Late summer suppers draw from the wonderful farm produce that still abounds. Since this is Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., which signals the transition into fall, I wanted to celebrate the fruits and vegetables of summer. So when Asa from Miss Meister’s Mat announced the four Paper Chef 56 ingredients – capers, peaches, pumpkins/squash, and lemongrass – with the stipulation that the meal be vegetarian, I immediately decided the direction I would go. Peaches are at their peak here now and we still get summer squash such as zucchini from our CSA farm. The farm also allows us to harvest herbs every week, including lemongrass and a variety of basil. Lucky me.
Although I was in the middle of canning peach salsa for the winter, I decided to make a fresh salsa for this meal. Seasoned with sweet and hot peppers, red onions, capers, lime juice and … especially nice… Thai basil, I served it alongside zucchini pancakes made with lemongrass and scallions. Since the peach salsa benefits from sitting in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving, and since the zucchini needs to be drained, you can start both dishes at the same time and go about your business for a little while. In the heat of late summer, the least time in the kitchen is a plus.
This was a truly delicious combination and, with the addition of some freshly picked corn on the cob, we had a perfect, refreshing summer supper.
For those unfamiliar with cooking with lemongrass…. Lemongrass grows in big clumps and you harvest individual stalks at the very base. The part that you eat is the inner core of the base of the stalk, so you first need to remove the tough outer husk (making a vertical slice at the base helps to reveal the layers). Then mince the tender, fragrant inner core. The lemongrass that I harvested from our local CSA farm was pretty small so I needed two stalks to yield the teaspoonful that I added to the pancake batter. What we find here in the grocery market is typically larger so one stalk would be more than enough.
Zucchini Lemongrass Pancakes
¾ lb (2 medium) zucchini
1-2 stalks lemongrass to yield 1 tsp minced (or use grated lemon zest)
3 tsp chopped scallions (or finely minced onion)
Thai basil, 1-2 leaves, shredded (or use another herb like parsley)
1/3 c flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Butter and/or vegetable oil
Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Place the shreds in a colander and lightly salt them, setting aside to drain for about 30 minutes or so. Squeeze in a towel to get as much liquid out of them as possible.
To prepare the lemongrass, make a vertical slice in the base of the stalk, remove the tender, fragrant inner core and mince, yielding about a teaspoonful, or to taste. Prepare the scallions and the basil.
Mix together the flour and baking powder, adding a pinch of salt.
Lightly beat the eggs, add the grated and drained zucchini, the lemongrass, scallions and Thai basil, and stir to combine. Fold in the flour mixture until no traces of four remain.
Heat a griddle or large flat sauté pan, add a little butter and vegetable oil to coat and spoon on the zucchini batter to form about 2-2 ½ inch cakes. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the bottom is browned, then flip them to brown the other side. Keep the cooked pancakes warm while you prepare the rest.
Makes about 12 2 ½-inch pancakes.
Fresh Peach Salsa with Thai Basil
Juice of 1-2 limes (enough to fully coat the peaches)
2 tbsp finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp finely chopped jalapeno or other hot pepper (more or less to taste)
2 tsp capers
Thai basil, a few leaves, shredded
Peel the peaches by dropping them into boiling water for a few minutes then transferring them to a bowl of ice water. The skins will slip right off. Remove the pits and chop the flesh into 3/8-inch pieces. Immediately pour on the lime juice to keep the peaches from browning. Add the remaining ingredients and place the salsa in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour before serving. Makes about 1 ¼ cup salsa, depending on the size of the peaches.