Pancakes with Greens

 

greens pancakes

Real-life pocket-camera photo of the pancakes just before they were devoured, with tomato sauce and another recipe from Plenty, roasted veggies with caper and lemon dressing – delicious! 

 

My friend Megan grew up in the south.  She loves greens; collards, kale, chard, you name it.  She loves them just cooked and piled up on a plate.  However, as I have confessed before, I just don’t like them like that, I find it too slimy, too bitter, too dark and green.  But I think of her when I find a way to eat greens that I do like, such as this one from Plenty by Yotam Otelenghi.  If you’re at all interested in eating vegetables, this cookbook is a must-read.  Lots and lots of new ideas and flavors.  I’m pretty sure that it made a great big splash when it came out a couple of years ago, but somehow I missed it.  I like finding good things that I’ve missed, and you can keep them longer from the library.  Bryan and I have been cooking together a lot lately, and we raced through this book, I don’t think I’ve ever made so many recipes from one source in such a short time.  Good thing too, because even though it’s not a new book, someone else requested it at the library and I had to give it back after three weeks.  I’ll just have to get my own copy.

In the meantime, I really wanted to make these pancakes for Megan when I saw her.  She’s eating dairy-free for a while, so I had to adapt the recipe (even more than I already had).  But to my delight the pancakes are just as good!  The key to this recipe is to beat the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold them into the batter.  It makes a lovely light texture and holds everything together.

The original recipe has you fold lime and herbs into softened butter, then refrigerate it again, and put on the pancakes.  They are delicious with the flavored butter (I used lemon and thyme), but just as good with a plain pat of butter, and/or with tomato sauce on top.  I bet they’re good with your favorite sauce and condiments as well.

 

Greens Pancakes

 

Adapted (a lot) from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Pull the greens from the stems of one large bunch or two small bunches of green stuff: collard greens, chard, kale, spinach, etc.  You should have about 8 cups.  Steam in a steamer basket over simmering water until bright green and wilted.

Meanwhile, mix together in a large bowl:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

2 egg yolks

2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter -or- olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2/3 cup milk -or- water

2 green onions, finely sliced

1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed or canned green chiles -or- sub a little of your favorite hot sauce

Chop the steamed greens fairly fine and mix them in as well.  The batter will look like mostly greens held together with a little flour and stuff, and that’s fine.

 

Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed with a mixer until they hold a soft peak when you pull the beaters away.  Fold the egg whites into the batter gently with a rubber spatula, just until everything is combined.

Put a little oil (it really doesn’t take much for them not to stick) in a frying pan, and heat it over medium-low heat.  Ladle about a quarter cup of batter into the pan for each pancake, and flatten it out a bit.  Cook until deep brown on the bottom, then flip with a metal spatula and cook the other side.  Put the pancakes on a plate and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Enjoy!

Chard Phyllo Pie, and Experimenting in the Kitchen

 

Years ago I took an Indian cooking class with my mom at our local community college.  Although none of the recipes from the class became my favorites, the instructor said something which I found wonderfully liberating – use what you have.  If a recipe calls for one vegetable or spice you are out of, just try it with something similar or something you think will taste good.  Sometimes, especially when you are cooking something from a culinary tradition other than your own, it can be easy to think you have to have exactly everything the recipe calls for, in exact quantities.  However, that’s, um, never actually true!

I have been thinking about this lately and wondering how to talk about it here, especially since reading this truly stellar piece about everyday cooking on The Yellow House.  One of the true keys to this kind of culinary freedom and weekday luxury is being able to make something with what you have on hand.

For example, the other day I had chard (thanks to my aunt Barbara, who brought some from her garden all the way to Flagstaff in her cooler!), and phyllo dough, but no kind of cheese I would normally use to make spanakopita.  But I did have a large chunk of Beemster Graskaas (creamy Dutch cheese), and a bit of leftover sharp cheddar.  Hmm, I thought, this may not come out so great, but I think it’s worth a shot (embracing the possibility of failure is essential here).

Well, after a couple of bites, I looked at Bryan and asked, “What do you think?”

“I think I like it better than regular spanakopita.” he said.  So did I!  Keep in mind that our normal spanakopita recipe has been a staple in our house for years now.  This one definitely has more of an American comfort-food feeling, deliciously so.

 

Chard Phyllo Pie

 

Makes one 9 x 12 pan, or similar size

Preheat oven to 375° F

1 bunch spinach, kale, chard, or un-identified green from CSA (as long as it’s the kind you cook)

Wash and stem this, my favorite method is to grab the stem with one hand and pull the leafy stuff off with the other hand.  Put the stemmed greens in a pot with a steamer basket and some water in the bottom.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn it down to medium – low heat, let the water simmer until the greens are bright green and relaxed.

