Technically it’s not late summer any more. While shivering with Harry on our way to the school bus this morning, I checked the weather on my phone: 49°. My boy informed me that autumn had officially begun this past weekend. He ended this announcement with the phrase I’ll be hearing every school day for the next few months: “I can’t wait for spring.”
But even though we’ve seen the last of sandals and shorts, the farmers’ market still offers the quintessential warm-weather vegetables: fresh corn, zucchini, and bell peppers. Lately I’ve been combining them with a mashed can of chickpeas, some cornmeal, eggs, and cheese, to make a late-summer vegetable fritter that’s one step removed from a homemade veggie burger. The mashed beans make these pancakes hearty enough to take us well into the fall. Heck, use frozen corn kernels and this becomes a year-round dish.
The basic outlines of the recipe can adapt to almost any seasoning:
- Italian: Use basil instead of parsley and add a handful of shredded fontina, and serve with marinara sauce.
- Greek: Go with dill and feta, and serve with tzatziki or Greek yogurt.
- Middle Eastern: Add a tablespoon of fresh mint to the parsley, a half-teaspoon of cumin, and a dash of ground coriander. Serve with tzatziki or Greek yogurt.
- Southwestern: Use black beans instead of chickpeas, cilantro instead of parsley, Jack or cheddar instead of Parm, and add a teaspoon of chili powder.
And if you’re as lucky as I am, with a kid who won’t eat vegetables, you can hold out about 1/2 cup of the batter before stirring in the good stuff. The three pancakes in the rear of that picture are plain as plain can be. Harry ate them with maple syrup and strawberries (I didn’t mention they had Parm in them, and he didn’t seem to notice).
You get the idea. How would you flavor them?
Picky-Pleasing Late-Summer Vegetable Fritters
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry
1 red bell pepper, chopped small
Kernels from 1 ear of corn (about 3/4 cup)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk, whole or low-fat
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salsa or other chunky tomato sauce, for serving
- Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- In a medium bowl, mash chickpeas with a potato masher until crushed but still chunky. Stir in zucchini, bell pepper, corn, shallot, and parsley.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and Parmesan. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture now if you have a picky eater.
- Add the chickpea mixture to the batter and stir gently.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, drop in heaping tablespoons of the batter. Flatten gently with the back of the spoon and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Serve with tomato-ey sauce of your choice or, um, maple syrup.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Can you say “finger food”? For younger babies, you can puree the insides of a fritter with a bit more milk or broth.