September 26th is ‘National Pancake Day’. I do not know of anyone who does not like Pancakes. Pancakes are an exceptional food and can be made for any meal of the day or just for dessert. Pancakes can be found in many varieties around the world and they are not just made from wheat products. Pancakes may be made from Vegetables or Fruit. If you know the basic formula for making good pancakes, you can just about make them from any of the ingredients you may have in your pantry or refrigerator.
Pancakes normally eaten for breakfast can be made with All-Purpose Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Buckwheat Flour or even Cornmeal. There are almost always Eggs in Pancakes and in fact, the more Eggs in the recipe, the lighter and thinner your pancakes will be. In addition to Eggs, there should be some liquid which is usually in the form of a Milk product.
Buttermilk is popularly used for pancakes as not only does it provide flavor but helps to make your pancakes lighter and fluffier. If you do not have Buttermilk, but do have Sour Cream, that can be used also. To make a facsimile of Buttermilk just add 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice to your measuring cup before adding your milk product. After putting in the Lemon Juice, then add the milk and let it stand for a few minutes. The Lemon Juice will add some tartness to the milk and actually make it curdle, thereby giving you the effect of Buttermilk. I have even used Cottage Cheese or Cream Cheese in my Pancakes. In the case of the last two ingredients you may have to use additional eggs or even add some water to get the consistency you will want for your pancakes.
If you have fruit that is getting too ripe to eat, you can mash it up and put that in your pancakes. Bananas or Apples are especially good for this purpose.
My over-all formula for making Pancakes from whatever I have on hand at the moment is:
Two Cups of Milk Product
2 cups Flour
½ tsp. Baking Soda*
¼ tsp. Salt
1-3 tsps. Sugar**
2 – 4 Tbsps. melted Butter or Vegetable Oil
While you are making up the Batter, begin heating your griddle over low heat. To make the Batter follow the general directions below.
Whip up the Eggs and then add your Milk Product. If you are adding fruit, this the time to add them is right after the Milk. Just stir in the fruit. Combine the Dry Ingredients and add, stirring only to combine the ingredients. Next, stir in the melted Butter or Oil.
Turn the heat up on your griddle. Your griddle will be hot enough when a drop of water will sizzle upon contact with the surface of the griddle.
Rub a thin layer of Butter on the griddle (this will be for the first batch only) or use a Vegetable Spray. Then ladle or pour your batter onto the hot griddle. For he-man size pancakes, use up to a whole cup of Batter and cook just one at a time. For smaller pancakes, use anywhere from ¼ cup to 1/3 cups of Batter. Once bubbles form on the surface and the edges begin to dry, then it will be time to turn them over and cook the other side. The second side will cook considerably faster than the first one.
If you like your pancakes thinner than the first batch turns out, add a little more milk or if you like them thicker, stir in a little more flour.
If you are feeding a crowd, turn the oven to 250 degrees and put your pancakes on a shallow baking sheet as you make and keep warm in the oven until time to serve.
Serve your pancake with melted Butter and Hot Syrup. There are many types of Syrup that can be used, however Maple seems to be the most popular in the US. Other syrups that are available are Apple Syrup or Berry Syrup. In Hawaii you can also get Pineapple or Coconut Syrup.
Caramelized Fruit is also a nice accompaniment to Pancakes. Fruit that can easily be Caramelized is Apple, Banana, Mango, Papaya. Berries can be sliced, sugared and served with Pancakes also or they can be turned into a Sauce by cooking them with a little sugar and a dash of Lemon Juice.
Whichever way you like your pancakes, do enjoy them!
June 15th, 2012 is ‘National Lobster Day’. Lobster without doubt is one of the most expensive items that you will find on a restaurant’s menu or even at the fish market or supermarket. But this wasn’t always the case. In the early days of our couontry’s history, lobster was thought to be garbage or throwout food. The reason for this is that lobster, like most all shell fish or crustaceans are bottom feeders and bottom feeders are thought be the dregs of society or the aquatic world.
When fishermen found lobster caught in their nets, they often left them on the beach for the poor or indigenous to eat. Lobster was food that was left to the lower members of society and indentured servants. Servants often specified in the employment agreements that they would not eat lobster more than twice a week. How many of us would love to eat lobster even twice a month, let alone twice a week! Alas, this attitude towards lobster did not last long and in the mid part of the 19th century lobster became a popular item on the menues of New York and Boston restaurants. With the development of lobster fishing boats, the crustacean became even more popular.
Without a doubt, Maine Lobster is probably one of the favorite and most available here in the United States. However, with the advent of air travel and shipping, lobster from all over the world is available. One can purchase giant lobster tails from Australia, mid-size ones from the Carribean and even smaller ones from ???
One of my favorite lobsters are those found in Rosarita, Baja California. The Mexican variety are smaller than the Maine Lobster, but they are sweet and usually at least two or more are served at a sitting.
One of my favorite ways to prepare lobster is to purchase one tail and cut it up in large bite-sized pieces and serve it in an Alfredo Sauce with Linguini. This way, one lobster tail will easily serve two people. However, we do sometimes just want to savor the lobster meat itself and in this case at least one lobster tail per person is called for. (This is the Carribean variety – one large Australian lobster tail would do for two people, provided they do not have HUGE appetites.
To observe National Lobster Day, here is one of my versions of a Lobster Tail Dinner. For two people, you will need two mid-size lobster tail, two large baked potatoes, fresh chives, fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, chives, etc., unsalted butter and a nice green salad made with artisan greens and dressed with a blue cheese dressing.
