“Ijeh” Zucchini Harvest Pancakes to Celebrate Summer
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
When you think of pancakes, you might conjure up an image of a mile-high buttermilk stack of fluffy cakes oozing with maple syrup. While I love pancakes as much as the next person, the resulting crash-and-burn sugar rush leaves me feeling tired rather than energized in the morning.
Enter the Middle Eastern savory pancake called “ijeh,” popular in Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon.
The original recipe for these pancakes came from a need to use up huge bounties of fresh summer zucchinis. “Kousa Mahshi” or stuffed squash, is hugely popular in Arab households. However, families did not want to waste the pulp of the zucchinis that were cored out for this dish. These pancakes made inventive use of the zucchini core. Traditionally, these pancakes were deep-fried like fritters. However, to keep the vegetable-based dish nutritious, I pour them on a griddle and cook them just like pancakes.
The original ijeh uses a small amount of white flour, but you can substitute gluten-free or low-carb flours without sacrificing flavor. Feel free to use almond flour or chickpea flour with amazing results. The chickpea flour gives the pancakes a flavor similar to falafel, but without all of the oil. The almond flour gives them a rich and mildly nutty flavor.
As a child, I would eat ijeh plain, but now I experiment and have a lot of fun with different herbs, savory toppings, and cultural variations.
In the accompanying recipe, I use traditional parsley and mint in the batter, but you can add basil, chives, dill or any other fresh herb you have on hand. If you have a lot of picky eaters with different tastes, try making a pancake “bar” with different toppings. A dollop of creme fraiche, smoked salmon and fresh dill turns these pancakes into lovely blinis. Or give them some Italian flair with fresh oregano, marinara sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese right on the griddle, so the cheese melts before serving. You also can add a Latin touch with some cilantro, salsa, and sour cream. I personally like them with hummus or tzatziki sauce – the possibilities are as wide as your flavor preferences.
For a video tutorial on how to make ijeh and a host of other recipes, check out the video below:
“IJEH” SUMMER HARVEST PANCAKES
- 3 cups shredded zucchini (approximately 2 large)
- Salt to taste
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup white flour (or substitute chickpea flour or almond meal)
- 1/2 white onion, grated, squeezed dry in paper towel or cheesecloth
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
- Olive oil or avocado oil
Shred zucchini using a box grater. Toss with a sprinkle of salt in a colander and drain for at least 30 minutes. Once drained, squeeze zucchini dry in a kitchen towel to prevent pancakes from becoming watery.
Whisk eggs, then add zucchini and remaining ingredients. If the batter is too watery, add more flour.
Add approximately 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, drop 1/4 cup batter into pan per pancake. Cook 2-4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. If using a griddle, set the temperature at 375 F. If using deep-fry method, use oil with a higher smoke point, like avocado oil.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, food writer, and host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at: https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/