Friday, April 26, 2013

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Pancakes with Honey

Two breakfast food posts in one day-- catching up here on SouthernSpoon. These are those banana pancakes I mentioned earlier, so soft and filling and wonderful, and this is what we ended up having for breakfast (brunch?... it was almost noon) this morning.

SouthernSpoon blog: banana walnut oatmeal pancakes with honey (gluten-free)
gluten-free pancakes made with ground oats and flaxseed, sweetened with ripe bananas,
served with honey and chopped walnuts
These gluten-free, dairy-free wholesome pancakes are adapted from this recipe I've been playing around with from Cookie + Kate (whose blog I adore). I've kept them gluten-free friendly by using oats ground up in a blender (make sure your oats are labelled g-f to ensure they're safe from cross-contamination with gluten-containing products). I've added some ground flaxseed and orange juice, with a few more warm spices. I bet you could leave out the egg altogether if you added another tablespoon of flaxseed to make sure things bind together. But one egg does work well with the baking soda to keep them nice and fluffy.  

SouthernSpoon blog: banana walnut oatmeal pancakes with honey (gluten-free)
banana walnut oatmeal pancakes = gluten-free, diary-free breakfast treat
The banana in these pancakes is not overwhelming but sweetens them up beautifully. The best addition here is chopped walnuts in the batter, with more sprinkled on top for serving, all topped off with a generous drizzle of honey. 

I love the mild flavor and delicate crunch of walnuts-- they seem to make any recipe a little more sophisticated. And they always reminded of my cousin. Her boyfriend used to bring her walnuts to snack on while she was studying for the MCAT because he'd read that they help your memory and are just generally good for your brain. Such a thoughtful guy! And now they're married, and this weekend is their anniversary, which they're celebrating with a sweet baby boy. Cuz, I hope you find time to make these pancakes one weekend soon to share with your wonderful family. 

Happy weekend, all, and to family and friends in San Antonio, TX-- Happy Fiesta!

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Pancakes with Honey
Adapted from Cookie + Kate
makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

1 cup rolled oats (not instant; and make sure they're labelled gluten-free if you're cooking gluten-free)
1 cup mashed, ripe banana (2 large bananas)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice (fresh-squeezed if you have an orange)
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ginger, allspice, nutmeg
1/4 cup coursely chopped walnuts, plus more for serving
runny honey (for serving)

Preheat oven to 100C / 215 F, and place an oven-proof serving dish in the oven.

Grind the oats into a flour using a blender or food processor. I just pulse in a blender for about 10 seconds so that some whole rolled oats remain. Pour oatflour into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana, olive oil, orange juice, ground flaxseed, and egg. Mix well to combine. 

To the small bowl with the oat flour, add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Whisk together to evenly distribute the soda and spices.  

Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and mix well. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Heat a skilled over medium-high heat. When a few drops of water sprinkled onto the skillet dance across it, you're ready to cook the pancakes. Grease your skillet with a little olive oil if necessary. Ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake onto the skillet. This batter is thicker than your typical pancake batter, so you may have to spread it out a bit as soon as you drop the batter onto the skillet.

Cook pancakes for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. Place cooked pancakes into the serving dish in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining pancakes.  

When finished cooking all the batter, serve pancakes warm with chopped walnuts and honey. 

Big Potato Latkes, Topped with a Fried Egg

Good morning from a very sunny Sydney. The hubs is still sleeping, and I'm deciding what to cook up for breakfast. It's always a variation on a theme of eggs with a side of fruit. But we like to get creative: toast topped with mashed avocado, poached eggs, and smoked salmon is a typical version; mini breakfast casseroles if we happen to have preservative-free sausage; the hubs's killer omelets with a big fruit smoothie; banana oatmeal pancakes (need to post those soon) with a side of fried egg; etc.

