Every mid-July, I hit a culinary rut. An odd confession, I realize, given that right now fresh garden fare is edging on peak abundance and gifts me with a daily cornucopia of seasonal produce for ingredients. But as the zucchini harvest piles up on the kitchen counter this time of year, I feel a bit overwhelmed and uninspired. I crave a fresh cooking groove.
However, I’ve learned that just like any artist needs to at times rekindle a creative muse, we foodies too need a dose of cooking inspiration, especially during this time when we have a bounty of fresh fare to savor.
Here are three tips I’ve discovered for shaking up a peak summer cooking rut, followed by a summer breakfast classic we serve at our Wisconsin B&B, Inn Serendipity: Zucchini Feta Pancakes, that will cure any summer cooking rut that ails you:
1. Flip Savory and Sweet
Twist the expected menu and serve a familiar item category a new way. For example, most folks expect pancake to be bread-like and sweet, swimming in a pool of syrup. These Zucchini Feta Pancakes provide a savory alternative to traditional pancake fare, served “naked” with no syrup or toppings needed. While we serve these for breakfast at Inn Serendipity, you could readily serve them for a quick supper.
2. Add a Strong Companion Flavor
Adding in a distinct, unexpected flavor to a dish also perks up the palette. The feta cheese in these pancakes enhances the flavor in an unusual, distinct manner. I’m fortunate where I life in Southwest Wisconsin as I’m in the Mecca of cheese making, including the award-winning Odyssey-brand feta cheese, made by the Buholzer family at the Klondike Cheese Factory in Monroe, Wisconsin.
3. Blend in Fresh Company
Sometimes it isn’t the ingredients or the recipe that grows a bit stale; it’s the company around the table. Just like you sometimes need a fresh recipe, add a dose of newness around the table and share the summer garden abundance by inviting someone new over to share a meal. Living in a B&B environment, I’m blessed with a near daily dose of new interesting and inspiring people coming through my kitchen, providing the ultimate in keeping life fresh.
These Zucchini Feta Pancakes are from our B&B cookbook, Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity. Another reason to savor these now is, after a few rounds of winter experimentation using frozen zucchini, I’ve come to the culinary conclusion that these pancakes taste best with fresh summer squash.
Zucchini Feta Pancakes
4 eggs, separated
4 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. finely crumbled feta cheese
½ c. finely chopped green onions
1 T. fresh of 1 t. dried mint
½ t. salt
½ c. all-purpose flour
Oil for frying
* Combine everything except egg whites and oil. Mix well.
* Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter mixture.
* Heat oil until very hot. Drop about 1/8 cup batter for each pancake. Cook on both sides until crisp.
* Serve immediately.
Photo credit: Lisa Kivirist