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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

pepita granola with coconut oil and dried cherries

Pepita Granola

Oh I am so tricky with granola, I don’t even know where to begin. Granola is one of those foods that you know you should like because everyone likes it and because it sounds like something that you should like because it has oats and some fruit and overall it’s kind of good for you. And if you like the parts separately, shouldn’t you like the sum of them? Apparently, not if you are me.

pouring the honey

For years, I’ve struggled with my secret granola loathing. Years. I felt pressured to like it because everyone around me did. But I found it either too greasy, or too sweet, or to clumpy or too tough. And sometimes, it would be awfully chewy and it would stick to my upper teeth, which would then cause a wrestling match between my tongue and the pieces that lodged themselves there – and inevitably the pieces would win, and I’d give up. I tried various brands of granola, from the mainstream, to the new and small-batch made, and found nothing that was truly exemplary.

Pepita Granola

But about a year ago, a friend gave me some granola for the holidays and I thought it was delicious. I intended to ask her for a recipe, but kind of never got around to it. I sort of mentally dog-eared it in my head and in my typical way, just forgot.

Pepita Granola

But recently, I’ve been trying to banish the cookie and embrace the healthy. And in my attempts in doing so, I’ve been eating a lot of plain yogurt. Now, I am one of those people who actually loves the taste of plain yogurt (don’t judge me) and won’t eat its flavored cousin, but even yogurt, in all its glory, unadorned by anything, gets a bit dull. And so, in trying to come up with creative yogurt toppings, the idea of granola popped into my head.

Pepita Granola

This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, which in turn got it from Gourmet, which in turn got it from Calle Ocho, a restaurant in New York. What can I say other than this granola recipe is a keeper? Other than a few tweaks I made based on my personal taste preferences, this is a great recipe to have – it’s not too sweet, not overly oily and if you keep your batch in the freezer, it’ll stay crispy indefinitely. At room temperature, it just gets soft, even in an airtight container.

Pepita Granola

And now I can join the legions of people who actually do like granola because I do as well. And because I am making it, I can add my favorite ingredients, like various dried berries, and make the sum of the parts precisely what I want it to be – plain yogurt, you’ve never tasted better!

**UPDATE 11/24/13: Since many years have passed since I’ve started to make my own granola, I changed up quite a few things and tweaked the recipe for you here. I now make my granola with extra-virgin coconut oil. I can’t stress enough its nutritional properties and it goes so perfectly with the coconut flakes. More importantly, I’ve scaled back sugar considerably. I like granola, but 90% of the time, it’s candy masquerading as healthy breakfast food. In playing around with sugar amounts, I found that decreasing sugar didn’t affect the quality of the granola, but its less sweet taste made it far more exciting to eat. Also, I gave up on using lots of different dried fruit because I much more prefer a pop of tart dried cherries than other fruit and it keeps my pantry less cluttered. (Also, cutting dried apricots is a PITA.) Finally, I added a little nutmeg and scaled up salt (but not by much) because with a proper amount of salt, this granola tastes much better than with just a pinch. In cooking, salt is a great highlighter of flavor – and using just the right amount not only brings a balance to the dish but also creates complexity.

Continue reading pepita granola with coconut oil and dried cherries.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

Where did we leave off? Oh, that’s right, I was telling you about my love affair with ricotta. I wasn’t kidding you know because I was in this predicament, you see. I was craving pumpkins, but not just regular buttermilk pancakes, no sir. Regular pancakes were not going to do. I wanted lighter, fluffier, delicate pancakes. Pancakes that would almost dissolve upon hitting my tongue. Which, of course, meant adding some ricotta. See, how clever I am in making sure my current obsession makes an appearance.

