14,000 Feet and Some Orange Ricotta Pancakes

We moved to Colorado about 8 months ago. This was around the time the uber-delicious Linger opened in Denver (yay!) and many of the mountain passes began to closed for the season. In October, or maybe it was November, we had set out to hike in the areas surrounding Mt. Evans. We soon discovered that the roads were already closed. Snow had accumulated at the higher elevations and the roads were considered unsafe by those in charge.
Mt. Evans is high. I'm talking over 14,000 feet high. I haven't been to such heights since hiking Cotopaxi in Ecuador about 7 years ago...and for those of you who know me, you might recall that hike didn't go very well. Cotopaxi is a stratovolcano and it reaches over 19,000 feet. Now I don't remember exactly where I was, but let's say that it was 16,000 feet. We were well above the tree-line, the air was thin, and I remember that the only sensation I had was to urinate (pardon me, but apparently this is very common). I felt really short of breath and wasn't sure if I could make the hike. In fact, I wasn't sure I was going to make it...period! I told my then boyfriend/now husband to go on without me...to "save himself." And indeed he did. He told me that he would come back and get me after he got to where we were supposed to meet the rest of our group. In the meantime I managed to crawl on all fours and I found my group. I was exhausted. The rest of the story isn't so important. Obviously I made it, but the scars of going up into the sky left their mark on my psyche. I was nervous about being that high again.
After a long winter closure, the gates to Mt. Evans reopened today (May 25th) at 12:00. We just had to go! Thinking like typical New Yorkers we were sure there was going to be a line of cars and weren't even certain we would get in. But there were no big lines, cars went in and out of the gate with ease, and we decided to take the boys on a walk through an alpine forest, right around the tree-line. (I suspect things get crowded on the weekend, but on opening-day things were easy as could be.)
The mountains were absolutely spectacular. Idaho Springs, the closest "city" to Mt. Evans, is only 45 minutes away from our house in Denver. Add another 20 minutes on winding roads with phenomenal views and you can get pretty remote pretty quickly. It's really amazing. As far as feeling nauseated or short-of-breath, the sensations were slight. I guess that is another benefit of living at altitude; I was already a bit acclimated.
Otis didn't seem to notice the altitude and Theo was just happy to be clapping his hands (his newest trick). We then continued on to Summit Lake and from there we got to the very top of Mt. Evans. Amazing. Spectacular. Sensational. And cold. Temperatures in Denver were around 80 degrees today. At Mt. Evans they were 20 something. Brrrr. And beautiful.
On the way down we saw a pair of mountain goats and a some yellow-bellied marmots (cute!). Otis had been on the lookout for mountain goats for about 1/2 hour, but by the time we spotted them he was sleeping soundly in the backseat...
Of course before you head out for high-altitude walks you need to eat a solid breakfast. I made these Orange-Ricotta Pancakes for the occasion. The recipe comes from The Breslin (in the Ace Hotel in NYC). I thought it was a really nice change from our standard buttermilk pancakes and my (relatively-new) favorite oatmeal pancakes. The syrup really added to the pancakes but, truth be told, the consistency was very un-syrupy. I'm not sure what went wrong, as I followed the instructions exactly. Perhaps it had something to do with the altitude. Never the less, they were delicious and a wonderful way to start out the day.
{Note: use a good, fresh ricotta for this recipe...or don't...but I think that makes a difference. I used a local cheese from LazEwe 2 Bar Goat Dairy in Colorado.
Orange Ricotta Pancakes (From The Breslin, by way of Food & Wine)
1 orange
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
RICOTTA TOPPING (I omitted this step, but will add it next time)
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine white cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
Vegetable oil, for frying
Toasted almond slices, for serving
Peel the zest from the orange in long strips and julienne. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the zest for 30 seconds. Drain and repeat. In the saucepan, simmer the orange juice, sugar, water and blanched zest until syrupy, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. (This step is for the ricotta topping)
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. In another large bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg yolks and ricotta. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. In a large, clean stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold them into the batter.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat a thin film of vegetable oil. Drop in 1/4-cup dollops of batter and cook over moderately high heat, 2 minutes per side, until golden and fluffy. Serve about 3 pancakes per person. Pass the orange syrup, ricotta topping and toasted almonds at the table.

