Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Corn of Plenty

When I was much younger, corn was one of my favorite vegetables, running a close second to potatoes.

Every summer, we'd pick up dozens of ears of sweet corn (especially the bicolor variety) from the local farm and have a grand shucking and boiling before a big dinner, and I'd usually eat up to three ears of buttery corn on the cob in a sitting.

The Chef Mother would always freeze several bags of corn shaved off the cob, and I would look forward to seeing those golden kernels again as a side dish throughout the winter. When asked what vegetable I wanted with dinner, inevitably I would reply, "Corn!"

Now that I'm older, I still enjoy corn, though perhaps not with the same all-encompassing passion of my youth. I don't often eat corn on the cob, fun though it may be, because I always have to reach for the dental floss afterward. And though I freeze corn to use throughout the winter, serving it reheated as a side dish just doesn't have the same appeal (though it's wonderful in soups and other dishes).

But while we're still in corn season, I'm happy to try new recipes with fresh kernels. A while back I stumbled across a recipe for corn pancakes that sounded worthwhile, so I tried it last week and thought it was more than acceptable, though it needed... something.

With a little additional pondering, I knew just what that "something" would be: a little cornmeal to enhance the corn flavor, and a bit of spice.

This morning I tested the recipe once more, this time with my alterations (and a couple of others that occurred to me at the last minute), and I found the cakes even more to my liking. Instead of a thin, spread out pancake, the batter made denser, fluffier patties that stayed in place in the pan.

These substantial morsels served the exact purpose I had in mind: with cumin and chili powder laced lightly through the batter, the pancakes made the perfect foil for my homemade chutney, giving an Indian twist to a morning favorite.

Since the cumin and chili powder are found in other cuisines, I could serve up these cakes with a dollop of salsa or yogurt. I may even try a bit of muhammara on top of them tomorrow morning. [P.S. The muhammara is amazing on these!]

It's nice to know that an old favorite can still surprise me with its versatility and malleable flavor.

It's also nice to know that I can make more corn pancakes for the rest of the week!


Corn Pancakes

I stumbled across a recipe for corn pancakes in the July-August 2005 issue of Vegetarian Times and was intrigued. I've made a number of variations on my grandfather's pancake recipe before, but I hadn't gotten as far as including vegetables in the mix. The first time I tried the recipe, I thought it tasted pretty good but thought it could be better, especially since I found out that my homemade blueberry chutney went very well with it. So, a week later, with more fresh corn, I tried again and ended up with this low-fat, whole grain, much more pleasing (to my palate) recipe. You can omit the cumin and chili powder if you want, but adding those spices makes this dish acceptable for dinner as well as breakfast, with a dollop of salsa or sour cream on top for a Southwestern flair or chutney or yogurt for an Indian flavor.

1 c corn kernels (shaved off blanched ears of corn)
1 c plain nonfat yogurt
1 large egg
2 T unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
Vegetable oil or nonstick spray for pan

Combine corn, yogurt, egg, butter or oil, and maple syrup in a large bowl, beating well. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and spices (if using) and add gradually to corn mixture until well blended.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat and brush lightly with oil or spray. Spoon batter onto griddle in 1/4-cup amounts. Cook until top of pancakes starts to dry and bottoms are set and golden. Flip pancakes and brown other side.

Batter can be stored in the refrigerator no more than 3 days.

Makes 6-8 pancakes (depending on size)

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