Chinese Scallion Pancakes

January 23, 2009

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"Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren't we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog."]  

 

 

gronionpancake2

Over the past couple of years, the HH and I have developed a fairly steadfast routine: every Tuesday at mid day, we connect for a hefty serving of afternoon delight. (No, no debauchery, silly! Forget the cheeesy song.  I’m talking about afternoon culinary delight).  To wit, food. To wit, Japanese food. To wit, Sushi. 

As our own unique twist on “date night,” we have “date lunch”:  at a little sushi bar near the HH’s place of employ, he feasts on various species of marine life (well, I suppose that would more properly be “marine after-life”), and I enjoy some of the best vegetarian sushi I’ve ever tasted.  While clacking chopsticks, slathering wasabi and dipping into soy sauce, he reports on his recent work projects, while I regale him with anecdotes about The Girls’ antics. We eat, we laugh, we fight over who gets the last piece of pickled ginger, and then we kiss goodbye and go about the rest of our day.  It’s a lovely interlude in an otherwise bland workday. 

Well, a few weeks ago at the habitual time and place, I was devastated to discover that the establishment had unceremoniously changed owners.  Oh, the new folks are nice enough, but the distinctive sheen of the place had definitely tarnished. (The new vegetarian option consists of 8 pieces of cucumber and avocado maki.  Now, how could they possibly think vegetarians want 8 identical pieces of a single variety, when the HH gets a full dozen varieties of raw, slimy oceanic tidbits on his plate?).  Haven’t these people heard of the expression, “If it ain’t broke. . .”?   Harrumph.

Being fairly close to Toronto’s Chinatown North, we opted that day to try one of the many Asian restaurants in the vicinity instead.  I assumed I’d have no trouble finding plenty to eat. 

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.  (No? It’s even too puerile to repeat here.  But there are plenty of others out there who’ll tell you.) I sat down feeling peckish. Perusing the menu, I quickly discovered there was precious little I could consume save steamed veggies and rice.  (Not that there’s anything wrong wtih steamed veggies and rice, you understand, but I get plenty of those at home–and certainly don’t feel like driving halfway across the city and dishing out restaurant prices for someone else to throw them on a plate for me). 

Yes, every single dish contained at least one ingredient I can’t eat. The few animal-free options all contained wheat (another no-no). Listed under “Vegetable Dishes,” we had Vegetables and Ground Beef; Vegetables and Pork Stir-Fry;  Egg Noodles with Vegetables; Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetables.  Even the “Vegetable Dumplings” contained ground pork.  Argh!  (And another “harrumph,” just for good measure. ) Would I have to sit there starving*, I wondered, while the HH gorged himself on beef, chicken, and pork-laden vegetables?

 And then, I noticed these:  Scallion Pancakes.  Simplicity itself, these pan-fried cakes studded with rings of shiny green onion were cut into four triangles, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Humble, yet divine; my mouth began to water. And then, I realized:  they were made with wheat flour.  Which I am not supposed to eat. 

True, my wheat sensitivity induces heartburn, bloating, and sometimes an achy stomach a couple of hours after ingesting it.  True,  wheat encourages my inflamed sinuses to close up shop entirely, forcing me to pant through my mouth like a dog in July.  True, any sane person in my situation would have passed on the wheat. Also true?  I was hungry.  Those pancakes were the sole item on the menu that appealed to me. I ordered them.

And, by golly, I loved them! (Well, for about 10 minutes, after which a volcano erupted in my chest, my stomach inflated like a beach ball, and my nasal passages sealed up like a mine shaft collapsing). 

After reading about Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian several times on Lisa’s blog, I finally picked it up from the library a few weeks ago.  And wouldn’t you know–right there, tucked near the back of the book, was a recipe for Chinese Scallion Cakes!  I was elated.  Since the entire recipe contains only five ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper), I felt pretty certain I could adapt these with (Ricki-friendly) spelt flour instead of wheat.  I did, and guess what?  They replicated the restaurant variety almost perfectly. 

The HH and I were so smitten with the results that we polished off two pancakes just on their own, with no accompaniments.  The second time round, we used them as a base for leftover dal, and they were spectacular.  I’m not generally a fan of salty foods, but something about the combination of salt and browned green onion (or would that be green browned onion?) is heavenly. 

