One of my favorite side dishes has always been calabacitas, or for a more descriptive name, calabacitas con elote, or as we used to say in Arizona, squash and corn. I’ve tasted it made from entirely fresh ingredients and I’ve had it prepared with canned creamed corn. No matter what the cook does to the calabacitas, it seems the mix of flavors is always enjoyable. When I ran my catering company, Bomburritos, I was surprised that the most popular lunch was a side of calabacitas and a side of beans. People opted for the meatless combination so often that we wound up adding the two sides to the menu as a vegetarian lunch entree.
Recently, when Michael (Em) Sedano, the Gluten-Free Chicano, posted a zucchini tortilla recipe on La Bloga, it started this idea ruminating inside the recipe-creating chamber of my brain. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have calabacitas for breakfast, hmmmm, in the form of pancakes? Yes! So I gathered the ingredients, went into my laboratory (the kitchen) and put the ingredients in the food processor. Once I had the batter made, I spooned it onto the electric griddle and I had panqueques de calabacitas. They were good, but something was missing. On the second attempt, I grated half the zucchini and processed the rest. I left some of the corn kernels whole. With more interesting texture, the pancakes tasted just as I had dreamed they would.
When I cook, I use as many fresh and organic ingredients as possible because I try to eat a clean diet free of toxins and questionable additives. For this recipe, because the corn found at the local supermarket will most likely be genetically modified, I searched out some certified non-GMO frozen kernels. I couldn’t find any fresh because it wasn’t in season. I also used organic, gluten-free, non-GMO blue corn meal. You may use any corn you choose.
Every family has their own recipe for calabacitas. We never added tomatoes to ours, but many people do. Some recipes call for a mixture of squashes, which can only make the flavor more interesting. Different varieties of cheese are used. In this recipe, I don’t add cheese to the pancakes, but you can add it in to the batter or place it on top of the warm cakes. Add the tomato if you like. Personalize it.
This recipe yields 18 small (3″ in diameter) pancakes.
3 large zucchinis
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 Roma tomato, diced (optional)
1/2 cup organic blue corn meal
1/4 cup Crema Mexicana (use coconut cream for vegan option)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. minced jalapeno (add more or less to taste)
2 tbsp. honey (use agave for vegan option)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1. Grate 1 1/2 zucchinis, ends removed, into a large bowl.
2. Add 1/2 cup corn kernels to the bowl. Add the diced jalapeno and chopped onions (and tomatoes and cilantro if desired.) Set aside.
3. Place 1 1/2 zucchinis, chopped into 1″ pieces into the food processor. Add 1 cup of corn kernels. Begin to process.
4. Add the corn meal. Process until all ingredients are almost blended. Add the coconut oil and continue to process. The texture of the batter should be slightly gritty rather than smooth.
5. Add 3 eggs to the bowl you previously set aside. Add the processed zucchini and corn batter. Add the baking powder. Mix by hand until all ingredients are combined.
6. On an electric skillet preheated to high setting, approximately 400 degrees, (I get much more even results than using a skillet on the stove top) use a medium-sized ladle to spoon batter onto the hot surface. Just like regular pancake batter, small bubbles will form on the top of the pancakes. When they are distributed throughout the cake, it is time to turn them over.
7. Flip the pancakes to cook the second side. Let them cook just until browned, about 1 minute or slightly less.
8. Remove from the griddle and place on a serving plate. Continue this process until all the batter has been used.
Serving Suggestions: You can eat these sweet, spicy pancake treats right off the griddle with no topping. I topped mine with the mango slaw I had left over from my Tequila – Thai Chile Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, and dipped them in hot, red tomatillo salsa. You could top them with shredded cheese (Jack, cheddar, Mexican blend) or crumble queso fresco or cotija cheese over them. Eat them pupusa style, buried under a bed of cabbage with a mild, tomatoey salsa. Drizzle some honey-jalapeno butter over them. I suppose you could even use maple syrup or agave for a more traditional pancake breakfast.