Heart Healthy Wake-Up Call: Kim Boyce's Oatmeal Pancakes (and a picnic treat)

Kim Boyce: pastry maker, amazing baker and James Beard Award winner. She has a huge following and I'm about one click away from ordering her book Good to the Grain. (Or I might just place an order at my local bookshop instead of ordering online.) Kim's bakeshop is supposed to be fantastic and it will be high on my list of places to eat when I go back to Portland.
Anyway, I've been meaning to make these Oatmeal Pancakes ever since I saw them on The Wednesday Chef blog. I finally got it done. 
For some reason I thought they would take a long time to prepare, which is not the case at all. This recipe uses rolled oats-- as a porridge (oats boiled in water for 5 minutes) and as a flour (oats pulsed for about 1/2 minute in the food processor). A quick and easy way to convert oatmeal into a pancake and get some soluble fiber into your diet!
I had a few cups of rolled oats left over from some Swedish Chokladbollars I made during a play date a few weeks ago, so it was time to make these pancakes.
As you can see, they were a total hit with Otis. He ate 5. That's him in the picture below showing you how many he ate. So between the Quinoa Patties and these Oatmeal Pancakes, I'm batting over 300. That's pretty good. And speaking of batting, baseball season is just around the corner! Yippee. Andy Pettitie is back in pinstripes after coming out of retirement. And even though I'm living in Denver, I am still a 5th generation New Yorker, so I'll still be rooting for the Bronx Bombers...well, at least for this year. 
Oatmeal Pancakes (Courtesy of Kim Boyce via The Wednesday Chef)
Makes about 18 pancakes
3/4 cup oat flour (pulse 3/4 cup rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal*
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs
1. Whisk the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a light hand is important for tender pancakes; the batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface. Although the batter is best if using immediately, it can sit for up to 1 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, one tablespoon at a time, with milk. Take care not to overmix.
2. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.
3. Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven.
* To make oatmeal, if you don’t have any leftover: Bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rolled oats and a pinch of salt to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Let cool. You’ll have some extra oatmeal, which you can eat while you’re cooking.
* * *
After breakfast we had to do a quick wardrobe change (Otis, who was my sous chef, was covered in batter), and then we were off to spend a wonderful afternoon in Washington Park. I picked up a sandwich from Vert--the Tortilla Espanola and a side of spicy peanut slaw. It was scrumptious. I really love that place. 
I also made some Beet Tahini the night before. I brought that along on the picnic too and served it with some crudités. The picture is not great, but the recipe is FANTASTIC. It's the perfect summer dip, one that I'm going to have on hand at all times. Yes, I liked it that much. And I knew I would since it's an adaptation of a Moro East recipe.
Beet Dip with Tahini (Adapted slightly from A Lovely Morning, Adapted from Moro East)
3 large beets
1/2 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (though I left it out one time I made this dip and it was still delicious)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
Preheat over to 400 degrees. The actual recipe calls for boiled beets. I decided to roast them (as suggested by A Lovely Morning) since don't usually boil beets. I drizzled them with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkled them with some salt and black pepper, wrapped them in tin foil and baked for about 1 1/2 hours-- or until tender. Let them cool and then peel the skin off. Coarsely chop them and transfer them to the food processor. Add garlic, olive oil, and tahini and pulse in the processor until you have a nice semi-smooth puree. Then add the mint, vinegar, salt and pepper and pulse for a minute more.
Taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice if you like. 

When we got home, Otis went to sleep. This time it was Theo who needed a wardrobe change. Then we played ball with Omar in the yard. It was another great day in Denver. Well, minus the 'lake incident' when Otis decided to chase the geese right into the lake, fully clothed and with his shoes on. He came out soaking wet, partially-covered in mud, but he laughed all the way to the car. 
I was not laughing quite as much...

Serve with a Side of Dreidel: Non-Traditional Latkes (Leek and Cardamom Fritters)