Meanwhile, finely chop ½ of one yellow onion and 2 medium garlic cloves

Saute the onion in a litle olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet or pan until it just starts to have a golden color.  Add the garlic and stir and cook for about another minute.

Scrape onion and garlic out of the pan into a bowl.

When the greens are ready, turn off the heat and let them cool for a couple of minutes.  Use tongs to transfer them to a food processor and pulse until pureed (or how you like them).  Add them to the onion bowl.

Also add to the bowl:

–       About 8 oz creamy Dutch cheese (the whole point of this post is to try whatever cheese you like/have!)

–       A little sharp cheddar cheese, or another kind that will add a little more punch to the cheese flavor

–       4 eggs

–        A few grinds of black pepper

–       A pinch of salt

Mix this all together.

Melt (I like to just drop it in the onion pan) 2 Tablespoons butter

Get out your thawed frozen phyllo dough

You may need to cut the phyllo sheets in half. If so, tightly wrap what’s left and put it back in the fridge.  Working quickly, brush a little butter in the pan, lay down a sheet, lightly brush it with butter, lay down the next sheet, etc. until you have used 8 – 10 sheets or half your stack.  Spread on the filling, then repeat with the rest of the phyllo sheets.  If you have some butter left, spread more on the top sheet or two.  Cut the spanakopita into pieces through the top layer of dough, then put in the oven and bake until the top is golden and the filling looks solid where you cut it, about 40 minutes.  With this version the filling will be a little more moist & creamy, definitely let it cook until the top is a rich golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes, cut through the bottom, and enjoy!

 

Not every culinary experiment will produce results you want to note down and make again.  But, with just a little practice cooking with what you have & what you can find, every day can be fresh, wholesome, creative – in other words, a small miracle of food at your fingertips.

 

 

Spanakopita

Ok, confession time.  Even though I eat almost exclusively vegetarian (a little fish) and try to buy local food (even in winter), I am not one of those people who can just dig into a big pile of slimy cooked greens.  Nope, not happening.  When we joined our CSA a couple of seasons ago and got flooded with chard, kale, mizuna, and other crazy crinkly green stuff, I had to find some creative solutions, and this remains one of my favorites.

This recipe had its genesis in The Joy of Cooking, my all-time pick for only cookbook I’d take to a desert island.  It is totally its own creature now.

Spanakopita/Kaleakopita/Chardakopita

Makes one 9 x 12 pan, or similar size

Preheat oven to 375

Get 1 bunch spinach, kale, chard, or un-identified green from CSA (as long as it’s the kind you cook)

Wash and stem this, my favorite method is to grab the stem with one hand and pull the leafy stuff off with the other hand.  Put the stemmed greens in a pot with a steamer basket and some water in the bottom.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn it down to medium – low heat, let the water simmer until the greens are bright green and relaxed.

Meanwhile, finely chop ½ large onion and 1 large garlic clove

Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet or pan until it just starts to have a golden color.  Add the garlic and stir and cook for about another minute.

Put the onion and garlic in a bowl.

When the greens are done, use tongs to transfer them to a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped (or how you like them).  Add them to the onion bowl.

Also add to the bowl:

–       About 8 oz feta cheese – the real sheep feta is awesome if you can find it!

–       A little more cheese – parmesan or Greek hard cheese is traditional, but I like to use a hard goat cheese.  I put in a couple tablespoons, but you can vary to taste.  If you use the really nice feta, don’t put in so much other cheese that it overwhelms the flavor.

–       4 eggs

–        A few grinds of black pepper – the cheese is salty enough for me so I don’t add any more salt

Mix this all together.

Melt (I like to just drop it in the onion pan) 2 Tablespoons butter

Get out your thawed frozen phyllo dough

You may need to cut the phyllo sheets in half. If so, tightly wrap what’s left and put it back in the fridge.  Working quickly, brush a little butter in the pan, lay down a sheet, lightly brush it with butter, lay down the next sheet, etc. until you have used 8 – 10 sheets or half your stack.  Spread on the filling, then repeat with the rest of the phyllo sheets.  If you have some butter left, spread more on the top sheet or two.  Cut the spanakopita into pieces through the top layer of dough, then put in the oven and bake until the top is golden and the filling looks solid where you cut it, about 40 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes, cut through the bottom, and enjoy!