24 February 2015

A very good use for a lemon

Back in January, a lovely friend with whom I serve on a local board flew up from Palm Desert for our quarterly board meeting.  With him came a bag of freshly picked Meyer lemons from the tree in his yard.  I was lucky enough to come home from our meeting with three of them. 

I had no idea what to do with these amazing lemons.  I love the flavor of Meyer lemons . . . but these were enormous . . . and fragrant . . . and home grown . . . and did I say big?  They were too nice to preserve or cut up into marmalade . . . and three isn't enough to make a batch of curd (but who needs lemon curd anyway?).  So I thought about it for a few more days and then happened upon a perfect recipe in my search for what to make for dinner one night: lemon ricotta pancakes. I happened to have half a container of ricotta in my fridge, so the recipe didn't require a trip to the store.  Even better.

We ate pancakes for dinner that night, and they filled the house with a most lovely fragrance.  I topped them with blueberries, plain yogurt, and a touch of maple syrup.  They were so good we devoured every last one and I forgot to take a picture.
Although quite light, the pancakes take considerably more time to cook than traditional pancakes.  They'd do well under a warm blueberry compote or even something like citrus segments and syrup. 

The cookbook I found them in is one of those themed cookbooks --  all about breakfast and brunch.  Can't recall where I found it (Anthropologie perhaps?).  It's from the UK and lists all ingredients by weight (couldn't more U.S. cookbooks do this too??? Please.).  The book has a wonderful buttermilk waffle recipe in it that we make all the time.  Plus a few more gems like poached eggs with spinach on flat bread with Greek yogurt & chili butter and a holiday favorite of mine, homemade crumpets.

Now that I've discovered the ricotta pancake,  I'm thinking I might have to try it as a savory herb pancake sometime this spring.  Maybe with smoked salmon on the side . . .

Meyer Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from The Perfect Start to Your Day by Tonia George
Serves 2-4

250 g/1 cup whole milk ricotta
juice and grated zest of one Meyer lemon ( used the juice from only half of my gigantic lemon but zested the whole thing)
3 large eggs, separated
50 g/3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
100 g/3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
4 Tbs. granulated sugar
plain yogurt or whipped cream and fresh fruit, to serve

Beat together by hand the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, egg yolks and half the melted butter.  Sift the flour, soda and salt together, then fold into the ricotta mixture.  Separately whisk the egg whites (I use my kitchen aid mixer) until soft peaks appear.  Add sugar and continue whisking until glossy and peaks are firm.  Fold the whites into the batter.

Coat a heavy pan or griddle with a thin layer of melted butter.  When hot, drop a large spoonful of batter on the surface and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes before turning.  The pancakes rise quite a bit and they need to be cooked a bit slower than typical pancakes so they cook through. 

Serve warm with toppings.

17 February 2015

Yay for the edible craft

Before I had a child I was under the impression that all kids like to make art.  That they like to draw and paint and color and cut and make stuff every chance they get.  Okay, so not so much it turns out.  My child has never really been one who gravitates to the art station at school or sits down at his studio to color or paint just for fun.  He'd rather wrestle or build a tower or read or take pictures with my camera. 

Since crafts aren't really his go-to activities, I've been looking for other ways to exercise his creative muscles.  It turns out that cooking is something he likes, and it's creative.  Food projects allow him to use machinery, figure out how something works, watch it get bigger, whisk and stir and scrape, scatter and sprinkle stuff, make swirls, and design something himself . . . followed by his favorite part: eating.  Plus, we occasionally get results that can double as gifts.  Or we get a chance to share the fun with a friend we've invited over.

Here are a few of the edible crafts we've made lately.

Valentine's Bark
Around Valentine's Day, we experimented with white chocolate mint bark . . . then chocolate bark with swirls of white chocolate mint . . . all with Valentine's sprinkles, of course.  Once it was cooled and hardened, we broke it into pieces to eat and share.  Wyatt helped with all the steps.

Melt about 1/2 pound of white chocolate melting wafers (I like the white mint-flavored ones), available at cake decorating shops and craft stores.  Spread the melted wafers in a foil lined baking sheet or shallow pan (works well in an 8x8 or 6x9).  Scatter sprinkles on top before it sets.

For a chocolate version: Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips (or melting chocolate) and spread in a thin layer in a foil lined pan. After it has hardened (you can refrigerate to speed the process), drizzle melted white chocolate on top, then finish with sprinkles.

Dip & Sprinkle Pretzels

White chocolate chips (or melting wafers)
Mint extract, optional

Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.  In a another container, melt your chips however you like until smooth and thin (add a few drops of milk if it's too thick).  Drop in a bit of mint extract if you like and stir it in.  Then (kids) drop in your pretzels and (grown ups) fish them out with a wooden skewer, letting the excess chocolate drip off.  Place it on the foil-lined sheet and decorate with sprinkles while still warm so the sprinkles will stick.

Breadstick Hearts
Inspired by the set of Katie Woo children's books that Wyatt is constantly reading these days, these bread sticks are a fun afternoon project that becomes a nice snack when accompanied by some veggies. Our latest batch got shaped into Xs and Os.

1 can of refrigerated pizza dough (or breadstick dough if you can find it)
Parmesan cheese, shredded
One egg white, beaten
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to the correct baking temperature for the dough.  Divide the dough into pieces that can be stretched into 12"-long ropes (about 8).  Stretch and twist the dough and shape it into the shape of a heart (or Xs and Os) and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Brush with the egg white, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with salt.  Bake for 6-10 minutes until browning on top.

The Strawberry-Blackberry Lassi
I've made this at our preschool as a small group activity.  It's great fun to get five or six kids to help you prep the fruit, measure the buttermilk, and drop in the ice cubes.  Every kid drinks it too!

6 Fresh strawberries, green tops removed by a child
1 cup fresh blackberries (or frozen is okay too)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 Tb. honey
six ice cubes

Blend together and drink.