Monday, September 21, 2009

Stuffed Lentil Pancakes!

Ok, now that I've had a little post-lentil cleansing and since I'm totally out of leftovers, it is time to make some more lentil recipes! On the menu for a nice Sunday breakfast: Stuffed Lentil Pancakes.

The idea of lentil pancakes came from my sister Krista, which she had eaten at Pullman's Lentilfest (going back to the origin of the this whole project). As opposed to blueberry, bacon, or the Jack-Johnson-favorite-banana pancakes, though, lentil pancakes are made from lentils, as opposed to adding lentils to pancake batter. It is a surprisingly uncommon recipe as none of my usual suspects (, seemed to have a clue as to what I was talking about. (...seemed to have a clue about what I was talking. Sorry everybody. Sorry.) Luckily, we have Google and a quick search yielded a promising candidate. The recipe comes from a site called Passionate About Baking which, despite the fact that now Katie has a whole new arsenal of baking recipes to unleash upon my apartment and subsequently leave for me to overindulge and fatten on, look quite good (the left picture appears to be some kind of pistachio moonpie. Tasty!)

This particular recipe is called Moong Bean Pancakes, moong bean referring to another name for split yellow lentils. The recipe is pretty simple: make the batter by soaking lentils overnight, draining and blending them with just a bit of the drained liquid (I probably used maybe 3/4 to 1 cup) as well as some green chili, fresh coriander, ginger and asafoetida. Couple things to note: upon further investigation, the woman who writes this blog is from India and uses slightly different terminology than we may find common. For example, when we say coriander in the States, we usually refer to the dried seed that is ground as a spice; however, if you instead plant and grow that seed to make 'fresh coriander', this little plant is better known to us as cilantro. Same plant, two diversely different tastes. Crazy. As for asafoetida, it is a spice found in the subcontinent that has a pungent, slightly unpleasant aroma that disappears in cooking and forms a taste similar to leeks. I happened to recently pick some up at a tiny Indian market store, but if you don't have any, leaving it out should work just fine.

Filling! After all, the only thing better than pancakes is stuffed pancakes. The filling is made from cilantro leaves, green chilis, scallions and....grated cottage cheese? This conjures up the idea of frustratingly trying to press a tub of cottage cheese up to a box grater with needless-to-say no success. So again comes a little bit of confusion in terminology. With a little internet research, here's what I've found. A few things could be used for this: dry curd cottage cheese is probably what was intended, which is essentially just a tub of cottage cheese wrung out in a cheese cloth. Some other options would include queso fresco or queso blanco (Samish Bay Cheese is local and makes a good queso fresco) or, to follow with the Indian theme, paneer, all of which are just drained cottage cheese pressed into a mold (with various small changes). Unfortunately, I did this research after doing my shopping, so I stood in the kitchen looking confused down at the recipe with a tub of cottage cheese in my hand. I used it anyway and it was good, although I think next time I'll go for the queso fresco which melts nicely.

Finally, the cooking! I heated up a square, flat pancake pan sprayed with some PAM and dosed out a third of a cup of the batter, spreading it thinly (since they need to be folded, thin is key). The most important thing that I learned is to make sure you let it cook long enough before trying to flip it. Since there are no leavening agents, you can't rely on bubbles like you can with traditional pancakes, but I'd say on medium I probably gave it 4-5 minutes. Trying to flip early leads to disaster, as I learned when the whole thing essentially fell apart on the first try. Also, since these are bigger than most traditional pancakes, use a wide spatula to get under the center of the pancake and then flip in one quick motion to minimize breakage. After flipping, add a spoonfull of filling to one side and spread it out, then after about four minutes, put the spatula under the un-filled side and tilt up until it falls over and folds in half. (This approach seemed to work best for me, but feels free to experiment. Since the final product is significantly more malleable than normal pancakes, little cracks are easy to repair). Now just move to a plate and voila! Lentil pancakes! (One last thing to note: I started off having problems with the pancake sticking, but using ample spray on both pan and spatula made things go much more smoothly.)

Okay okay, so you made lentils into the shapes of pancakes, you say, but how did they taste? Quite frankly, delicious. This may be my favorite lentil application so far. A nice break from the sweetness of traditional pancakes, especially post-syrup, these savory, crepe-like pancakes have a good flavor from the lentils that is bumped up by the cilantro and chilis. The cottage cheese filling was a little off, although using something similar but, for lack of a better non-Taco-Bellian adjective, melty would be very nice. Next time I'll go for some queso fresco or paneer. You might even want to try a little something on the top. Say, take two tablespoons of simple syrup and mix into half a cup of sour cream, add a dollop to the top of each pancake and sprinkle on some finely minced chives. Mmmmm, that sounds tasty.

One last note: Calculating the exact pounds of lentils for these is a little more tedious than expected, so I'm going to again change the challenge to be number of recipes. Between cooking and leftovers I'll still get plenty of lentils in, but this way I can concentrate more on the recipes themselves, then on trying to figure out the weight eaten each meal (especially when I'm sharing with others which is half the fun of eating). So let's say I've done two of...oh, say twenty lentil recipes. After that I'll move onto twenty of a different ingredient (feel free to leave suggestions).

On behalf of myself, the chairman, and everyone here in Crazy-Lentilland, I bid you good eating.

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