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Home on the Range: Chef Courtney Contos' Flexible Veggie Pancakes

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Vegetable pancakes with green tahini miso sauce - COURTESY OF COURTNEY CONTOS
  • Courtesy of Courtney Contos
  • Vegetable pancakes with green tahini miso sauce
Courtney Contos used to tell people, "I'm your chef friend in Vermont." Now that she's gone virtual — first as a health coach and now as a chef and cooking instructor — she just wants people to know that she's their "chef friend here on Earth."

Contos switched her focus last summer, closing her Shelburne culinary classroom and store, Chef Contos, after more than six years. At the time, she told Seven Days that she was moving things online to open a functional medicine and wellness coaching business

With that new business, Contos was a pre-pandemic adopter of Zoom — the now-ubiquitous video conferencing platform — using it to work with clients to make diet and lifestyle changes. Now that we're all staying home, she's hosting virtual cooking classes, too.



"I had a couple reach out and say, 'We're at home, we need some inspiration and enthusiasm. We're in a rut and cooking the same things over and over,'" Contos recalled. With the online platform already in place, she decided to jump in and start offering the classes — all priced affordably at $11 — with the goal of bringing people together.

Chef Courtney Contos - COURTESY OF COURTNEY CONTOS
  • Courtesy of Courtney Contos
  • Chef Courtney Contos
While she's taught plenty of cooking classes over the years — she estimates between 1,300 and 1,500 — the first virtual version was an adjustment.

"They've all been in front of people!" Contos said of her previous classes. "This was an experiment, to translate what I've done so many times with people's energy right in front of me and do it through the screen."

So far, the online classes have been a success. The first had attendees tuning in from Germany, Canada and Mexico. It even had a birthday celebration.

"The food was great, and people were excited to see what I was cooking, but it was about way more than the food," Contos explained. "People felt a sense of togetherness, and they had this time to really forget about what was happening and interact."

The 45-minute classes include recipes, tips and resources for far-flung, flavorful food. Upcoming themes include Latin comfort food, samosas and chutney, and a Taco Tuesday party. Contos is happy to share the recipes beforehand for attendees who want to cook along, but she said the classes, ahem, "zoom by even if you're just watching."

During a time when people are limiting their trips to the grocery store, Contos is focusing on sharing techniques that can be made with whatever is in the kitchen cabinet. Flexibility is built into her language as a chef; she's used to adapting recipes to different diets and health or lifestyle prescriptions.

"As a health coach — and someone who overcame an autoimmune condition — I feel that nutrition is a big player right now in keeping our immune systems strong," Contos said. One of her favorite ways to get families to eat more vegetables is via a flexible vegetable pancake recipe, served either with a tahini-miso sauce or with a simple yogurt sauce.

"It's a basic recipe that I share with all my clients," Contos said. "They taste so good, and people can use whatever vegetables they have."

Contos challenges herself to use six different types of vegetables when she prepares the pancakes, but they work just as well if all you have is frozen cauliflower. Or spinach. Or kale.

"You could use just carrots and it would still taste awesome," Contos said, at the end of a long list of vegetable suggestions. And isn't that the kind of recipe that we all really need right now?

Vegetable Pancakes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (sub: paleo flour or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (or a favorite curry spice)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 5-6 cups chopped or grated vegetables (cauliflower, roasted red peppers, kale, sweet potato, scallion, onion, fresh or frozen spinach, cabbage and canned artichokes are all great options, but use whatever you have on hand!)
  • Avocado oil for frying
Directions
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add eggs, lemon juice and water, then whisk until all the lumps are out.
  3. Fold vegetables into the batter.
  4. Heat a heavy iron pan on medium-high heat, adding enough oil to cover the pan.
  5. Spoon some of the batter on the pan, fitting as many pancakes as you can on the pan you use. Lightly press down on each with a spatula. Cover the pan when the first side is cooking, and cook until browned. You should be able to lift the pancake easily when it is ready.
  6. Flip and cook uncovered on the other side.
  7. Repeat with the rest of the batter, adding more oil as needed.
  8. Serve with green tahini miso sauce (recipe below) or yogurt.
Source: Courtney Contos, chef and wellness coach

Green Tahini Miso Sauce

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sub: nut butter)
  • Dash of toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (sub: lemon juice)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
  • Fresh herbs, such as dill, mint or parsley (use a touch of all, or substitute whatever you have on hand)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Dash of your favorite hot sauce (optional)
Directions
  1. Blend all ingredients.
  2. Enjoy!
Source: Courtney Contos, chef and wellness coach