I toned down the fat content by simply brushing the raw pancakes with olive oil (instead of following the original directions for filling a frypan with the stuff, as if drawing a bubble bath or something).  The results worked out pretty well, I’d say, as I couldn’t tell the difference in taste.

These boasted a crisp and even somewhat flaky exterior, with chewy insides punctuated here and there by the partially caramelized green onion.  My only regret is not having coarse sea salt in the house to sprinkle on top, as it would have made for a more photogenic bread.  (You’re actually meant to sprinkle the salt into the batter, anyway–but I forgot, so scattered it on top once the bread was cooked).

I’ve copied the recipe exactly as written because the method is quite particular.  It appears long and complicated, but once you’ve made them once, you’ll see how easy it is to prepare these wonderful savory cakes at home. I’d even whip them up for a quick lunch–except not on the days I meet the HH, of course. 

(Oh, and I made these again this morning, in honor of Chinese New Year.  Happy New Year to all who celebrate on Monday! )

*Clearly, not literally. But in terms of gustatory satisfaction, for sure.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

gronionpancake3

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

latkescloseup2

Today began like most other mornings:  a wet, cold nose against my ear (that would be Chaser, not the HH) rousing me from sleep; a quick (warm, dry) kiss to the HH; and popping (okay, more like fizzling) out of bed before stretching, going through the usual ablutions and tramping over to the office to turn on the computer and check out some blogs.  For our lazy Sunday morning (after shovelling the additional 15 cm./ 6 inches of snow that arrived overnight, of course), I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast–maybe banana; maybe apple.

Then I read Ruth’s Hannukah (or, for us Canadians, Chanukah) post and before I knew it, I was craving potato pancakes (aka latkes). 

Which is weird, because I hate latkes.

Let me explain.  Over the years, I’ve sampled many different kinds of potato latkes in many different kitchens; and I can honestly tell you I haven’t enjoyed a single one. (Sorry, Mrs. D who kindly invited me to her Rosh Hashanah table back in university; sorry, all my friends who’ve been generous enough to share; sorry, Aunty M. and CBC; sorry, all those caterers whose miniature pancakes I’ve sampled at festive tables in the past). 

Given that I adore home fries and even hash browns, this latke enmity always seemed odd to me.  But whenever I’d try again, the results were the same: the pancakes in question were very heavy, very greasy, and fairly bland, with a high-gloss exterior and mushy, mealy insides.  Was I missing something?  Is there some kind of Freemason-like secret latke society that knows something those of us using the regular latke recipes don’t know? Or was I simply hanging around with horrible cooks?

Whatever; I decided to change all that this morning.  That plate of latkes (and the explanatory article that Ruth included, as well) simply caught my fancy, and I had to have latkes!

latkesplate

After a quick tour using Veg Blog Search, I uncovered a large selection of options.  There were traditional potato latkes, those made entirely from sweet potatoestraditional latkes with cool toppings, and a whole bunch of trail-blazing atypical latkes. I decided to base my own version on Bryanna’s fat-free potato and sweet potato pancakes.  I loved the combination of both types of spud, both for color and nutrition, and I thought a lower-fat version would be good at this time of year as well (I did add 2 Tbsp./15 ml. olive oil to the mixture to enhance the flavors a little).  This was also the perfect excuse to use my cast iron skillet yet once more–something I’ve been doing at every available opportunity the past few weeks as I endeavor to render it truly non-stick (so far, no luck).

I’m happy to report that the Latke Loathing has been vanquished, once and for all! (Must have been those sweet potatoes). The HH was also a fan.  We had ours with a slightly unconventional topping, a balsamic-fig sauce that was given to me a few weeks back  (more typical accompaniments include sour cream or applesauce).  What a fabulous combination!  The cakes were decidedly not mushy, as I remembered latkes of old; they were crispy on the outside and supple on the inside, the potatoes just cooked.  They held together beautifully and offered up an alluring aroma of caramelized onion and fragrant dill as they were grilled. With the sweet-tart contrast of the fig sauce slathered over the top, these were the perfect Sunday breakfast. 

