Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

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Crispy Beet Risotto

My husband and I were dining with friends in Colorado recently, at a restaurant called Justice Snow’s in Aspen. It was quite bustling and busy, which means that for me, it was loud and everyone had to yell to be heard.

I was very excited about the menu, however, and without hesitation I ordered trout. Our friend ordered the roasted chicken served with crispy beet risotto, english peas, charred turnips, carrots, spiced yogurt, and ver jus.

While enjoying our cocktails, we talked at length about how the beets were prepared “crispy” in the risotto, but all of our profound thoughts were put to rest when he got his meal. The beet risotto was made crispy by frying it like a cake. Fortunately I got to taste it, and I knew then I wanted to make it at home.

It was especially tempting to recreate because I’ve never used beets in a risotto, and I thought I’d used about all vegetables, from carrots to pumpkin to zucchini and tomato. It’s probably because my husband doesn’t eat beets, and he’s the big risotto eater in our family.

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more complete risotto tutorial, check our my mushroom risotto. It’s similar to this one because it uses bits of things as well as special liquid – in this case – beet juice.

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Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

Whole beets from a can, about 5-6 small
Reserved beet juice, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely choppped
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White or red wine, about 1/3 cup
Chicken Broth, about 1 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Drain the whole beets and save the juice.

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Then finely chop the beets into bits and set aside.

Begin the risotto by heating the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice.

Stir well until all of the rice grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Adjust the heat so there’s simmmring but no burning. Then gradually add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth and stir until it’s absorbed, and repeat with the remaining broth.

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At this point, add amount of beet juice that suits you; I used about 1/4 cup.

After a few minutes, add the beet bits.

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Continue to stir gently. Once just about all of the liquid is absorbed, add the cream and cheese. Stir to combine, then set the risotto to cool slightly.

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The cakes can be made free-form, but I used a 3 1/2″ ring. Smaller cakes would be really pretty for a dinner party, because they could be re-heated.

Heat a little olive oil (or butter) to a flat skillet. Add some risotto to fill the ring and cook over fairly high heat to get the risotto crispy.

Gently turn over the risotto cake and brown/crisp the other side. This was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although I used a small amount of cheese in this risotto, it was probably still too much and created some sticking in the skillet.

I served the risotto cake with a filet of salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts, just for the spectacular colors!

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Just for fun I added a little Mexican crema to the risotto cake, and sprinkled some chopped chives on top.

In spite of my problems cooking the cakes, they cut into bite-sized pieces nicely, and were delicious.

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If you don’t want to bother making the cakes, I can honestly state that this is one of the best risottos I’ve ever made! And it’s not overwhelmingly beety.

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note: In my memory of our friend’s crispy beet risotto, I think the risotto “cake” was white, with bits of beets. What the chef probably did was omit the beet juice, and add the beet bits at the very last minute before crisping the cakes. Personally, I don’t mind the bright magenta color, and the beet juice probably added more flavor. But if you don’t want hot fuschia risotto cakes, do leave out the beet juice and use some more broth instead.

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Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin is not only for Thanksgiving time, or for just making pumpkin pie. After all, it is a squash. It’s healthy, delicious, and really versatile.

I used to make pumpkin pancakes year-round for my daughters when they were growing up. They loved the pancakes and, unbeknownst to them, the pancakes were terribly healthy.

This is a version of what I made for them:

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Pumpkin Pancakes with Raisins and Walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk – almond, soy, hemp, whatever you prefer
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
Ground walnuts, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-grain pancake mix
Butter
Maple syrup, or agave syrup

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the milk over them and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator. Warm the milk slightly if the raisins are hard.

In a separate larger bowl, add the eggs and pumpkin and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the walnuts, cinnamon, and the raisins with the milk.

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Gradually add the pancake mix, but don’t overstir. You might have to adjust the quantity.

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Place about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Heat it up over medium-high heat. I let my butter brown and even burn a little.

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When the butter is ready, make pancakes with the batter, spreading it evenly. Let cook for about a minute, then turn over, turn down the heat a little, and cook them for about 2 minutes. I like the outsides browned, but the insides need to be cooked through.

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When the pancakes have cooked, place them on a plate and continue with the remaining batter.

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Of course I add more butter to the warm pancakes.

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This recipe makes about one dozen pancakes, about 3″ round or so.

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Drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy!
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note: Children may not like the walnuts unless they’re more finely chopped. Oats that have been soaked in liquid are another option for added texture and nutrition.

Yeasted Brown Butter Waffles

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I’d like to think that I’m pretty organized when it comes to kitchen equipment and gadgets. I’m blessed with a large basement, and I’ve installed four large shelving units to hold items that are not used often – like tortilla presses, raclette grills, random bakeware, and so forth.

