With three full days of uninterrupted down time last weekend to relax and enjoy summer with each other, Tony, Gio and I were eager to plan our Fourth of July weekend menus. We'd noticed that sweet corn was on sale at our local grocery store, and last Thursday we began searching images and recipes on the web for new ways to showcase corn.

Luckily, Tony stumbled across a photo of corn pancakes, and while the photo was just so-so, the prospect of having sweet corn pancakes for brunch on Saturday was wildly appealing.

We'd never tried corn pancakes before, and spent Friday evening playing around with recipes, trying to find just the right mix of ingredients for flavor and texture. We initially considered using a blend of cornmeal and flour, but this resulted in pancakes that were somewhat dense and grainy in texture.

For the next batch, we left the cornmeal out and found that not only was the texture better, but the sweet corn itself really became the star of the pancake.

With the base recipe determined, on Saturday morning we went about creating some flavor options to further enhance the taste experience, adding basil and jalapeno to one batch and sharp cheddar and chives to the next. Both were terrific, and as they cooked on the griddle I prepared two flavored sour creams to serve with the pancakes-chili lime for the basil jalapeno cakes, and lemon chive for the cheddar chive cakes.

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When testing the recipes, we both agreed that these corn pancakes would be a great side dish with fish or seafood. I pulled some smoked salmon from our freezer, which was divine with the cakes; however, freshly-caught lake fish like walleye, perch or bass would be an even better pairing, and the perfect way to showcase local ingredients.

As we were cooking, my brother, Pete, stopped by our house to drop something off on his way down to the lake and I invited him to come in and sample our new recipe.

"Corn pancakes? Those aren't even two foods that I particularly like, but I'll give them a try." He devoured two pancakes lickety-split, and as he left he asked me to email him the recipe. He has never, ever asked me for a recipe, so I took that as a good sign.

We were in Fargo over the Fourth, but as I feasted on these savory and easy-to-make corn pancakes, I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect they would be for breakfast at the lake. I even found myself daydreaming about how best to enjoy them: in crisp, white cotton pajamas on a sleepy, sunny morning at the lake, served outside or in a screened-in porch, with fresh fish and freshly squeezed orange juice, a good cup of coffee, a gentle breeze blowing and the happy chirps of birdsong in the background.

I shared this sentiment with Tony and Dave Samson, our Forum photographer, and they smiled politely as they happily chomped away on their sweet corn pancakes, with Tony mumbling something about "writers." I laughed, not minding one bit.

I love food that has the ability to transport us to a place or experience, and even though I missed the lake last weekend, I almost feel like I was there, thanks to these delicious and savory sweet corn pancakes.

Savory Sweet Corn Pancakes

Makes: about eight 3-inch pancakes

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon canola oil

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (about 2 to 3 ears)

Additional canola oil for frying

Flavor option 1: Basil Jalapeno

(serve with Chili Lime Sour Cream)

1 medium to large jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Flavor option 2: Cheddar Chive

(serve with Lemon Chive Sour Cream)

2 tablespoons fresh chives, small-chopped

¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, oil, baking powder, salt and pepper until smooth and combined. Stir in the corn and optional flavor ingredients until incorporated. Let batter rest, lightly covered, for 30 minutes.

Lightly brush griddle or large nonstick frying pan with canola oil and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Pour approximately ¼ cup of batter to form each cake, which should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Cook over medium heat until bottom is golden brown and edges of cake are dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook on other side until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. Monitor and adjust heat up or down as needed.

Transfer to plates or platter and serve with flavored sour cream.

Tips:

  • To easily remove kernels from the cob, stand ear on one end and use a sharp knife to slice the kernels off, cutting from top to bottom.
  • Serve with pan-fried lake fish or smoked salmon and flavored sour cream.
  • If serving with flavored sour creams, prepare them at least 30 minutes in advance for best flavor.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month; for best results, reheat on hot griddle or frying pan. If frozen, thaw thoroughly before reheating.
  • Frozen corn will work if fresh sweet corn is not available.

Chili Lime or Lemon Chive Sour Cream

Chili Lime ingredients:

1/3 cup sour cream

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder plus a bit more

Lemon Chive ingredients:

1/3 cup sour cream

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine sour cream with flavorings until well combined. Best when made at least 30 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Serve with savory sweet corn pancakes, fish tacos, fish cakes, grilled chicken and fried or baked potatoes.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com. Their blog is at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.