March 16, 2016

Dear friends,

I blame my pancake fixation on Coondog O’Karma. Since November the retired speed-eater from Cuyahoga Falls has been writing post after post about his whacky pancake-making adventures.
Here are some of his Facebook messages:

Nov. 28:
I made myself pancakes for dinner and didn’t mess around!

Dec. 22:
Second week of “pancake addiction:”

Today’s pancake contained crushed peanuts, almonds, and walnuts, along with a quick dash of juicy raisins and cranberries. Griddled on a hot pan coated in coconut oil, it slipped its way down the old Coondog hatch with a healthy patter of butter and a good drench of Log Cabin pancake syrup. It was great pancake history…

Dec. 31:
Last pancake of the year: Cheesy, turkey, coffee pancake, topped with Log Cabin Vanilla syrup and whipped cream. A great pancake combo to cruise out the year with….

Jan. 2:
Pancake of the day: Shredded pork and sauerkraut pancake. Sounds horrible, but not bad.

March 11:
Coondog just mixed Parmesan cheese into the pancake batter. Coondog is a mad pancake genius…

These pancake posts have been driving me crazy with carb lust, so I phoned my friend to ask his pancake philosophy and how he got on the kick.
“I throw everything but the kitchen sink in them,” Coondog said. “When I was poor and a single parent that was my go-to. We lived on pancakes.”

I hadn’t had a pancake in ten years, but I felt my resolve to foreswear such high-carb foods melting. Damn that Coondog. Then I found salvation on the American Egg Board website. A recipe for high-protein pancakes promised to satisfy my craving for just 303 calories, 16 grams of carbs and a whopping 18 grams of protein per serving.

The pancakes are made with a cup of ricotta cheese, a half-dozen eggs and a mere half-cup of flour. I added some raisins and tinkered with the directions to ensure a light texture (I whipped the eggs vigorously before adding the remaining liquid ingredients; added the dry ingredients last; and let the batter sit for 15 minutes to give it time to produce air bubbles).

The result was pancake heaven. The cakes were light, moist and a touch sweet from the raisins. Even Tony loved them. The portion size was not tiny, either. For my 303 calories (plus raisins) I got two large pancakes that filled me up. Tony, of course, ate the three remaining portions.

If you make these pancakes, feel free to add ingredients ala Coondog. Just be aware that if you add an acid such as buttermilk or citrus juice, you cannot allow the batter to rest for more than five minutes. Acid activates the leavening agent in the baking powder, releasing bubbles into the batter. If you don’t use the batter quickly, the bubbles will be gone and the pancakes will be flat and leaden instead of fluffy.

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HIGH-PROTEIN RICOTTA-RAISIN PANCAKES

•    1/3 cup raisins
•    6 eggs
•    1 cup ricotta cheese
•    2 tbsp. canola oil
•    1/2 tsp. vanilla
•    1/2 cup flour
•    3/4 tsp. baking powder
•    1/2 tsp. salt

Plump the raisins by soaking in very hot water while mixing the batter.

Vigorously beat eggs with a whisk in a medium-size bowl for 2 minutes or with a mixer or stick blender for 1 minute on high speed. Add ricotta and beat until smooth. Beat in oil and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and stir to mix. Dump into bowl with ricotta mixture and stir briefly just until blended. Some lumps will remain. Drain raisins and stir into the batter. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Grease a heavy skillet or griddle and heat over medium heat. When hot, dip out batter with a one-third cup measure and pour into the skillet. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Makes 8 pancakes, or 4 servings.

TIDBITS
My home base of Akron has gone from a no-pho to a many-pho town in the blink of an eye. Tony is a pho lover so we’ve tried many of them, as well as a good selection of phos in Cleveland. One of the best is at Thai Pho on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron, which we finally visited last week.

The newish restaurant specializes in the Thai cuisine of the cook-owner’s homeland, but the pho is outstanding. We loved the spicy broth, brightened with lemongrass and a healthy dose of lime. The Thai food is pretty good, too. The restaurant’s website is http://www.authenticthairestaurantakronoh.com/.

THE MAILBAG
From Judy Rogers:
You really make me chuckle sometimes.  Tell your friend, marriage is an art — no matter how similar or crazy different two people are and sharing the same space taboot!

But if you go to Relish.com and search for Caramelized Onion Bread Pudding, you will discover an egg dish that features leeks and Gruyere cheese.  It’s a good Easter morning compromise for Tony and what is not to love with those ingredients?  I substituted French baguettes for the ciabatta bread and used white button mushrooms instead of shitake.

I guarantee this recipe will satisfy the gourmet in you and the breakfast casserole “yen” for Tony.  Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Dear Judy: Tony actually liked my preview dinner of tartines, but the bread pudding recipe does sound scrumptious. You’re right, what’s not to like?

CARAMELIZED ONION BREAD PUDDING
•    2 tbsp. butter
•    2 cups thinly sliced leeks (or spring onion), white and yellow parts only
•    4 oz. thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
•    3/4 tsp. coarse salt, divided
•    3/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper, divided
•    1 tsp. brown sugar
•    1/2 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
•    1 loaf (1 lb.) ciabatta bread, in 1-inch cubes (12 cups)
•    1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
•    4 eggs
•    6 cups whole milk
•    1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until dry and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Increase heat to 350 degrees and grease a shallow, 4-quart baking dish.

Combine leek mixture, bread cubes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and let stand 20 minutes. Press mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. (You may cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before baking).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, until pudding is set and golden brown on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 12 servings.

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