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I’m still having dreams of the Parisian life we licked for a few days on the way back to LA from Poland. Those chocolate croissants for breakfast in bed, coffee, and I mean COFFEE after the meal (and never during), the loose scarf sitting tight around Jason’s neck and trying hard to make itself home despite his protests…

And the Louvre… We spent a day and a half meandering the hallways, the Royal chambers, and the dim basements of the castle. We could have stayed two weeks, and that would not have been enough. We were armed with a mini computer with headphones dangling from our necks, while a deep, male voice told us about every sculpture we paused in front of, every painting that caught our attention, and hundreds of other exhibits that helped us better understand who we are, and to see that the history really does repeat itself over and over.

Paris was also a meeting point, where we caught up with a bunch of old friends I know from way back, our ole New York days.

Laurent, my buddy, Lolo as we call him behind the scenes, realized he was slowly losing his marbles in the South of France where he was anchored for the past 12 months or so. He felt an itch again, that tickle in his butt that makes him move from one corner of the word to another every so often, and so he packed his backpack and flew himself to Malaysia.

From his most recent report I know he’s getting cozy in Asia. The lifestyle does sound quite appealing, particularly for a single man. Rent and food are cheap. A casual crawl in the swimming pool follows a tropical breakfast. Then there’s time for a massage. The kind one can get on every street corner, apparently. Or at the mall down the street from one’s flat. You know, the Malaysian massage.

Meanwhile, we’re back home, trying to get a grip on our life on this side of the world while fighting that instant nostalgia for Europe, and still not eating meat. Hence, my dish du jour:

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

4 large zucchinis, washed and grated

1/2 red onion, chopped and sautéed

2 eggs

6-8 tbsp whole-wheat flour

1 tbsp of potato starch

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Fontina cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

handful of fresh dill, chopped (What? I’m Polish.)

When sautéing an onion I like to sprinkle it with a nice amount of dried marjoram, and watch the magic happen. The herb hits the hot oil thus releasing an aroma that simply knocks me out, while my socks stand up right next to my feet. I mean it in a GOOD way. That divine smell drifts through the kitchen and out into the courtyard making the wild cats from the hood hold the fire and suspend their everlasting turf wars. One day I shall record their CRYYYING OUUUT LOUDDD at 4 o’clock in the morning, right outside our window, and let that serve as evidence in my case.

The pancakes. Let the onion cool off a tad and then mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, making sure all the flour is evenly incorporated. I can’t really tell you how much flour to use exactly. The consistency of your batter will depend on so many factors, I don’t even know where to begin: how much water your zucchinis brought, how humid the air is in your neck of the wood, the weather, the stock market, global warming, and the current phase of the moon. In other words, test-drive your pancakes. Throw a spoonful on hot oil in your pan, and let it fry for a couple of minutes. Now flip it. Did it fall apart? Then you need more flour. Got it? Great.

What’s there left to say? Good luck! The wild Felis catus will soon be sending you Thank You cards.

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Last weekend my body rested supine on a couch in front of the TV set, while the Food Network stole my whole attention. Suddenly, a chilling flashback kidnapped my thoughts and flew them to Poland; back to my childhood days filled with crepes and potato pancakes. The massive craving that arose during that memory trip was so overpowering that I instantaneously scraped myself off of the couch, and marched into the kitchen in a sleepwalking manner.

25 minutes later, stop watch in hand, I had immerged carrying a plate stacked with 5 perfect crepes and a freshly made “jam” for the topping. Now, I use quotation marks for a reason. Here’s what happened. I had nothing to smear on my crepes, and after a quick scan of the kitchen countertop and the inside of the refrigerator, all I found quasi-suitable was a couple of green apples and a carrot. Into the food processor they went, along with a tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of cane sugar, 3 grains of salt and a dash of cinnamon.

Agi smile

I gave it a good whipping for 1-2 minutes, which resulted in a bowl of an apple-carrot mousse. I spread a spoonful of the goods on a crepe, rolled it up, and bit on one end. The taste was… pleasant, however ever so slightly too RAW for what I consider comfort food. Hence, I decided to make my own jam for the next batch of crepes, whenever the mood strikes again.

Let’s get started. Crepes are as complicated to make as scrambled eggs. It’s really silly easy. Traditionally the batter calls for milk, flour and eggs with a pinch of salt and sugar. (My twist on the traditional crepes recipe is almond milk and whole-wheat flour.) After mixing together all ingredients it should have a consistency of a thick liquid. Then, using either the blender it was mixed in or simply a small ladle, pour a small amount on a hot skillet greased with a touch of cooking oil. Make sure a thin layer of the batter covers the whole surface of the skillet by tilting it in all directions. After all, you want a perfectly round crepe, don’t you? Give it a minute or two, until the batter sets, and flip it over with a spatula. You want both sides lightly browned.

The following proportions should allow for 10-12 Crepes: eggs

– 2 eggs

– 1+1/4 cup of whole wheat flour

– 1 cup of almond milk (unsweetened)

– a pinch of sea salt

– 2 tsp of raw cane sugar

To make my Strawberry-Mango Jam with a secret ingredient I used:

– 2 lbs of fresh strawberries (remember to wash’em and remove the stems!)

– 4 ripe mangoes (mine were so ripe, they were on sale – yay!)

– 1 orange

– 1 lemon

– 1/2 cup of raw cane sugar

– 4-5 cloves

– 1 tsp of cinnamon

– and a good pinch of my secret ingredient – cayenne pepper (AHA!)

Quarter strawberries, dice mangoes, toss into a non-stick pan and set over a medium-high heat. Add sugar, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and mix with a wooden spoon. Zest the lemon and the orange, juice the same lemon (removing all seeds), and add all to the pot. Peel the orange like an apple, including the pith, and cut out the sections in between the see-through membranes. Throw the orange slices into the pot with the rest of the strawberry-mango potion. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. At this point your kitchen will start to fill with this ambrosial fruity fragrance that will make your knees wiggle. Compose yourself and let the jam cook for a couple of hours, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat and rest overnight. Cook for another hour the following day, until it’s thick and heavenly delightful. Grab a few clean glass jars with dry lids, and fill them with jam while still steaming hot (BE CAREFUL!!!), twist the lid on tight, and put aside to cool. Store in a pantry for future breakfast toasts, Sunday morning crepes, or an occasional spoonful of paradise in the PM hours…

Jam in jars

I hope the Agi-Crepes and Strawberry-Mango Jam will keep your hands full till tomorrow, when I’ll deliver the second part of the SKILLET FEST – the Potato Pancakes along with my version of Tzatziki Sauce.

Oh, I’m hungry! Bye, bye.

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