Vegan Zucchini Pancakes with Hazelnut Romesco

by Maja Lukic

I've been sitting on this recipe since August probably. Can you even buy zucchini anymore? In my defense, it is still reasonably warm outside and the palette of yellows, greens, and rust here seems apropos for these burnished autumn days. 

In the event that you do have the last of your zucchini lingering on the counter or in the fridge, collecting syrupy dust and shriveling into old age, this recipe is for you. It's a fantastic little vegan pancake that requires minimal skill and effort. And the combination of turmeric (a veritable superfood) and chickpea flour (high protein and gluten-free) lends the dish a veneer of respectability even though it's basically fried dough. 

The batter is the fundamental element so even if you're not into zucchini, try this with grated carrots and onions, peppers and spinach, or any other combination of fresh and/or cooked vegetables. Note the intense yellow color--that's not me boosting saturation in Lightroom but the actual color of the pancake. It's the turmeric that infuses the batter with that marigold hue. (Not photographed: the pale shimmer of my Riesling but, I assure you, it was an integral part of the process). 

And the hazelnut romesco sauce? It's a flavor accent of sorts but not a necessity by any measure. I can't seem to eat anything savory without some sort of red pepper-based condiment, be it romesco or ajvar or harissa, but that's my small idiosyncrasy. If you'd rather serve the pancakes with something else, try a lemon tahini sauce, yoghurt or even labneh

Vegan Zucchini Pancakes (v/gf)

Adapted from Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From The Riviera

Makes approx.  16 pancakes

1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour

3/4 cup water

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 lemon, zested

2 zucchini

avocado oil, for frying

Hazelnut Romesco (recipe below), fresh lemon juice, chopped parsley, sea salt

Whisk together the chickpea flour, water, minced garlic, turmeric, sea salt, and the zest of a lemon. Let the batter rest for 1 hour. 

Trim the ends off the zucchini but don't peel. Coarsely grate the zucchini in a food processor or by hand. Place in a colander, season well with salt and set aside for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess moisture from the zucchini and add to the chickpea batter. 

Heat avocado oil in a skillet over medium heat--you need enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. For each pancake, drop a tablespoon of batter into the pan and flatten. Don't overcrowd the pan. Fry on the first side until the bottom is golden brown and small holes appear on the uncooked side. Flip and fry on the other side until golden brown. Transfer the pancake to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. 

Sprinkle with sea salt, fresh lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Serve right away with Hazelnut Romesco. Pancakes will keep in the fridge for a day or in the freezer for one month. 

Hazelnut Romesco (v/gf)

Adapted from Romesco Sauce

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup hazelnuts, raw

1/4 cup almonds, raw

1 slice stale bread

5 roasted red peppers (store-bought or homemade)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley

1 garlic clove

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt, fine

crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

To roast your own peppers, see directions here. If the bread is not stale, toast it for a few minutes, but be sure to allow the bread to cool before you process the sauce.

Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside to cool. Toast the hazelnuts in the same skillet until fragrant and the skin starts to crackle. Transfer the hazelnuts to a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool. Gather the towel into a bundle and massage the hazelnuts to remove the skin. Most--though not all--of the skin will slip right off. 

Add the hazelnuts, almonds, bread, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times and grind until coarse. Add the roasted peppers, parsley, tomato paste, smoked paprika, sea salt, chili flakes (if using), and sherry vinegar. Process to a smooth texture. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Season with additional salt and/or vinegar to taste.

Romesco will keep in the fridge for about a week or in the freezer for one month.