Scrub the Potatoes and pierce with a fork; this will prevent them from exploding in the hot oven – just as a precaution, I always make an extra potato and if none explode you can use the extra for home fries for another meal. If you like your potatoes to have a crsipy skin, coat the skin with vegetable or olive oil before placing in the oven. If you do use oil on the skin, be sure and place a piece of foil under the potatoes so the oil does not drip down onto your oven floor and cause smoking. If you are going to have Chives with your Baked Potatoes, prep them now. We have Chives growing in our garden, so I picked them just before using them to preserve the flavor. Wash and dry and then snip. The easiest way to snip them is with a pair of kitchen shears. Before doing so, hold the chives in one hand and cut them in a straight across. This will make it easier to snip the chives evenly.
The next thing to do is to clarify your butter. Take a quarter pound of butter (1 stick) and melt it in a microwave proof bowl or measuring cup. Let it settle so that the milk solids fall to the bottom. (The better the grade of butter, the less milk solids there will be in it) Once the solids fall to the bottom pour off the fat portion through a cheese cloth lined strainer into another bowl.
If you are going to make an herb butter wash and dry your herbs and then mince them either by hand or in a mini-food processor.
Once the Butter has settled and is clear, you can add the Herbs to the Butter; set it aside until ready to serve. When ready to serve, you can just re-heat it until melted. (About 30 seconds or less in a microwave oven)
Next, prepare your salad and refrigerate until serving time. Make the Salad Dressing – in this case ours was Bleu Cheese. Bleu Cheese can be purchased in small portions in the Cheese Section in your supermarket or you can go to a speciality store. For the complete recipe please see bleu-cheese-dressing/
Since I was serving Mushrooms with the Lobster, the next thing I did was prepare the mushrooms. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. (Since mushrooms act like sponges and soak up water, it is best to avoid washing them if possible – I don’t often follow this advice as some mushrooms also pick up a lot of the growing compound and just have to be washed) If you do wash your mushrooms, be sure to blot them dry really well with a paper towel. I quartered the Mushrooms and then sauteed them in Olive Oil with 2 cloves of minced Garlic. When they were done, I shut off the heat and set them aside. Just before serving, I reheated them for a short time.
The next item on the agenda was to prepare the Lobster. We had two tail which I decided to steam first before broiling. When you broil them you are never sure when they are done – you don’t want your lobster to be over-cooked and when broiling for the whole time, sometimes the tops get charred.
I split the tail down the back of the shells. This can be done with a cleaver, a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears. Then I placed them in my steamer – steaming takes only 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the tail. Just before serving I placed them under the broiler and broiled them for about five minutes.
While the lobster were broiling, we started on our Salad and I microwaved the butter, just to warm it up. This took about 15 seconds.
The main course was the Lobster, Baked Potato with Butter, Sour Cream and Chives and the Caramelized Mushrooms. These are all some of my favorite foods. Even though the Carribbean Lobster Tail, was ample in size, I still could have eaten more. I just love lobster! In any form!
SHARING CULTURES THROUGH HOLIDAYS & FOOD
April Food Days
Saturday, April 7, 2012 is National Coffee Cake Day. The reason this cake is called Coffee Cake is not because there is coffee in it as an ingredient, but because it is meant to be eaten with a cup of coffee as the beverage. This is a good cake to have for breakfast because it contains eggs, sour cream and butter. The eggs and sour cream provide protein and the butter of course adds flavor as well as moisture to the cake. There are many versions of this baked delight and they are probably as numerous as the number of pastry chefs in this country.
Start with the basic recipe and then add your own fillings or fruity or nutty additions. The recipe below is for a basic cake with a nut/sugar topping. I belatedly remembered the Raspberry Sauce left over from our Waffle Breakfast this morning. It would have been a nice addition to go between the layers of the cake.
This cake does not have two layers in the traditional sense which would mean that there were two layers baked in separate pans. Just that half the batter is poured into the prepared pan and sprinkled with half the topping and then the remaining batter goes over the topping and the remaining topping goes over the second layer of batter. The raspberry would have been a nice flavor contrast.
Remember that if you decide to make this cake, that the ingredients can be varied. Buttermilk can be used in place of sour cream and in fact, I did not have quite a whole cup of sour cream so I added enough buttermilk to make up the difference. Buttermilk, like sour cream, adds a nice rich flavor to baked goods and also adds some moistness. I also substituted ¼ cup of the granulated sugar with ¼ cup of brown sugar. I love the flavor of brown sugar which can give a little caramel taste to baked goods. In addition to or in place of the nuts, shredded Coconut can be used for the toppings. Orange or lemon zest would also be a nice addition to the batter. You can even add dried cherries or cranberries to the batter also. Try your own variations with this recipe and please let me know how they turn out.
SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
2 cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Salt
1 cup Butter
1 ¼ cups Sugar
1 cup Sour Cream
1 tops. Vanilla
½ cup chopped Nuts
2 Tbsps. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
- Grease and flour the indicated a 9” square pan or a Bundt Pan; preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix together the ingredients for the topping; set aside.
- Combine the Flour, Baking Powder, Soda and Salt.
- Cream the Butter and Sugar; beat in the Eggs and Vanilla.
- Add the Flour mixture, alternately with the Sour Cream.
- Pour half of the Batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle with half the Topping.
7. Spoon remaining Batter on top; sprinkle with the remaining Nut mixture.
8. Bake in preheated oven on middle shelf for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
9. Cool on rack 20-30 minutes before removing from pan or serve directly from the pan.
Yield: 9 Servings