Altering the Allergens.

Allergy season has been horrendous for me this year. To add to the drama of itchy watery eyes and waking up to a three-minute soliloquy of sneezing every morning, the 2010 ragweed season seems to have lined up perfectly with Ohio’s peak produce season. The means that typically ignorable symptoms of an itchy throat and swollen lips from fresh fruits and veggies become magnified, and I cannot fully enjoy the harvest in the time that it tastes its best. I’ve been popping generic Claritin like candy, in hopes that I can push though the season in a drug-enhanced stupor while somehow enjoying the tomatoes and melon that fall into my hands every Wednesday.

I’ve found that cooking my produce allows the allergens to break down somehow, and my reactions aren’t as bad. For now, cold soups, salsas and salads are put on hold, while recipes that involve heat take priority in my kitchen. Unfortunately, most of my seasonal cookbooks trend toward the colder entrees, so when I came across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for sweet corn pancakes, I was a happy gal.

I (stupidly) couldn’t help but snack on a few kernels from my Wayward Seed Farm sweet corn while I was prepping for the pancakes. Fresh from the cob, they tasted as if they’d already been buttered and salted. Amazing. And dangerous, it turns out. Four minutes later, I’d nearly scratched an eye out and my face felt like it was under attack. I mentally added sweet corn to the list of seasonal allergens. Sigh.

As soon as I recovered, I continued with the recipe and refrained from snacking on any more raw ingredients. The mixture came together easily and with only one substitution (grits for cornmeal). I carried the batter and a pan next door to my neighbor’s house where I’d been enlisted as a babysitter. My charge had already been put to bed and I actually never saw him during my entire shift.

My pancakes came out misshapen, but delicious. If I’d had the same strategy toward pancake-making as I did babysitting (leave them alone), I would have had the flat, golden and beautiful jewels seen on Smitten Kitchen. Instead, I hovered over them and came up with a bit of a mess. If you try these, hold the syrup; the corn provides all the sweetness needed.

In my part of Ohio, the ideal complement to an ear of fresh corn is a box of tissues and some Benadryl. As I’ve already established that I lack the discipline to avoid snacking on these killer kernels before they hit the frying pan, I’ll definitely be making these pancakes again, especially if sweet corn doesn’t outlast the ragweed.

Sweet Corn Pancakes
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 9 to 10 4-inch pancakes

2 tablespoons butter (1 ounce or 28 grams), plus additional for brushing pan
3/4 cup kernels cut from one large ear sweet fresh corn
1/8 teaspoon (1 gram) salt plus additional for seasoning corn
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups (296 ml) buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (3 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce or 22 grams) cornmeal, any kind
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet or griddle pan over medium heat. Add corn and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to brown ever-so-slightly. Sprinkle with salt and set aside to cool. Wipe out skillet.

Lightly beat egg in the bottom of a large bowl, then whisk in buttermilk, corn, vanilla and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet, mixing until just combined but still lumpy in appearance.

Reheat your skillet or saute pan to medium. Brush the pan with butter and ladle 1/4 cup batter at a time, 2 inches apart. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown underneath. If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, raw centers) turn your heat down to low for the next batch and inch it up as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, and serve immediately with a pat of salted butter and a healthy dose of maple syrup.

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7 thoughts on “Altering the Allergens.

  1. Jaydubs says:

    This post makes me both hungry and sad on your behalf.

  2. Tammy McLeod says:

    One of my boys has really been struggling with allergies also and I feel so helpless! I love the look of your misshapen pancakes and of course, I love the smitten kitchen too. Thanks for the post.

  3. Jill says:

    @Tammy There is hope for your son. Apparently we can have changes in our allergies. A friend at work who used to have to get shots as a kid is now allergy-free. I didn’t develop mine until I was 13. I’m hoping that my body will soon get bored of them (but fear that I’ll develop a new physical ailment to replace them.) Such is life.

  4. Michael says:

    Might I suggest corn fritters as well? excellent use of abundant extra sweetcorn.

  5. porktastic says:

    I understand the ragweed allergies. I can’t walk outside without sneezing and my eyes watering. Sweet corn is amazing! I’m sorry that you can’t enjoy it right now.

  6. terra says:

    Jill, that sucks about the sweet corn! I can’t eat any stone fruit or apples, it’s a drag. But even a little bit of cooking renders them totally edible.

  7. Kate says:

    I hear you on the allergies sister….in fact the mere mention of ragweed has me starting to sneeze…and no, I’m not being cute, I just wiped my running nose on my sleeve because I’m out of tissues and tired of killing trees as a result. Our house smelled amazing when we came home from our outing, it definitely made me wish we had never left. I hope this allergy season will pass quickly.

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