But the other day when I got my ebleskiver pan out of my pantry, mind you, not from the basement, I noticed it was right next to a mini waffle pan. For the life of me, I do not remember if I purchased this thing or it was a gift. And how I hadn’t noticed it for years since I organized my pantry, is beyond me. One side of my pantry is food, the other side is a wall of pots and pans, inspired by the way Julia Child would hang her pots and pans, except I don’t have to draw outlines with magic marker.

So my Dutch friend Stefan (I can really call him that because I’ve actually met the young and talented chef) had commented on my ebleskiver, mentioning a yeasted version he made on his blog, called Poffertjes. Here is the post for them here.

I was really intrigued by the fact that these very similar pancake “balls” are made with a yeasted batter including buckwheat flour. I’ve made blini before, which seems like it would be the savory sister to Poffertjes.

Not everyone in my family likes buckwheat, so I checked on Epicurious, and found a browned butter yeasted pancake batter. On the day after Christmas, I made mini waffles. There was nothing really different about the batter, except for the yeast, and the inclusion of a lot of browned butter.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Browned Butter Waffles
Adapted from Epicurious here

1 1/2 sticks butter, or 6 ounces
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups white flour, sifted
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

First brown the butter in a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Adjust the heat if any burning occurs.

Once the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat.

Meanwhile, pour the milk and buttermilk into a large bowl. Slowly heat the milks until warm. You should be able to stick your finger into the milk comfortably. If it’s lukewarm, heat a little more. If it’s too hot, stir until it cools. The temperature should be approximately 110 degrees, if you prefer to use a thermometer.

Add the yeast, sugar, and salt, and let everything just rest for about 5 minutes.

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Whisk together, then sift in the flour.

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Whisking the whole time, whisk in the browned butter.

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Notice the little bits of browned butter in the batter? Gorgeous!

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Cover with plastic wrap and let set for 12 hours.

When you’re ready to make waffles, Add 2 eggs and the baking soda to the batter and whisk until smooth.

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Have your special waffle pan ready.

I poured the batter into one of those ketchup-looking plastic bottles to make pouring easier. I also used a butter spray. I don’t like to use the spray, but there’s a significant amount of butter in the batter, and I thought spray might make the waffle-making process go a little more quickly.

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Heat the waffle pan over medium to low heat, depending on your stove. The waffles take about 8 minutes to cook through, so you don’t want them browning too much on the bottom. When using this kind of pan, the waffles don’t get turned over.

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The most fun was testing the doneness of the waffles. What a fabulous texture and flavor. Just a touch of sourdough from the 12-hour batter.

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I got a little better at not overfilling the waffle indentations, as well. To remove the waffles, simply turn the pan upside down over a platter.

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Repeat with remaining batter.

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I can’t tell you how many waffles this pan made, because people kept coming through the kitchen and eating them. The recipe says it makes 8 servings, but I think it’s more like 16 servings. They are light, though.

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I will definitely make this recipe again. Really good flavor and texture, and the pan is fun. Although, of course, these could also be pancakes…

Holiday Ebleskiver

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Years ago my daughters bought me an ebleskiver pan for my birthday and I was thrilled. They know I love gadgets and different shapes and sizes of baking dishes. Trust me, I had big plans to use this fancy pan on every holiday.

By the way, I’ve also seen the spelling as ebelskiver and aebleskiver. But however the spelling, ebleskiver are round, filled pancakes that are Danish in origin. And they’re fabulous. Although I’ve only made them once.

The following Christmas I decided to make ebleskiver for the family on Christmas morning. The recipe I used came from a Williams-Sonoma catalog. This photo is from the W-S website.

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The pancakes I made were filled with a dried cherry filling. The recipes for the batter and the filling are easy. But I had no idea what I was in for…

Two hours after starting these pancakes, I was finally done. They were stunning and delicious. And I think I’m the only one who ate any of them. One hates carbs, one just wanted a protein shake, one decided they didn’t pair well with bloody marys, and one is a vegetarian. (There is no meat in ebleskiver.)

So I think I learned my lesson. Making these is truly a lot of work, only because they are time consuming, and you really have to park yourself at the stove for a long time. Plus, the pan only makes 7 pancakes at a time.

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So take my advice and don’t make these on a busy holiday, when you’d rather be hanging out with your family.

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But this year, I wisely decided to make these ebleskiver the Sunday before Christmas, and freeze them. That way, I can thaw and heat a few at a time, and any non carb-haters who want a delicious pancake bite can enjoy them, which might just be me. I know for a fact that they will pair perfectly with a mimosa.

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So here’s the somewhat adapted recipe from Williams-Sonoma. The filling I used was leftover cranberry jam mixed with dried cranberries. Any kind of jam, jelly, cranberry sauce, or cooked fresh or dried fruit can be used as the filling.