I love holidays that are celebrated with lights and food. Around this time of year there are plenty of holidays that fit that bill. There's St. Lucia Day in Sweden, Kwanzaa, Christmas and Chaunkah (or Hanukkah), to name a few. I'm focusing on Chanukah here.
The holiday commemorates the triumph of Judah the Maccabee over the King Antiochus in the 2nd Century BCE. Hooray for the revolutionaries! There was also a little miracle that happened in the Temple. A small amount of oil miraculously burned for 8 days (yes, that's one long lasting flame). To commemorate this surprising event, latkes are served because the oil in which they are fried is symbolic of the aforementioned miracle. Latkes, in modern tradition, are made of grated potatoes, but historically they were made with whatever local ingredients were around-- vegetables, legumes, etc. I decided to try some non-traditional latkes this year, opting for Leek and Cardamom Fritters. I figure that since they are pan fried in olive oil, they are still very much in the spirit of Chanukah. They are shallow little pancakes that contain flour and egg- which is similar to the traditional potato latke. I think these work well for the holiday.
The recipe is a Mark Bittman adaptation of a Yotam Ottolenghi dish. It was printed in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Special thanks to my friend Richard who sent me the link and to Melissa who sent me the hard copy of this recipe.
Happy holidays! 
Leek-and-Cardamom Fritters (Courtesy of Mark Bittman, New York Times Magazine, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)
Yield: 4 servings (about 8 large fritters)
About 2/3 cup olive oil
3 leeks, thickly sliced
5 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 fresh red chili (like Thai), seeded and sliced
1 cup fresh parsley (leaves and fine stems), finely chopped
2/3 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and fine stems), finely chopped
2 to 3 ounces manouri cheese, broken into large chunks (or drained ricotta cheese or young goat cheese)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 whole egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Lemon wedges for serving.
1. Heat the oven to 200. Put 1⁄3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the leeks and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl and add the chili, parsley, cilantro, manouri and salt. Allow to cool, then stir gently.
2. Beat the egg white until soft peaks form, and fold it into the onions. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, whole egg, milk and butter to form a smooth batter. Gently fold it into the onion mixture.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, ladle four spoonfuls (about half of the batter) into the pan to make four large fritters. Fry them until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, then transfer to a platter in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more of the oil as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lemon wedges.

Ottolenghi's Green Pancakes with Lime Butter

I've been slowly cooking my way through Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi. I posted his garlic harissa soup and chard and saffron omelette.  And I'm a really big fan of his cauliflower-cumin fritters with lime yogurt, which comes from the eponymous Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.  
This recipe for Green Pancakes with Lime Butter (from Plenty)  was another recipe I really liked. It's perfect for an adult brunch (the flavor is a bit too strong for the kids-- or at least mine).  
Now, that being said, I can't imagine how you could possibly use 2 green chiles in these pancakes without burning out your taste buds. I admire those who can take on some heat, but since I was serving this in the morning I didn't want my friends to get such an intense wake-up call. So I used 1 chile instead of 2. 
The recipe didn't specify what type of 'green chiles' to use, so I went with serrano since I've used it in cooking before. (I vacillated between serrano and jalapeño.) It's possible that you could use 2 chiles that are more mild, but since I'm not an expert on peppers, I went with something I know.
The lime butter is delicious and it has a wonderful flavor that cooled the pancake's heat. Scrumptious! I had A LOT of leftover butter, so I guess you can make less to start. Or you smother your vegetables in the leftover lime butter. It's pretty darn delicious. 
Oh Yotam, I do like your dishes. Any chance you'll open up an eatery state-side?  
Green Pancakes with Lime Butter (Courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty
Serves 3-4
Lime butter
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chile flakes
1/2 lb (about 8 cups) spinach, washed
3/4 cup self-rising flour 
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup milk
6 medium green onions, finely sliced
2 fresh green chiles, thinly sliced (I went with 1)
1 egg white
Olive oil for frying
To make the lime butter. Put the butter in a medium bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until it turns soft and creamy. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Tip onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends of the wrap to seal the flavored butter. Chill until firm.
Wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Drain in a sieve and, when cool, squeeze hard with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop and put aside.
Put the flour, baking powder, whole egg, melted butter, salt, cumin and milk in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the green onions, chiles and spinach and mix with a fork. Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and gently fold it into the batter.
Pour a small amount of olive oil into a heavy frying pan and place on medium-high heat. For each pancake, ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently. You should get smallish pancakes, about 3 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until you get a good golden-green color. Transfer to paper towels and keep warm. Continue making pancakes, adding oil to the pan as needed, until the batter is used up.
To serve, pile up three warm pancakes per person and place a slice of flavored butter on top to melt.