Now, it seems the Sunday pancake options are limitless. So glad I start my days the way I do. 

To those who celebrate, Happy Hannukah!  (and Hanukkah, AND Chanukah!) :)

Two-Toned Potato Latkes

adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

latkescloseup

While we ate these for breakfast, latkes are more often eaten as a side dish or appetizer with savory foods.  They’re great both ways.

3 small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and grated

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated

1 large onion, grated

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (110 g.) kamut flour or (100 g.) whole spelt flour

2 tsp. (10 ml.) baking powder

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) water

1 tsp. (5 ml.) garlic powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) dried dill weed

1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) smoked paprika

Using a food processor or box grater, grate the potatoes and sweet potatoes and place in a large colander.  Squeeze the mixture with your hands as if squeezing a sponge to get out as much of the starchy liquid as you can.  Place in a large bowl.

Grate the onion and add it to the potato mixture along with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together very well, using your hands if necessary.

Heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the pan, flattening the pancakes with a spatula (they should be fairly flat).  Cook about 3-4 minutes, until bottoms are golden; flip and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so, until golden.  Keep pancakes warm as you continue to cook them.  Serve immediately with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, cranberry sauce, chutney, or other topping of choice.

Last Year at this Time: Last Minute Christmas Cookie [Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies]

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

*Or, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Now Eat Some Delicious Spread.

[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too.  ]

pumpkinbutterplate1

I know that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere (well, and the rest of the galaxy, too, come to think of it) has already made this spread.  But hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer.  And now, I’ve finally tried it, too.  And it is so *&$@!% good that I had to include it as this (penultimate) Gastronomic Gift this year.  (I’ve got one more planned, as long as we can shovel ourselves out of the *&$@!% 25 cm. (just under a foot) of snow that battered the city yesterday and I can get to the store).

Pumpkin butter is the perfect means to use up cooked pumpkin (or squash, to those of us in North America).  It’s a great nut butter substitute if you’re trying to reduce fat and calories.  Or if, like me, you’ve once again allowed the insidious holiday-time profusion of chocolate and chocolate-coated/ chocolate studded/ chocolate-molded/ chocolate-frosted/ chocolate flavored/ chocolate filled/ chocolate-related-in-any-way desserts that seem to reproduce of their own accord on countertops and dining room tables and candy dishes and office desks and buffets and coffee tables and bar tops and glove compartments and pockets and dessert menus to override your (wobbly at the best of times) self control, and you find that you’ve now consumed more chocolate in the past two weeks than the entire GDP of a small country, more than Big Brother’s secret stash in 1984, more than the exports from Switzerland at Valentine’s Day, more than the full contents of Willie Wonka’s factory–more, really than you’d rightfully expect any normal human being to ingest under any circumstances whatsoever in a lifetime, except maybe under threat of torture. 

What? You mean it’s just me?

For some strange reason, I felt the need for a break from chocolate for a while (ahem). Now that I’ve made my own pumpkin butter, I can join the chorus and say that I, too,  am  smitten.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any carbohydrate with a flat surface (or even a somewhat bumpy one–have you tried this on rice cakes? Divine.) 

But I must admit that my favorite use for the butter isn’t on toast, or a muffin, or pancakes, or any other solid food.  I think I love it most blended (using my hand blender) in a tall, cold glass of almond or soymilk.  Yum-mers!

pumpkinsmoothie

It also makes a fabulous hostess gift, of course, and a wonderful last-minute present; it’s the perfect way to use up that final can of pumpkin purée that’s been biding its time in your cupboard since Thanksgiving. 

This recipe (the ubiquitous allrecipes version) makes a pretty big batch, so you can scoop some away for home use and still fill two or three pretty little gift jars with the stuff to give away.   If you can bear to part with it.

Oh, and there are still four more days to bid on some amazing prizes from Menu for Hope! Hop on over to the main donation page and give it a go!

Pumpkin Butter

adapted from AllRecipes.com

pumpkinbutter

 Try this lovely alternative butter anywhere you’d spread jam or nut butter.  It’s got no fat, with the bonus of holiday spices all year round.

