pancakes for indulgence & redemption…

…a observation about vacation and recovery.

It should come as no surprise that we have struggled through a silent pancake war in this family for over 25 years. I’m not sure why I’m fascinated with thick, fluffy, giant pancakes but it’s become one of those sacred, emblematic, Norman Rockwell, family meals. However, some people like their pancakes like their pizza – thin and floppy. I know it’s neither accurate nor fair, but I call those rubbery little things New Jersey pancakes.

We had Dutch pancakes in Aruba last month, and not only were they excruciatingly delicious (how did I not know about them?) but they set off an avalanche of memories from my days as a more youthful and more ambitious traveler. Yes, these pancakes did that and no, I’ve never been to the Netherlands. Perhaps it was the unexpected delight of eating Dutch food on a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela – I do love fusion in any form.

I’m still digesting some deep thoughts about travel, exploration and the underrated thrill of walking the earth under a foreign sky. I assure you my mind is racing but it’s going to take me another weekend to weave together a coherent essay about food, memories and unlikely connections, so stay tuned. Until then, we feast on pancakes.

Dutch pancake with bacon and Gouda

The purpose of this vacation was to sit on a beautiful beach. It was quite simple really and required nothing more than actually getting to a beach and then lying there. Which we did. The problem is, I started thinking. Somewhere between the Bon Appetite article on Pea Salad Pancakes and an abridged summary of Dutch culinary influence in Aruba, I decided we needed pancakes for breakfast. We had three choices within walking distance: Willem’s, Dushi’s and Diana’s. Diana won.

The was a massive menu board in this second story, open-air pancake place which listed several dozen options for the 12” fluffy crepes. While I do love some chocolate and whipped cream, the savory breakfast blend of bacon and Gouda jumped out. Just look at it – airy but thin, giant but delicate, and loaded with all the things we secretly want to dunk in maple syrup. Perfection.

It was exactly that kind of behavior that threw me into redemption mode as soon as we returned to the States. With the very best of intentions I announced “Vegetable Week” and filled the rotter with every green thing I could find. I still couldn’t get the idea of pancakes & crepes out of my head. This savory vegetarian pancake (flatbread really) was going to be my first act of purification, but I panicked and improvised. I’m quite certain it would still be wonderful without the cheese and chicken, but it took extreme discipline to not bust out the crème fraîche.

Chickpea Pancake with Chicken & Spring Vegetables

Adapted from Bon Appetite: Chickpea Pancake with Pea Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (92 g) chickpea flour
  • 3 Tb plus ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1¼ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 8 oz asparagus
  • 1 cup frozen green sweet peas
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 8 oz leftover grilled chicken (or crab meat?!)
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs coarsely chopped pistachios
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • flaky sea salt

Method

In a medium bowl whisk to combine chickpea flour, 1 Tb oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 cup water. It is very important for the mixture to sit 30 minutes to fully hydrate.

Preheat oven to 475° along with a 10-12” cast iron skillet set on a middle rack.

Trim the snow peas to remove strings and stems. Trim the thick wood tends off the asparagus spears and chop to 1” pieces.

Shred or thinly slice grilled chicken.

Cook green peas in a medium pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Using a spider ladle, transfer the peas to a bowl and add garlic, ¼ cup oil, ½ tsp lemon zest, 1 Tbs lemon juice, and remaining ¼ tsp. kosher salt and season with pepper. Take out about ½ cup and mash with a fork or flatten with the side of a chefs knife to a crude purée consistency. Add back to the remaining peas and combine to make a rough paste.

Add the sugar snap peas and asparagus to the same pot and cook until tender crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to another bowl and add tahini, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbs oil and crumbled feta. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Once the oven is heated, remove the skillet and swirl in 1 Tbs oil. Pour the chickpea batter into the skillet and return it to the oven. Bake about 15-18 minutes so that the pancake is set and crisp around edges. Remove and turn oven off.

Spread the smashed pea mixture over the warm pancake and then spoon on the sugar snap and asparagus mixture. Distribute the chicken on top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place back in oven for 5-10 minutes to warm the layers and melt the cheeses.

You may serve from the skillet or transfer the entire pancake using two spatulas. Good luck with that. Top with sliced mint leaves, chopped pistachios and any remaining lemon zest. Season with flaky sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

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