The Chef's Take: Erin Smith's Carrot Pancakes from Main Kitchen

These carrot pancakes from chef Erin Smith are gluten-free and fantastic. Make them for your kids and they'll never know they're eating their veggies!

©Kendall Hanna Photography

Kendall Hanna Photography

If you've ever thought, “How can I get my kids to eat more vegetables?” you might want to read on. Chef Erin Smith of Main Kitchen, a beautiful new restaurant in the JW Marriott Houston Downtown, turns fresh carrots into fluffy pancakes and serves them in a short stack for breakfast with maple syrup. Other than the pancakes' slight orange hue, you'd never know carrots were the main ingredient. Smith uses carrots from local farms like Black Hill Ranch and Sustainable Harvesters, and makes her pancakes gluten-free by using chickpea flour from a local gristmill.

When the hotel, which has a state-of-the-art spa, opened in September, Smith says it was her mission to keep healthful, vegetarian and gluten-free items on the menu. "I didn’t want anyone to have to ask for something to be made. I wanted to have dishes already on the menu that were unique and special," she said. She thought of carrots because of their natural sweetness. "I have been on a diet, like, once in my life and I used lots of carrot when I needed a filler or replacement," she said. "They cook well and are high in natural sugar. They taste just like you'd expect from a pancake." Maybe even better.

Carrot Pancakes
Yield: 16 pancakes
3 cups gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 cup carrot juice, freshly juiced
1 cup carrot pulp, from juicing carrots

In a large bowl mix together the gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, whisked eggs and whole milk until smooth. Stir in the carrot juice, carrot pulp and cilantro.

Grease a hot griddle with your choice of cooking fat (olive oil spray, clarified butter, canola oil, etc.) and ladle the batter onto the hot griddle. Once you start to see bubbles forming (about 2 minutes), flip the pancakes using a flat spatula and cook for another 2 minutes.

Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.

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Pancake Art

Using a batter-filled squeeze bottle, Smith drew the outline of each face and let the lines cook slightly, then filled in the gaps with more batter. The outlines cooked longer, so they were darker than the rest of the pancake.