6 years old

When I was young, around the age of 6, I discovered zucchini pancakes. My Mom, trying to feed a family on the budget of a newly opened small business, was not about to let summer’s over-abundance of these long green squash go to waist. She started by slicing and steaming them, tossed with a little butter. She would bread them with crumbs and fry slices in olive oil. Grated, the zucchini ended up in sweet, quick breads and was even used as the crust for pizza.

Mom’s best invention though, was the zucchini pancake. She would twist the grated zucchini in a towel to dry it out and bind it with eggs, cheese and corn starch. Mom would even serve them real maple syrup. Even on a budget some things in New England aren’t negotiable.

Photography by Marta FitzSimon.

6 years ago, on the last Saturday in July, I gave my first live cooking demonstration. I set up on a patch of dirt, without a tent, in front of Washington, DC’s historic Eastern Market. The first menu I served included a quick cherry tomato sauce, zucchini and corn with orzo and my Mom’s zucchini pancakes.

This Saturday, at Eastern Market, celebrating the 6th anniversary of that first demo and what would turn out to be the launch of a new adventure in life and my full-time vocation, I’m paying a little homage to my Mom and to that first demo by serving up some zucchini pancakes, now mixed with corn and topped with a cilantro crema.

While the 6 year-old me would disapprove of losing the maple syrup, I think he’d like the corn…and the career choice. As everyone tells me, Storyteller, Cook and Author is a pretty cool job.

Zucchini And Corn Pancakes
Serves 6


  • 4 cups grated zucchini, about 2 medium
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 tsp Spanish paprika*
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 3-4 tbs olive oil
  • Cream

*Spanish paprika has a wonderful smoky flavor. You can substitute Hungarian paprika.

Cilantro Crema:

  • 1 cup créme fraîche
  • 2 tbs cream or buttermilk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro


  • Place grated zucchini in colander, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and leave for 15-20 minutes.
  • Wrap zucchini in a tea towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Place in large bowl with corn, egg, basil, garlic, parmesan, paprika, pepper and potato starch. Mix. If the batter is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of cream.
  • Cook over medium-low heat in 1/4 cup pancakes, turning once. The low heat allows the outsides to get crispy and brown, while the centers remain creamy.
  • Make crema: place crème fraîche, cream, garlic and cilantro in a food processor. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve pancakes with cilantro crema and, if desired, a drizzle of honey over the top.

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