancake batters make large puddles of flatter pancakes that are harder to manage, but cook quickly and always cook through. Thicker pancake batters make taller pancakes that take on crisp edges and tender insides. They’re my favorite. But, they also don’t always cook through 100% on the stove. To ensure they’re all cooked through when you serve them, it’s good to keep them in a warm oven for about 10 minutes before serving. The advantage of this, of course, is that all pancakes are warm when you’re ready to put them on the table. You can also keep pancakes warm in the same oven until everyone is ready to eat.
I keep the sugar level really low in pancakes because we love a sweet topping on ours, and I love the contrast between unsweetened and sweet in any baked good. If you’re someone who doesn’t like maple syrup or anything sticky or sweet on top of your pancakes (gasp!), you might want another spoonful of sugar inside your pancakes.
Makes 10 to 12 pancakes
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown, dark brown or granulated sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 9 ounces whole, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini), heaping cups are fine
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet
In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.
Preheat oven to 200°F and place a tray — foil-lined if you’re into doing fewer dishes later — on a middle rack.
Heat a large, heavy skillet (my favorite for pancakes is a cast-iron) over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter (mine were about 3 tablespoons each) in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm. Repeat next weekend.