Like dumplings, pancakes are one of those dishes that transcend cultural boundaries. From Russian blini, to Chinese scallion pancakes, to Swiss rosti, just to name a few, every culture seems to have stumbled upon its own version of this wonder food. As the sort of person who has long enjoyed pancakes at any time of day (equally appropriate for breakfast or dinner, in my mind), I was delighted to see Mark Bittman’s recent New York Times article about International pancakes (and no, I’m not talking about IHOP). The only question in my mind was which to try first: korean-style crisp vegetable pancakes, Italian-style vegetable pancakes, or the Swedish-inspired spinach pancakes. The decision was made when we brought a huge bag of spinach home from Costco last week.
Quick enough that I could whip up a batch in time for dinner even after getting home at almost 8, these yummy pancakes were sort of a cross between the sweet and savory. Not that they were sweet by any means, but the basic batter was much like a typical pancake batter, a flavor I generally associate with its sweet accoutrements. These were very mild in flavor and lovely in texture- hearty, yet fluffy, and not at all rubbery. I liked the idea of serving them with a little lemon infused sour cream, as the recipe suggests, but not having time to run out and buy those ingredients, the new spontaneous me decided to go with whatever I could find in the house. At first I just put a pat of butter on top (as pictured), but after a little more scavenging around the fridge, we ended up serving them with a dollop of ricotta on top and the creaminess of the cheese offset the pancakes perfectly. They were so good that I enjoyed them just as much warmed up for lunch the next day and am looking forward to sampling Mark Bittman’s other pancakes of the world in the week’s to come.
Spinach pancakes (makes approximately 8-10 large pancakes)
10 ounces fresh spinach, well washed, large stems removed, or 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk or thin yogurt
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter, plus unmelted butter for cooking
1 cup sour cream, optional
1 tablespoon minced lemon peel, optional.
1. Put spinach in a covered saucepan over medium heat, with just the water that clings to its leaves after washing; or plunge it into a pot of salted boiling water. Either way, cook it until it wilts, just a couple of minutes. Drain, cool, squeeze dry and chop.
2. Heat large skillet over medium-low heat while you make batter. Heat oven to 200 degrees. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Place 1 1/2 cups buttermilk in another bowl. Beat eggs into it, then stir in the melted butter. Stir this into dry ingredients, adding a little more buttermilk if batter seems thick; stir in spinach.
3. Place a teaspoon or two of butter in pan. When butter foam subsides, ladle batter onto skillet, making any size pancakes you like. Adjust heat as necessary; first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. Add more butter to pan as necessary. Brown bottoms in 2 to 4 minutes. Flip only when pancakes are fully cooked on bottom; they won’t hold together well until they are ready.
4. Cook until second side is lightly browned; as pancakes are done, put them on an ovenproof plate in oven for up to 15 minutes. Mix sour cream and lemon peel together and place a small dollop on each pancake.