A Diwali Dinner: Curried Squash & Apple Soup and Indian Pancakes

One of my college room-mates celebrated Diwali.  She would get really excited about the holiday and return to our dorm room with some of the best food I have ever eaten.  Her mother and grandmother would spend hours preparing a lavish feast and I was happy to be the recipient of the holiday leftovers.  It sure beat ramen noodles and instant mac-and-cheese, two of my college staples.
Diwali is the festival of lights, and while I'm not Indian or Hindu (or Jain or Sikh), I never pass up an opportunity to celebrate a holiday...even if it isn't mine.  I freakin' love holidays!  How fortunate, then, that I came across Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates: Festive Meals for Holidays and Special Occasions at my local library. 
I decided to try the soup and the Indian pancakes. I really liked the soup and it just screams "hey, it's me, Fall!"  I bought local squash, Jonathan apples (which I must confess, I don't think I have ever eaten before) and local sweet potatoes.  The Indian flavors come through from the cumin and coriander seeds.  I'm wondering if I should add some mild Indian curry powder the next time I make this.  I'll make it a game-time decision.  There's no cream in this soup and I used just one cup of stock (the original recipes uses only water).  Healthy, healthy, healthy.  The spinach, as it is used here, really isn't a garnish.  It's an essential part of the dish and it gives the soup added texture and flavors.  So go for it.  Hey, it's also good for you...
The Indian vegetable pancakes were delicious.  They are very similar to samosas-- spiced smashed potato, red pepper, onion, peas, mustard seeds, cumin and a dash of hot pepper sauce.  Before I put the patties on the skillet, I lightly dusted them with some fresh bread crumbs.  (I used Udi's 'unofficial' bread crumbs from Sunflower Market.  The market grinds down leftover baguettes at the end of the night and turn them into bread crumbs.) 
Diwali is coming up fast, so get cooking!  Happy Holidays!
Curried Squash & Apple Soup (Courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates Holidays and Occasions)
Serves 6
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped butternut squash*
2 cups peeled, cored and coarsely chopped apples
2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped sweet potatoes* 
4 cups water
* About 3 pounds of butternut squash and just less than 2 pounds of sweet potatoes will yield the right amount for this recipe.
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
10 ounces fresh spinach or mustard greens, rinsed and chopped

In a large nonreactive soup pot (it needs to be big), sauté the onions in the butter or oil until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  In a small dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until aromatic and lightly browned.  Cool for a few minutes and grind to a powder (I used a coffee grinder). Add the ground spices, salt, squash, apples, sweet potato, and water to the onions.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, until all of the ingredients are thoroughly cooked and tender.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the garlic in the oil for about 1 minute on medium heat, stirring constantly, until soft and just golden. Add the greens and sauté on high heat until the water evaporates and the greens wilt.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
Purée the soup in small batches in a blender until smooth, adding about 1/4 cup of water if the soup is thicker than you'd like.  When ready to serve, gently reheat, ladle into shallow bowls, and top each serving with some of the sautéed greens.
* * *
Second Course
Indian Vegetable Pancakes (Courtesy of Moosewood Cookbook Celebrates)
Yields 12 pancakes
(You can make the pancakes ahead, and then fry just before serving.  Top with plain yogurt.)
4 1/2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (1-inch cubes)- About 8 medium sized potatoes
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt (I used 2)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 cups diced red bell peppers
2 cups peeled and grated carrots
3 to 4 drops Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, more to taste (I used 5)
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup bread crumbs
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Drain the potatoes and reserve some of the cooking liquid.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl, moisten them with about 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid, and mash them with a potato masher.  Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch skillet on medium heat.  Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds, until the mustard seeds begin to pop.  Add the turmeric, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the onions and continue to sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are soft.  
Stir in the peppers and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes more, until crisp-tender, adding a splash of water, if needed, to prevent sticking. 
Sprinkle on a few drops of Tabasco sauce; the add the peas and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the peas soften.
Transfer the vegetables to the bowl of mashed potatoes and stir in 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs.  Rinse and dry the skillet.  Mix together the vegetables and potatoes and, if necessary, adjust the salt and Tabasco sauce to taste.  Divide the potato mixture to form twelve round patties, each about 3 inches across.  Set aside on a platter.  Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on the twelve patties, about 1/2 tablespoon per side.
Meanwhile, warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet until hot.
Gently slide three patties into the skillet with a wide spatula.  Fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until crisp on the bottom.  Carefully lift each one and turn it over, being careful not to splash the oil.  Fry on the second side for 3 to 4 minutes, remove from the skillet, and drain on paper towels.  Add more oil and repeat process until you make twelve pancakes.
Serve immediately or place the pancakes in a heatproof dish and keep them warm in a 300-degree oven until ready to serve.