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

Of course, I had to make it more complicated, or what fun would it be? When I think of ricotta pancakes, I usually think of lemon ricotta pancakes. And the ones I wrote about awhile back were stunning and decadent. And yet, in the middle of November, days before Thanksgiving, I had pumpkin on my mind. Pumpkin ricotta pancakes – why not? But that meant I had to create a recipe from various sources because I searched far and wide and while I found pumpkin pancakes and lemon ricotta pancakes, there were no pumpkin ricotta ones anywhere.

grade b, baby!!

Plus, I think this is all very à propos, because something tells me that after this Thursday some of you might have some leftover pumpkin and you might want to figure out a way to use it. And besides, who doesn’t love pancakes the day after Thanksgiving?

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

If you can spend the day in your pajamas lounging around, what better way to start it than with a plate of these?

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Friday, May 4, 2007

lemon ricotta pancakes

lemony clouds

In every relationship there is stuff you agree on, and there’s stuff you work out. If your values and fundamental beliefs are in agreement, provided you share the same goals about your future, things have a much better way of working themselves out. Of course, there’ll be little thing here and there to tweak. Right side of the bed or left? Squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or bottom? Fold clothes neatly and put them away, or throw them on a chair in hopes that they will magically hang themselves?

To all that above, I say, these are the passing, fleeing moments, that while might cause a slight bit of friction for some (though not for all), aren’t indicative of much, or all that weighty. They’re topical, superfluous, and they do not a relationship make. Or break.

There is of course the issue of breakfast. I’m convinced that everyone, and I mean everyone, loves breakfast. Even if you think you don’t love breakfast, you really do, you just don’t know it yet. Brunch, is even a more glorious event combining the growling of a hungry breakfast stomach with a weekend leisure a weekday cannot simply afford. At least for those of us who have to be at work before 8 am.

colors pleasing to the eye

Lucky for me, both KS and I are breakfast people. Hardly a weekend goes by without our morning sit-down meal, which typically, is eggs and toast, sometimes accompanied by bacon, always doused in hot sauce, often served with coffee, but sometimes tea. And jam – jam is key for me, people. And were it not SO economically pointless for me to make it, this site would be full of jam recipes.

But when you dig deeper into the breakfast preference, two camps firmly emerge: the eggs camp and the pancake/French toast camp. I, proudly, place myself in the latter camp, but with a caveat. The pancakes have to be lighter than air, melting in your mouth almost instantly, leaving you with a full, but not a heavy feeling. And that is hard to find. KS, on the other hand is an eggs-for-breakfast devoté, usually preferring them over-easy, sitting atop a toasted bread.

butter, melted - exalt!
And since you can’t really just make pancakes for yourself, seeing as the smallest batch of batter feeds at least 2-3 people, we rarely, if ever make them at home. But a few months ago (yes, months, I am this backlogged), I convinced KS that we had to have lemon ricotta pancakes for breakfast. This was right after our trip to the Bowery Kitchen Supplies, housed in the Chelsea Market building, where we stopped at an Italian grocery store and I went crazy with glee, picking up creamy ricotta among other items. The ricotta was begging to be cooked, and who was I to refuse it?

And so I did some research online and approximated which recipe out there (as there are many) would produce the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious pancakes. And the winner was Bobby Flay, who has yet to fail me with his amazing take on recipes – the man is a genius, really! And while I tweaked the recipe a bit, I have to credit him with the inspiration and the base. These were truly the most incredible pancakes I’ve ever had. I won’t tell you how many I had, but it was a bit embarrassing, as I had more than a few.

plentitude

I took out the lemon curd altogether. I don’t know if it’s just me, but anything that has a name “curd” attached to it, is an automatic turnoff. Maybe because it rhymes with “turd”? Who knows, really? I also used buttermilk instead of milk, because I find that the tingly sour taste of buttermilk makes the pancakes softer, lighter, full of air. Milk tends to bring out the heaviness in pancakes.

And since it was a gloomy, sunless, cold winter day, anything lemon flavored was akin to letting a little bit of warmth, sun and the promise of spring into our winter existence. And for me, it was the next best thing.

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