Corn cakes are a nice change of pace and a really wonderful option to use up leftover corn-on-the-cob. Zucchini and tomato just seemed like a natural fit. And I think it was. These are not pancakes per se; these are substantial corn cakes. There is nothing light and fluffy about them, and that’s just fine with me. The corn kernels “pop” when you bite into them and the rest is just plain good. I love them as-is, but they are wonderful with a dollop of sour cream, too. The batter is wonderful made ahead, because it’s just waiting for you. I think the flavor and texture may be even better when you make them ahead.
These babies tend to hold the heat for quite awhile, but their crispness is best when served as soon as you can bite into them, without removing a couple of layers of skin from your mouth (been there; done that!). Actually, they are quite good at warm, room temperature. I think you may taste the cheese a bit more…or it could just be a notion.
This is a mix-it-all-up-in-one-bowl type of food. I just toss it all in except the cheese, stir it up and then add the cheese and stir again. Let the mixture rest for 10-20 minutes before frying. This little siesta gives the cornmeal time to soften slightly and absorb any liquid. I use a coffee filter to drain the zucchini. You want to squeeze the zucchini dry…we’re talking Sahara desert dry, okay? Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of just the zucchini after I squeezed it, but you can see it in the picture below…sort of. You’ll have about 1 good cup after you squeeze it dry. I use about 50/50 corn and zucchini, but you can adjust that ratio to your liking.
About the cornmeals—You can see the difference between the two very clearly in the picture above. Most vegetable cakes use wheat flour and eggs to bind everything together. But, I wanted these to be gluten-free. You see there are those who are very dear to me (you all know who you are) who have Celiac disease, so I like to see if I can mess with recipes to make things more user-friendly for them. These fit the bill.
I prefer to use scallions, as they don’t have as much moisture in them; use at least 2-inches of the green part, too. I did add some diced water chestnuts this time, because I had some leftover. They don’t really add flavor, but they do enhance the texture.
I’ve made these with both fresh and sun-dried tomatoes. I prefer to use very finely minced sun-dried tomatoes. They absorb, rather than give off liquid and the flavor is also more concentrated and just more interesting. In this picture I used fresh tomatoes and you can see the moisture. So, if you do use fresh tomato, you might want to pat it dry after you dice it. After the mixture rests, if there are little pools of liquid, simply stir in some extra cornmeal, and let the mixture rest again for about 10 minutes. I use the coarser cornmeal at this point.
I used an all-purpose Italian seasoning blend, but you could use all basil, all oregano, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, or whatever flavor profile you’re feeling at that moment. I used a couple of teaspoons of Asian red pepper with garlic mixture that comes in a jar. I gave me some nice heat, but the red pepper flakes are nice, too. They give you a little bit of heat, not a power surge. Feel free to add some chopped fresh basil or cilantro, if you want.
When I’m ready to fry the cakes, I use an ice cream scoop to make them; this one holds two tablespoons. That way the cakes will all be the same size, so they will cook at the same rate. I plop a scoop into the skillet, turn the scoop over and gently push the mixture into an even layer, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Let the cakes fry for about 2 minutes, then flip them over. CAUTION: At times a corn kernel will “pop” and explode and you can get burned. I don’t cover the pan, but if you are concerned about that, you might want to at least partially cover the skillet. Place the fried cakes on a plate, and repeat the whole procedure until you’ve used all the batter. Or at save some batter for breakfast!
Spicy Corn and Zucchini Cakes with Tomato Bits
- 1-2 small-to-medium-sized zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted (from about 2 ears)
- 1 small carrot, finely shredded
- 3 scallions, chopped (use some of the green part)
- 1/3 cup finely diced sun-dried tomato (see NOTE)
- 1/3 cup extra fine cornmeal (see NOTE)
- 1/3 cup cornmeal
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup, honey or sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or 3 cheddar blend)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat
Place grated zucchini (I use a medium grater) in a colander over the sink. Add salt and gently toss to combine; let set for 15-30 minutes. Rinse and squeeze the zucchini as dry as possible. I use a clean kitchen towel. You want to get out as much water as possible.
In a large bowl, combine, except the cheddar and oil. Stir until well combined; add the cheese and stir yet again. Let the mixture set for about 10-15 minutes. Stir.
Heat the fat in a large skillet over medium high heat; I use cast as cast iron skillet. Scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, flattening with a spatula, and cook until the underside is nicely golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer. Serve immediately. These are great just like this, or with a dollop of sour cream.
NOTE: If you use fresh tomatoes, squeeze out some juice or they may “bleed” extra liquid into the mixture. If that happens, stir in 3-4 teaspoons of additional cornmeal; let stand for 10 minutes. It is important that you squeeze the liquid out of the zucchini, as much as possible. Extra fine cornmeal is not very grainy, but more floury. I fried some in olive oil and some in bacon fat. The bacon fat version was crispier and frankly, tastier, too…go figure!
Spicy Corn and Zucchini Cakes with Tomato Bits Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
This is another terrific way to use up leftover Microwaved Sweet Corn. Or, just make extra so you can make these little discs of flavor! With a little planning, the batter can be sitting in your fridge just waiting to be used. So this could be part of a mid-week meal or, in my case, my entire meal! If you want to make these a non-vegetarian version, add diced cooked shrimp, just before serving. I would imagine, you could add shredded leftover cooked chicken. These are incredibly delicious with some bacon crumbled over them and a sprinkle of snipped chives…options, folks. I did mention it was bacon, right? Crumbled, crispy bacon?