Southernspoon blog: big potato latkes with fried eggs blogpost (sunflowers!)
 bright sunflowers from the hubs, soaking up the morning light
Ever since I received the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from my awesome sister-in-law for Christmas we've fallen in love with potato latkes as a base for eggs. I'd had latkes before, but never with a perfect fried egg on top-- this is the way to eat them, people. Eggs with a side of hashbrowns is already a great combo, and this just melds them all together.
Southernspoon blog: big potato latkes with fried eggs
big, tasty potato latkes with a fried egg, topped with Cholula... 
fresh fruit and strong coffee round out the meal

So below I give you our take on the Smitten Kitchen's breakfast latkes. We usually just make two gigantic ones, but the batter could easily make four latkes of a decent size (more if you use a large potato, though make sure you up the onion ratio if your potato is big). Serve with Cholula hot sauce, a side of chopped fresh fruit, hot coffee, and you're good to go for a satisfying start to the weekend.
Southernspoon blog: big potato latkes with fried eggs
latkes and fried eggs for an awesome weekend breakfast
Latke-maker's tip: after having used a tea towel for soaking up excess moisture from the grated potato/onion, do not throw said tea towel into the washing machine with a load of other clothing. Everything will smell like onions. Even after the second wash. Handwash that sucker first, then rewash in the machine.

Big Potato Latkes, Topped with a Fried Egg
Slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 2-4 (depending on how big you make your latkes!)

1 medium potato, peeled (we use a waxy potato, about the size of two stacked decks of cards)
1 medium onion, peeled
2 tablespoons flour (I use whole wheat flour, all purpose or gluten-free flour would also work)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 egg for the latke batter (sometimes I just use the egg white, this works fine)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2-4 eggs for frying (an egg to top each latke)

Place a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 100C / 215F.

Using the big wholes of a grater, grate the potato and the onion. Place the grated potato and onion on a few layers of heavy-duty paper towels or a tea towel, fold over and pat firmly. Leave to sit for a few minutes while you mix together the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add the potato and onion mixture (which is now a little drier after the paper towels/ tea towel have soaked up some of the excess moisture). Toss the grated potato and onion so that they are evenly coated by the flour mixture. Add the egg and stir well to combine.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and spread one tablespoon olive oil evenly over the pan. When a few drops of water flicked onto the skillet dance across it, it's hot enough to cook the latkes. Scoop out a quarter to a half of the latke batter (depending on how many latkes you're making), and drop onto the hot skillet. Quickly flatten the batter with the back of a wooden spoon and spread it out into a thin circle (if making two big latkes, the circle is about 5-6 inches across). Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until dark brown (watch carefully so they don't burn).

Remove cooked latke and place on the baking tray in the oven to keep warm. Spread another tablespoon of oil around the hot skillet, and cook the second latke. When it's done, add it to the baking tray in the oven to keep warm.

Once you're finished cooking the latkes, turn the heat down to the lowest setting (you may need to add a little more oil to the pan), and carefully crack one egg for every latke onto the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the whites are mostly set, then gently flip each egg over. Immediately remove skillet from heat, place latkes on plates, and transfer one egg (flipping egg back to right side up) on top of each latke.

Serve immediately with Cholula or your favorite hot sauce.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mediterranean Salad with Balsamic Roasted Eggplant, Couscous, & Sardines

After a three-week trip to the USA for work, I've returned to Sydney craving the abundant, fresh produce and seafood that is featured so well in this city's grocers, cafés, and restaurants. It was strange going back for the first time in my 8-year ex-pat furlough and not craving tasty food. I enjoyed our time in the UK, and certainly developed a taste for some English specialties (marmite on toast, a good curry, tea with milk but no sugar, those huge scones at The Orchard in Grantchester with clotted cream and strawberry jam). But every time I was back in the States during those years I crammed in as many American, southern, dishes as I could, from Tex-Mex and mom's homemade recipes to salads big enough to feed a small army.

