Archives for February 2008

Gingerbread Pancakes

Today A is feeling under the weather; I’m thinking it must be a touch of the flu; the same bug that has gone all around our school, neighborhood and back again.
So far, it hasn’t had any affect on her appetite – so much for starving the flu.

Whatever her affliction, she’s requiring classic comfort food; warm herbal tea sweetened with honey (my kids like Red Zinger), leftover rice, cinnamon toast and pancakes.

These gingerbread pancakes have become popular with my kids, and I guess that’s no surprise. It must be that they are sweeter and spicier than my usual no-fail buttermilk pancake recipe.

I’m hoping that a promise of gingerbread-pancakes-in-bed will be just what the doctor ordered for a speedy recovery. And if I must reveal my alternate motive for serving a sick little girl breakfast in bed, it is this: I want her to stay in bed, tucked away in her room – keeping all her flu cooties with her! Here’s to health…

Gingerbread Pancakes

Makes about 16 pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons molasses

In a large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cloves.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat together eggs, sugar, oil, milk and molasses; pour over the dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spray a griddle with non-stick spray or grease with butter; place over medium heat until hot.

Spoon about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto griddle. Cook until small bubbles emerge and start to pop on the surface of the pancakes; turn with a spatula and cook until second side is lightly browned.

Serve hot.

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How to Juice a Pomegranate

Depending on who you listen to, getting the juice out of a pomegranate can be a messy, daunting task, right up there with hacking open stubborn coconuts with a machete. (see my friend Jaden’s very funny post about coconuts)

For example, in my go-to guide, The Produce Bible (a beautifully photographed encyclopedia of all things fruit, vegetable, herbal and nutty) author Leanne Kitchen first warns that pomegranate juice will permanently stain your clothing. She goes on to describe a juicing method, which involves peeling the sectioned fruit while submerging it in a bowl of water, collecting the seeds that float to the top and finally, chopping them in a food processor to collect the juice. Okaaay. Seems like a lot of work.

And the New Joy of Cooking (NJOC) not only includes the method above for seed extraction, but alternatively has you rolling the fruit around on the counter to release the juices, quartering them, picking out the seeds, wrapping them up in cheesecloth and then squeezing the bundle really hard over a bowl.

While I admit that I’m somewhat of a purist – I mean, most sensible people would just go out and buy a bottle of juice – I’m also lazy. I want fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, and I don’t want any trouble, hear? Why make things so complicated?

When I saw a recipe I needed to try – Pomegranate Sorbet in A Passion for Ice Cream, I decided to juice my own darn pomegranates. I also happened to have a lot of them on hand – Costco had flats at a bargain price.

My easy-peasy method is simply to cut them in halves (or into quarters if they are Really Big Pomegranates) and juice them in my electric juicer. No mess, not much fuss. There was a little bit of splashing, but I assure you, no clothing was harmed during the filming of this episode.

I found that 3 pomegranates gave me a generous 2 cups of juice, just what I needed to make the sorbet. The NJOC did say that crushing the seeds can release tannin, resulting in bitter juice; but I didn’t find that to be a problem – I must have a gentle juicer.

Pomegranates are in the last throes of their season now – but if you do find some in the market you can refrigerate them for up to a month, easily. Of course, you can make this gorgeous, jewel-colored sorbet with store bought juice, too. Just make sure you buy pure juice without added sugar and other kinds of juices.

Pomegranate Sorbet
adapted from A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups pure pomegranate juice (fresh or bottled)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Transfer syrup to a Pyrex or stainless steel bowl. Stir in the pomegranate juice, lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Scrape the sorbet into a freezer-safe container and freeze until scoopable, about 3 hours, before serving.

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Fig Jam, Basil and Goat Cheese

A sandwich for the front page

When it comes to periodical food porn, I confess that I’m an addict. I’m attracted to glossy magazines like a fruit fly to a tumbler of port; easily taken in by the pin-up shots on the covers of my favorite magazines; Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Vegetarian Times and especially the slickly designed Aussie imports Donna Hay and Delicious.

Just as soon as the February issue of Gourmet fell through the mail slot, I was hooked: the cover photo is a simple, oozy grilled cheese sandwich. It was almost lunchtime and I was hungry, so I went into the kitchen and made one.

It’s rare that I have the time and inclination to try a recipe as soon as it catches my eye. You know how that goes – flag the page and forget about it for a few years.

I had to make some substitutions, because when you have a Spontaneous-Cook-the-Cover episode, you don’t always have every ingredient called for; in this case my pantry was missing both the Taleggio and Fontina cheeses and escarole greens.

Instead, I made my version of this panini sandwich with sliced Raclette, goat cheese and fresh basil leaves. I did have some fig jam on the shelf just waiting for such an opportunity, which was a good thing because the sweet-savory preserves are a fantastic surprise. At first bite, this sandwich made my day – gooey, tangy cheese, grilled, warm bread and hit of fresh basil. I had a very happy lunch.

The only way to improve upon this sandwich recipe would be to add some crisp bacon or pancetta – but really, even a piece of grilled shoe leather would taste better with some crisp bacon or pancetta, so I guess that just goes without saying!

Grilled Cheese with Fig Jam, Basil and Goat Cheese
adapted from Gourmet
Serves one.

  • 2 (1/2-inch-thick) center slices sourdough bread (from a 9- to 10-inch round)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fig jam
  • 2 ounces sliced Raclette or Fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup soft crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Brush 1 side of bread slices with oil and arrange, oil sides down, on a work surface. Spread jam on bread slices and top one slice with the cheese. Arrange basil on top of cheese, season with salt and pepper. Close sandwich.
  • Heat a heavy griddle or stovetop-grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the sandwich in the pan; weigh with a sandwich press or heavy skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes, until undersides are golden brown. Turn over with a spatula, and cook on the second side until golden brown and cheese has melted. Slice in half on the diagonal, and serve right away.

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