Tag Archives: blueberries

LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES AND FRUIT SAUCE

Our local farmers market is moving into high season. The market is just a couple of paths in a high school parking lot lined with a couple of dozen or so stalls. It is modest compared with the vibrant green market in New York City’s Union Square or the wondrous carnival at the Ferry Building in San Francisco; it pales next to the huge market in nearby Torrance. But visiting the various stalls and merchants has become a Sunday ritual for our family.  By this time of season, green peas are gone, and asparagus is just hanging on as the weather gets warmer. Sweet cherries have given their last gasp. Plump ears of corn are on limited display. Tomatoes have made a tentative appearance; it’s still too early for the big, juicy specimens of late summer. Right now, the stars of the market are berries of all sorts and stone fruit of every variety.

This last week, the family met at the market in search of ingredients for our Sunday meal – all, that is, except the recent high school graduate who has taken to sleeping late and enjoying the days of summer before she heads off to college. The plan was for her mother to find some fruit for a fruit sauce so that on our return the graduate would arise and prepare pancakes for all of the exhausted shoppers. That plan served a secondary purpose: a crash course in basic cooking skills before the fledging leaves the nest. Everything worked as planned, and we enjoyed a delicious late breakfast. In fact, I liked them so much that I made my own batch a few days later and topped the pancakes with maple syrup that Peter and René had brought to us a gift from their recent trip to Montreal.

RECIPES

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • juice of 1 lemon, strained + zest from the lemon

Method

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Separate the eggs and set aside the whites.
  3. In a larger bowl, beat together the egg yolks, ricotta, buttermilk, butter, lemon juice, and zest.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the liquids, making sure they are well combined but taking care not to over-beat
  5. Whip the reserved egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then by thirds, gently fold them into the batter mixture.
  6. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes while you heat a griddle over medium heat.
  7. Pour ½ cup of batter onto the griddle for individual pancakes. Do not crowd, and work in batches. Turn the pancakes when bubbles have formed on the surface and the edges are golden brown. When both sides are browned to your liking, serve immediately or transfer to a warm oven until all the pancakes have been prepared.

Fruit Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (strawberries would also work)
  • Or, you can make it 2 cups of your favorite fruit

Method

  1. In a small sauce pan combine the water, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved and the corn starch is completely dispersed. Place the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Add the fruit and cook until the mixture has thickened and the fruit has begun to release its juices, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and serve over the ricotta pancakes.

 

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SUNDAY FAMILY DINNER

Since our move to Los Angeles, Sunday dinner with the family has become a tradition that we all enjoy and do all we can to avoid missing. The dinner was originally Carol’s suggestion, and her rules were very simple: We would rotate between our house and her house. The host was responsible for the main meal and the visitor was responsible for an appetizer with drinks along with dessert.  The rules were modified when, as is our wont in this competitive family, the appetizers grew ever-more complex and caloric. They were tasty, but it became clear that our bathroom scales could not sustain the weekly onslaught to our “diets”. Thus, the appetizers were downsized to crudités or nuts. Even with this revision, there is plenty to eat, and the food is always thoughtfully planned, cooked and anticipated. Every week, my grandson begins to ask around Tuesday or Wednesday what’s planned for Sunday. The pressure is definitely on.

Even though the food is always excellent, for me – and I think for others – the highlight of the evening is the conversation. Everyone brings us up to date on their activities and news of the past week. Then we review activities of the week ahead so that schedules don’t conflict and duties are assigned. What follows is a lively, free-ranging conversation in which everyone contributes. We steer clear of politics, not because of differences but because we’re mostly politicked-out by the weekend. New movies and music are popular topics, especially with the teenagers. Current events and community activities are also included in the discussions. This last Sunday was a little melancholy. We were still enjoying the excitement of high school graduation and the anticipation of the next chapter in a young life. But the euphoria was tempered by the realization that our granddaughter would not be part of the conversation in a couple of months. She would be clear across the country, engaged with new challenges and new friends. Perhaps that made the conversation this last Sunday even livelier than usual. Still, we’ll have the rest of the summer to enjoy our granddaughter before she is off.

Carol made a delicious meal: roasted pork, glazed carrots from a recipe by Ina Garten, a savory rice pilaf, and a salad that included watercress, fresh cherries, and strawberries all from the farmers market that morning. It was my turn for dessert. Cherries are just about finished for the season, so I thought of Black Forest cake, but some of the family doesn’t like cake. Stone fruits are just beginning to reach their peak at the farmers market; there were apricots, peaches, many varieties of plums, pluots, and nectarines – no lack of choices for a juicy pie. Everyone likes pie, so the basic choice was made. Looking for ideas, I turned to the beautiful cookbook, Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, written by the two sisters, Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, who left successful New York City careers to start their famous pie shop in Brooklyn, now with at least three outlets in the city. The sisters hail from Hecla, South Dakota (population 227) just down the road from Frederick (population 199) where my mother grew up. That makes their terrific pie recipes (and images) more neighborly and not so “big city”. I chose their version of nectarine and blueberry pie. I found both the nectarines and blueberries at one of our family’s favorite stands at the farmers market. I made a few changes in the recipe (of course) but this is essentially the recipe from Emily and Melissa.