3-1/2 cups (about 820 g.) cooked, puréed pumpkin

3/4 cup (180 ml.) apple juice [but personally I think OJ would be great in this]

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground ginger

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cloves

2/3 cup (160 ml.) agave nectar (light or dark)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring very frequently, until the mixture is thick and has darkened (the original recipe said 30 minutes, but mine took a bit more than an hour).  This might also be a good time to pull out that old splatter screen if you have one, as the mixture tends to boil and pop a bit (my walls needed a good wipe-down after I was done).

Pour into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 cups (500 ml.). Will keep at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

GG III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread **Note: the original recipe was somehow transcribed incorrectly–please use the current version with the correct amount of flour!!

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG V: Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Holiday Cranberry Chippers

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

* Or, Ricki Finally Decides to Get Political

[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too.  ]

tuttifruitimany

[Dig those green threads of lime zest in there!  Red and green--how festive!]

I bet you can tell from the title alone that this is a retro recipe.  For me, the name “Tutti Fruiti” brings to mind Mrs. Cunningham’s kitchen on Happy Days, or Leave it to Beaver, or Doris Day. I mean, it just sounds so Barbie doll. . .so potroast-and-mashed-potatoes. . . so poodle skirts and bobbysocks. . . so 1950s Housewife.  Or does it?

Maybe it’s just me, but just when did feminism get such a bad rap? (Oh oh–I’ve uttered the “F-Word”!! I can hear the roar of footsteps as droves of my readers hightail it for the exit).  But seriously.  I happened to grow up during a time of great social change for women, when being able to make our own choices and earn our own money was still a novelty, one that was both thrilling, and ground-breaking.  (Hmm.  Sort of reminds me of the excitement in the air over recent political developments, too).

These days, I’m sensing a backward shift in attitude all over the media. It makes me sad to think that young women today feel they can’t embrace independence and self-sufficiency without giving up everything old-fashioned at the same time.  Claims of Grrrrrrl power from hyper-sexed, no-unmentionable-flaunting, party-hardy starlets who trumpet liberation but are really just craving male attention are just one facet of the problem. You know that social attitudes have really shifted when they hit your soap opera.  As The World Turns (my own indulgence, as I may have mentioned before) may have one of the first gay story lines on daytime, but they seem to have abandoned their women back in the fifties.  

Case in Point: Jack and Carly. Here’s a sample:

Carly [to her ex-husband, Jack]: What?  You spent the $5000 intended for our son’s boarding school tuition on your new wife-to-be’s wedding dress??!!

Jack: Don’t worry, Carly, I will make sure our kids are taken care of.

Carly: I’m warning you, Jack, you’d better not squander your money on that woman.  If our kids have to suffer because you can’t pay for them. . . well, I promise you, I will make your life a living hell.

Jack: I told you I’d take care of it, Carly, and I will!  [storms off in a huff.]

Does anyone else read that dialogue and wonder, “Um, excuse me, but where is Carly’s portion of that tuition?” Why isn’t she also contributing to her son’s schooling?  And before you hurl epithets at my insensitivity to the woman’s dilemma, consider that Carly’s character is supposedly a millionaire.  That’s right: as a former high-flying fashion designer, she has way more money than her honest-cop ex-husband. Yet despite rolling in dough, she expects the man to pay for everything. Poor old Gloria Steinem (and I suppose she really is old, nowadays) is probably rolling over in her Playboy bunny suit.

I don’t see any conflict of interest in calling myself a feminist and still enjoying all the activities that take place in the kitchen (no, not those activities, people! I was referring to cooking, baking, eating and the like!)  In fact, I’ve always been proud to use the title “Ms.” (and no, it’s not just a title for divorced women).  Another shock:  I also retained my name when I got married (to the first one, not the HH). I mean, I’d had the name since I was born, didn’t I? I was pretty attached to it. My ex-husband argued that we were more of a coherent “team” with the same last name.  Okay, I countered, then let “the team” carry my last name. (I’m afraid I can’t reprint what he said in response to that.)  

And what does this sudden pro-feminist rant have to do with cookies, you may wonder? 