Here in Sydney, however, my palate is sated. There is such an accessible and never-ending range of ethnic food eateries (from food trucks and holes-in-the-wall to expansive sit-down restaurants crammed with diners) that I hardly notice my underlying constant desire for Tex-Mex.  If I do, there are quite a few places in town that make a mean carnita taco and margarita (and stock those Mexican beers, served ice-cold), but I might just choose Argentinian instead because it's so damn good. The salads here are creative and satisfying, they showcase the best of seasonal produce. Brunch in Australia is an unparalleled experience. The Italian-influenced café culture has perfected the panini (not to mention the coffee), and there seems to be a gelato shop within a few blocks of wherever you're standing. And the seafood. Oysters of all description, mussels, salt and pepper squid, whole fish fresh off the boats at the fishing docks, prawns as big as your hand. And the wine is a treat.  
Southernspoon blog: heirloom tomato salad @ Sydney Theatre Co's The Bar at the End of the Wharf
gorgeous heirloom tomato salad at the Sydney Theatre Company's Bar at the End of the Wharf,
a favorite locale for the seasonal food, live music, great vibe
So while I enjoyed a late night taco run with my siblings, mom's home cooking, fried chicken tenders, kolaches from the incredible Czech Stop Bakery in West (thinking of that sweet community now as they start a long recovery from the fertilizer plant explosion), beef BBQ in Texas and pork BBQ in Tennessee, and drank my fill of southern brews, I didn't feel like I was topping up on something I'd been missing out on for the last 23 months. 
Southernspoon blog: Shiner Bock beer and Czech Stop kolaches
Shiner Bock beer at the Monument Cafe, Georgetown, TX
and delicious kolaches at Czech Stop Bakery, West, TX.  Bless the people of West.
And when I got back home here by the ocean and that beautiful harbour bridge and opera house, walked into the door and saw that the hubs had filled the fruit bowl to capacity with beautiful, seasonal produce, I felt very blessed to live in a country of such abundance. 

I've been making lots of salads recently, even though the days are shorter and the evenings are getting cooler as we move into fall. This recipe is a keeper: very filling with couscous and sardines (they're fantastic-- don't question it, just try it). And full of flavor with the marinated, roasted red peppers, artichokes, kalamata olives, and homemade balsamic roasted eggplant. Plus lots of heart-healthy good fats and omega-3s from the olive oil and sardines.
mediterranean salad with couscous, marinated vegetables,
homemade balsamic roasted eggplant,  and sardines
To make it meatless, you could substitute a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas for the sardines. I used sardines in spring water without added salt, and they were a perfect, mild accompaniment to the other salad components. Chopped feta or haloumi would be good, though the salad is salty enough already with the various marinated vegetables. And the roasted eggplant slices are great, I've also made them for pita wraps and sandwiches.

As you move into spring in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the blooming flora (I relished the opportunity to see bluebonnets on the Texas country roads for the first time in eight years!), and try out this salad as a quick and delicious dinner or weekend lunch.
bluebonnets in bloom near Brenham, TX
Mediterranean Salad with Balsamic Roasted Eggplant, Couscous, & Sardines
Serves 3 or 4 as a main dish

for the roasted eggplant:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 medium-sized eggplant 
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

for the salad:
1/2 cup dried couscous
1/2 cup boiling water
3 cups salad greens sliced into thin strips (I used romaine lettuce and spinach)
1/2 cup coursely chopped roasted, marinated red peppers (I used store-bought for this recipe, or you can just roast your own bell peppers as described in this post)
1/2 cup coursely chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
3 or 4 sardines, drained and sliced in half lengthwise (try to find sardines without salt added)

for the dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
pinch of freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 205C / 400 F. 

First prepare the roasted eggplant. Discard the top stem of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each of those halves lengthwise again. Holding two long halves together at a time, slice cross-ways down the eggplant to make 1-cm wide slices. Repeat with the other two long halves of eggplant. 

In a large glass bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, and ground pepper. Toss the eggplant slices into the bowl and stir to coat evenly with the olive oil and vinegar mixture. Spread the coated slices out in a single layer on a baking pan. (Save the bowl to make the couscous!). Place the two whole, unpeeled garlic gloves on the pan with the eggplant slices. Bake at 205C / 400F for 15 minutes, then remove from oven to cool.

While the eggplant is roasting, prepare the salad. In the same bowl in which you tossed the eggplant slices (so it should still have a nice residue of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried herbs), place the dried couscous. Pour the 1/2 cup of boiling water over the dried couscous, and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together in a small bowl the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, and pepper. Set aside.

When the couscous has soaked up all the water (about 5 minutes), remove cover and separate grains with a fork. At this point the eggplant should be finished roasting. Remove the two roasted garlic cloves from the eggplant pan, squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin, and chop the garlic finely. Stir the roasted, chopped garlic into the couscous. Add the thinly sliced salad greens to the couscous in the glass bowl, and toss carefully so that the couscous is evenly distributed throughout.  

On a large serving platter, arrange the couscous-salad greens mixture. Over the couscous-salad greens sprinkle the chopped roasted peppers, artichokes, roasted eggplant, and olives, and top with the sardine halves. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad. 

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve within 12 hours.