Ebleskiver
Makes 3 dozen

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup ricotta cheese or yogurt cheese
1/2 teaspoon orange oil, or orange zest
5 egg whites in a large bowl
Unsalted butter
Cranberry filling, make sure it’s quite thick

Begin by sieving the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

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In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, buttermilk, ricotta cheese, and orange oil. Whisk well and set aside.

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Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Using the same beaters, whisk the buttermilk mixture until smooth, if it’s lumpy.

Have the ebleskiver pan on the stove heating over low to medium heat. Have butter on hand, and the filling with a teaspoon. Also have a platter for the finished ebleskiver.

Begin making the batter by incorporating the flour into the buttermilk mixture. It will almost look like biscuit dough.

Then gently but forcibly fold the egg whites into the batter. Place a spoon in the batter and set the bowl near the stove.

Add about 1/2 teaspoon of butter to the indentations in the pan. Notice I just did a few to start. I really couldn’t remember how challenging the whole process was, and I didn’t want to ruin any.

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Add approximately no more than 1 tablespoon of batter into each indentation. Add a very small amount of filling – about 1/2 teaspoon – on to the top of the batter. Then top with a scant tablespoon of batter.

Let them cook for about 3 minutes. They should not brown more than a golden color, but they might burn slightly if the sweet filling sneaks out.

Now here’s the fun part. The recipe says to use two forks to turn these guys over. Good luck with that. I ended up mostly using my fingers, because I must not have good fork coordination. I even tried with two wooden tools that you can see being used in the top photo, but still no luck. But somehow get them turned over and continue cooking them for another 3 minutes.

I did figure out that instead of worrying about turning them completely over at one time, it can be done gently in baby steps.

So now you can see I’ve become a little braver, and making all seven at one time!

Turn them out to the platter, and continue with the rest of the batter, unless you decided enough is enough and toss the batter and eat your 7 ebleskiver.

Open one up to make sure it’s properly cooked. They should be fluffy – not doughy or dry and tough.

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I purposely omitted putting sugar in the batter, which was in the original recipe, and instead sprinkled a little powdered sugar over the ebleskiver. It just makes them prettier!

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I decided to try them with real maple syrup as well. Really yummy!

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Ebleskiver really are amazing, and the cranberry filling makes them holiday perfect!!!

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And if you decide to buy one of these pans, don’t forget to try them with cheese for a fabulous savory treat! That’s next on my list!!!

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Happy Holidays!

A Zucchini Pancake Challenge

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For a significant part of my life I can honestly say that I worked tirelessly to get people into the kitchen to make home-cooked meals. It makes so much sense from an economic standpoint, as well as for health and wellness reasons. Home cooking is generally less expensive and healthier than meals eaten out or worse than that – purchased as fast food.

But novice cooks are often overwhelmed with the idea of cooking without having a specific recipe in front of them. Especially women, in my experience. As a result, often food goes to waste, which defeats the purpose of home cooking.

Cooking at home is work, let’s face it. You need to keep your pantry stocked. And if you believe in fresh food, you need to make grocery lists and shop often.

But the most important thing in my mind, is to be creative in the kitchen without having recipes. A scary sounding proposition if you think that cooking is difficult.

Home cooking is not difficult. In fact, it’s way more fun than being a chef in a restaurant kitchen, in my mind, because you can make whatever you want on a daily basis, to suit your tastes.

Certainly prepping skills are good to know, as well as cooking techniques. But what I’m talking about is creating your own dishes based on what you have on hand. That way there is no waste.

Take zucchini. It’s September right now in the US, and zucchini, a summer squash, is still growing in my garden and readily available at grocery stores.

Sure, you can bake zucchini bread and muffins, but that’s not something that’s nourishing. I’m talking savory zucchini pancakes – a lovely vegetarian option, or a fabulous side dish to protein.

If you want an exact recipe, check out my squash and corn pancakes from last summer. It’s a little more involved, but there is a recipe.

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So the following is a guide to make your own zucchini pancakes. Put your personality into your own recipe. Season as you like. You’ll know when the texture is perfect when the batter is similar to breakfast pancakes – although breakfast pancakes with lots of grated zucchini! Take the challenge and see what you come up with. No recipe allowed!

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Zucchini Pancakes

Eggs, whisked
Zucchini, grated
Liquid of choice
Onion, diced
Chile peppers, diced (optional)
Parsley, chopped
Salt
Garlic pepper
Thyme (optional)
Flour
Butter

First, whisk your eggs in a large bowl. I used 2 extra-large eggs. Grate your zucchini and add it to the eggs. I used a medium-sized zucchini.

Prep your aromatics. I chose onion, red chile peppers, and parsley. Here’s how I chopped the chile peppers.

Then add the liquid to the batter, only about 1/3 cup, and the seasonings. You can use any herbs, spices, or even pesto!

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Give everything a stir. The mixture should look similar to this.