Well, in high school, one of the greatest feminist role models I’ve ever known was Mrs. Jennings.  Mrs. J was quite a powerhouse: she held a full-time job as a high school teacher; she was on various academic boards; she had a part-time freelance gig outside of school; and she was one all around tough cookie (no pun intended). Probably only about 10 years my senior at the time, Mrs. J certainly looked the part: she was rather strident in her manner, with a mile-high ‘do that bore a striking resemblance to a rusted Brillo pad.  Her shoes were sensible, her suits stiff and straight-cut in that “must-emulate-male-businessmen” way, and her demeanor was always entirely humorless. At the same time, she showed us girls what could be accomplished by women who were smart and self-sufficient.

Oh, and she taught Home Economics.

Home Economics!  Even the name sounds anachronistic.  But it was in Mrs. J’s class that I learned how to measure dry ingedients in the metal cups and wet ingredients in the glass cups; how to level my baking powder with the back of a knife; how to roll dough from the center outward; how to distinguish between a selection of six different kinds of milk**; and how to make Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. That woman really could do it all! And she taught us it was okay to be a feminist and still love all the old-fashioned female virtues, too.

Of course, the original recipe wasn’t vegan (Mrs. J wasn’t that liberated).  But I’ve retained it all these years because these were just the perfect holiday cookie in every way: they are delicious, they are incredibly easy to make (of course, any woman with all that going on had to find ways to save time in the kitchen), they travel well, and they seem to appeal to everyone.  The original recipe also contained old-fashioned gumdrops, chopped up.  Well, darned if I didn’t have the perfect substitute right on hand–the yummy gummies I got as a gift in my swap package from Neil!  The lime zest is my own addition, to round out the Christmassy colors.

Of all the fancy, frosted, cookie-cut or filled cookies I make at the holiday season, these remain my very favorites (and they’re not even chocolate!!).  Soft yet slightly crumbly with a light, citrus, almond-perfumed aroma and dotted throughout with brilliant bits of shiny color like fragments of stained glass, these cookies are a treat to eat. 

And when you don the frilly apron to serve these to friends and family, hold up your feminist head with pride! Real women bake cookies, too. :)

Mum, we love all the activities that go on in the kitchen, too.  And we would love to be self-sufficient with free access to our food.”

On a Final Note: I’ve also been totally remiss about a lovely award I received a while back from Georgia.    I meant to post about it then, and of course it slipped my mind until now (I may be a feminist, but my memory sucks).  Thanks so much, Georgia, for this Proximity Award!  Here are the award details:

“This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open this up to anyone who’s willing to proudly call herself (or himself) a feminist!  

** That would be whole, 2%, 1%, skim, sweetened condensed, evaporated, and dried-reconstituted. Nobody had even heard of alternative milks back then!

As a much healthier version of the original, this recipe is my contribution to Michelle of The Accidental Scientist for her Heart of the Matter “December Full of Heart-Healthy Decadence” event.  (And yes, coconut oil is considered heart-healthy!). :)

Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

 tuttifruitiplate

The perfect holiday cookie:  quick and easy, and with a light texture and fruity flavor, easy to eat as well.

1/2 cup (90 g.) Sucanat

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) EACH: almond extract, lemon extract, pure vanilla extract

zest of 1/2 lime

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds

1/3 cup (80 ml.) melted coconut oil (such as Omega Nutrition, which you can win through the Menu for Hope!)

1/2 cup (120 ml.) chopped candied fruit, gummy candies, chopped dried cranberries, or any other small chopped festive food of your choice

1-1/4 cups (175 g.) light spelt flour

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda

1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) fine sea salt

In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water, extracts and lime zest.  Stir to dissolve the Sucanat as much as possible.  Add the flax seeds and melted oil, then stir in the chopped fruit or candies.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over the liquid ingredients and stir to blend.  You will have a soft dough. 

Shape the dough into two logs about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.

Unwrap the cookie logs and cut them into disks about 3/8 inch (3/4 cm.) thick and place about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets. 

Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, rotating the sheets once about halfway through, until golden brown.  Allow to cool 5 minutes on sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely.  Makes about 30 cookies.  May be frozen.

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

GG III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread **Note: the original recipe was somehow transcribed incorrectly–please use the current version with the correct amount of flour!!

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG VI: Pumpkin Butter

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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