RECIPE

Nectarine and Blueberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced nectarines (about 3-4 fruit)
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • zest from ½ lemon
  • juice from ½ lemon, strained
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • two rounds of pie pastry for a nine-inch pie (I used prepared pie crust from the frozen food section of the grocery store)
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water and pinch of salt for egg wash
  • turbinado sugar

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the nectarines, blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and bitters. Mix gently and set aside while you prepare the pie crust.
  2. Roll the pastry dough if necessary to fill a 9-inch pie pan. Arrange one of the rounds in the pan and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Then add the fruit mixture to the chilled pie shell.
  3. Top the filling with the remaining pastry round or you may cut the round into strips to make a lattice top. Crimp the edges of the pie and, if you are using the whole round, cut several vents near the center.
  4. Using a pastry brush,, paint the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes
  5. In the meantime, arrange the racks in the oven so that one is at the lowest level and one is in the middle of the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack and preheat the oven to 425°F.
  6. Place the pie in the middle of the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 375°F, transfer the pie and the baking sheet to the middle rack, and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. When the pie is golden brown, remove from the oven, transfer the baked pie to a cooking rack, and cool completely.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. Add a scoop of ice cream if you wish.

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RICOTTA

Ricotta is an Italian concoction. The term means “cooked again” because the original version was made from the whey which was the byproduct of the making of other cheeses. The whey would be heated, acidified, and allowed to curdle before straining into a thick semi-soft curd which was used to enrich many other dishes. Ricotta made from skim milk is common on grocery shelves, but now even the Italians often make it from whole milk and even cream. The result is a delicate cheese that resembles fresh farmer’s cheese or cream cheese. There is really no comparison between store-bought and home-made ricotta. You can use vinegar, lemon juice, or other acids to form the curd, but to my taste, lemon juice is preferred because it imparts a fruity tang that enhances the delicacy of the ricotta.

Ingredients for ricotta

Heat the milk, cream and salt mixture to 190°

Here is a recipe from Sarah, who used hers for a dish in one of her pop-up dinners. Using her recipe, you will be amazed at how easy it is to make your own ricotta and how much better tasting it is. You may never buy it again.

Once you have made your ricotta, the next decision is what to do with it. First off, dip in a spoon and taste it. That should give you some ideas. The hazard with that approach is that you will be tempted to eat the whole thing. The silken texture, subtle lemon flavor, and the sweetness of cream should all come through. These qualities make fresh-made ricotta a perfect foil for fresh fruit or a fruit compote. Even thick sauces like chocolate or butterscotch are excellent complements. Naturally, one thinks of using it in a lasagna, but it would be a shame to overwhelm the flavor by store-bought noodles and the thick marinara sauce so common in lasagna today. Consider using homemade pasta along with a light saucing of the ricotta alone or with spinach. Go light on the cheese as well.

Strain the clabbered mixture through cheesecloth

Ricotta pancakes are a perfect choice for highlighting the delicate flavor of the fresh stuff. The following recipes use the whole batch you have made: part of it going into the pancakes and part of it going into the blueberry sauce to serve on top. The recipes should make enough pancakes to serve four people. Leftover batter – if there is any – can be used to bake more pancakes which, after cooling, should be separated with waxed paper, wrapped tightly in plastic and foil, and frozen for another day.

Pancakes on the griddle

RECIPES

Ricotta

Ingredients

3 Cups whole milk                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             1 Cup cream                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           1 tsp salt                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

  1.  Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a two-quart saucepan. Heat to 190°
  2.  Remove from the heat. Add  the lemon juice, stirring gently 2 or 3 times to completely mix. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3.  Line a colander or large strainer with dampened cheesecloth or a moist, clean kitchen towel. Place the colander on a large bowl to catch the whey.
  4.  Pour the coagulated milk/cream mixture into the colander and let it drain for one hour. Transfer the drained ricotta to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

Yield: About 12 ounces (1½ cups)

Notes:

1. You may substitute an equal volume of vinegar for the lemon juice.                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. You can save they whey and repeat the process for authentic old-time ricotta.                                                                                                                                                                               3. More salt helps preserve the ricotta if you choose to use it at a later time.                                                                                                                                                                                       4. The longer you strain it, the thicker and creamier the ricotta gets and then even thicker and   creamier with chilling

Pancakes after turning

Ricotta Pancakes

Ingredients

2 large eggs, separated

1 Cup buttermilk

1½ Tbsp sugar

1 Cup (8 oz) fresh-made ricotta

¾ Cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

zest of 1 lemon

⅛ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, sugar, and ricotta.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest, nutmeg, and salt
  3.  In a third small bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  4.  Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until combined.
  5.  Fold in the egg whites.
  6.  Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a preheated, lightly greased griddle. Bake until bubbles form and burst on the tops. Then flip and bake on the other side until both    sides are golden.
  7.  Serve immediately with the blueberry sauce.

Pancakes with blueberry sauce

Fresh Blueberry and Ricotta Sauce

Ingredients

1 Cup fresh blueberries

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

⅛ tsp salt

¼  Cup confectioner’s sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

zest of 1 lemon

½ Cup (4 oz) fresh ricotta

½tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp limoncello (optional)

  1. In a small  saucepan, combine the blueberries, lemon juice, salt,  sugar and corn starch. Heat gently, stirring
    continuously until the cornstarch thickens and the berries begin to release
    their juices.
  2. Stir in the ricotta, vanilla extract,  and limoncello, stirring until just warmed.
  3. Ladle two or three spoonfuls on three pancakes.  The sauce is best if served immediately while still warm, but you can make it
    ahead and chill. Let come to room temperature or warm gently before  serving.

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