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Begin adding flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Don’t stir the flour in completely, just fold it in well enough to see if more flour is needed. These savory pancakes are not going to be as tender as breakfast pancakes, but we don’t want them tough and rubbery, either.

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Just add enough flour to bind all of the ingredients. Then stop. I didn’t use more than 1 cup of flour.

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These are not supposed to be big doughy pancakes with a little bit of zucchini. These are zucchini pancakes.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Add a generous amount of butter to the skillet, and then, when it’s almost browned, add spoonfuls of batter. Take the spoon and flatten the pancakes gently. If they’re too thick, there’s a risk of them not being cooked through.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes.

If you’re unsure of the total amount of time required to cook these through, break open the first pancake and look at it. If the middle is still doughy, as this one is, then the pancakes need to be cook longer.

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Ideally, the outsides of the pancakes should be crispy and golden brown and the insides soft, but not raw.

Serve the pancakes warm. They’re delicious with a little dab of butter or even a little sour cream. Or simply, on their own.

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I served these spicy zucchini pancakes with a tomato salad, but my husband enjoyed the pancakes as a side dish. They also reheat very well.

Ideas for other options:

Shallots/garlic instead of onions
Green onions/chives instead of onions
Bell peppers/roasted red bell peppers instead of chile peppers
Other vegetables included like corn
Cilantro instead of parsley
Grated potato/summer squash along with the zucchini
Chopped walnuts/pecans
Whole wheat flour instead of white
Olive oil instead of butter

If you haven’t attempted savory pancakes like these before, and follow through on them without a recipe, please tell me about it. I love to see how you did. Because trust me, it will work!

Squash and Corn Pancakes

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I happen to love savory pancakes. By that, I mean for just the blog I’ve made zucchini pancakes, wild rice and pecan pancakes, butternut bacon pancakes, and more…

This recipe would classify under vegetable pancakes, made from seasonal vegetables. Most of us who have a garden have an overabundance of one of two vegetables at least for a few weeks or longer at one point during the summer. For me, it’s been summer squash.

I recently made a soup from a combination of summer squash and fresh corn, flavored with coconut oil, curry powder, and hot sauce. It was so good I want to continue this vegetable combo, and so I decided to make these pancakes.

The fun thing about making savory pancakes is that you can create the recipe as you go along. Just about anything works. But I settled on summer squash, zucchini, purple onion, walnuts, and cilantro.

It’s really all about making the batter light enough to not make the pancakes doughy, but also holding everything together. So here’s what I did.

Summer Savory Pancakes

2 large ears corn
2 medium summer squash
2 medium zucchini
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnut halves, chopped
1 bunch cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream, evaporated milk, coconut milk, almond milk, etc.
Approximately 1 cup white flour, or any flour
Butter or olive oil

Cook the corn for 7-8 minutes in boiling water, then drain. Let them cool

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Grate the squashes and place them in a large bowl.

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Then add the onion and walnuts.

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Slice off the corn kernels and add them to the bowl, along with the cilantro and the seasoning.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream, and pour the mixture over the vegetables. Stir to combine.

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Add a little at a time, begin incorporating the flour into the vegetable mixture until no liquid remains. Stop then. These are vegetable pancakes, not doughy pancakes with a little bit of squash thrown in. There’s a difference.

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By the way, any flour works with these pancakes. Gluten is not a necessary factor in making these pancakes cook, so if you prefer barley flour, go for it. Whole wheat flour works as well as any whole-grain flour, if you prefer.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form two 4″ wide pancakes and smooth them as much as possible. Let them cook for about 1 minute, so they get nice and golden brown.

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Then turn the pancakes over. Immediately cover the pan and lower the heat as much as possible, so they brown on the other side, but also cook though. You don’t want the insides uncooked.

I have a gas stove. On an electric stove, I would just take the skillet off of that burner to let the inside heat cook the pancakes through.

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After about two minutes, place the pancakes on a serving tray, add a little more oil, and continue with the rest of the batter. This recipe made 14 pancakes.

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These are best served warm. They’re crisp on the outside and the walnuts add a bit of crunch. The pancakes make a very good side dish with any kind of meat or fish, but they’re also good served with a tomato salad for a light lunch.

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note: One thing I like about making pancakes like these, is that no pre-preparation is required. Except for cooking the corn some, but that doesn’t take long. I’ve seen similar recipes out there in the blogosphere, sometimes called fritters instead of pancakes, where the onions are sautéed, and the squash is prepped to remove its water. Unless you really don’t like the flavor of fresh onion or shallots, then I can see only using them sautéed, but it seems silly to me. And as far as the water in the squash, I just use it to my favor. The wetness of the squash just means I don’t have to add that much liquid to the bowl of vegetables. They don’t have to be squeezed and dried first. Just FYI!