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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.


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes


  • 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


  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


  • 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


  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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One of the great traditions in restaurants – unfortunately tending to die out – is Family Meal. That’s when everyone takes a break from preparative work to gather together, talk about the evening ahead, and  share a meal prepared by one of the cooks. The meal is almost always comfort food made with leftover ingredients or inexpensive ingredients ordered just for the meal. The great thing is that the cooks rotate the assignment so the pressure is on to prepare something that everyone will enjoy. This is definitely not the time or place to embarrass yourself in front of your peers. Often Family Meal will feature food from childhood – a family favorite or Mom’s secret recipe. I have previously written about Sarah’s brisket and biscuits that became so popular the kitchen staff cheered when they appeared on the menu.

During a recent trip to San Francisco I got to spend the afternoon with Sarah in the prep room at Rich Table. That’s where Jonathan Tu whipped up his mother’s recipe for scallion pancakes. Nearly every Asian nation has its own version of this treat, but they all come down to a simple flour and water dough and chopped green scallions.  Kneading, layering with oil, and rolling out the dough a couple of times makes a flaky, multi-layered pancake rivaling puff pastry but without all the hassle.  There are a few little tricks or special touches in rolling out the dough, but in the end scallion pancakes are so simple and so good.

Jonathan served his pancakes with chicken sausage, rice, and a sauce of mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flakes, but it’s up to you to choose your favorite dipping sauce or topping.



Scallion Pancakes


  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, including green tops
  • sesame oil


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and water. Mix until it holds together and forms a ball. Continue to knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and shiny.
  2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal balls. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one of the balls to about 1/8 inch thick. Keep the remaining balls covered with a cloth until you are ready to roll them out..
  4. Drizzle the top of the rolled out dough with sesame oil. Sprinkle with ¼ of your chopped scallions and kosher salt. Fold it over and roll it out again.
  5. Roll up the flattened dough like a cigar. Divide the cigar crosswise into two pieces. Coil each piece like a snake or snail. Flatten the coil with your hand and then roll out into a circle with a rolling-pin.
  6. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. You should have eight pancakes.
  7. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to medium high or use a heated plancha. Lightly oil the cooking surface, and then transfer one of the pancakes to the skillet or plancha. Cook for two minutes. Then flip and cook the other side for two minutes. The pancakes should be a light golden brown.
  8. Repeat with each of the remaining pancakes. You may keep them in a warm (200°F) oven while you cook the rest.
  9. Cut each pancake into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce or accompaniments of your choice.


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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




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)


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


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


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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