No, I’m not channeling Dr. Seuss. What I’m doing this sunny January morning is enjoying some lovely, savory vegetable pancakes. Colorful, delicious, and easy to prepare, these pancakes are adaptable to any time of day. You might serve them at brunch, with sausage or smoked fish, and they would make a terrific supper alongside a simple roast chicken or pork chop. They are light and full of the Mediterranean flavors that bring brightness and cheer to winter cooking. The compound butter flavored with lime, cilantro, garlic, and chile is the perfect accompaniment. And it is also a condiment in its own right; brilliant on a baked sweet potato or dabbed onto a simple sauteed chicken breast. From the book “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi, here is the recipe for “Green Pancakes with Lime Butter”.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
To make the lime butter:
Put the butter in a medium bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until it turns soft and creamy. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Tip onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends of the wrap to seal the flavored butter. Chill until firm.
For the pancakes
1/2 lb. spinach (about 8 cups), washed
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
2/3 cup milk
6 medium green onions, finely sliced
2 fresh green chiles, thinly sliced
1 egg white
olive oil for frying
Wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Drain in a sieve and, when cool, squeeze hard with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop and put aside. Put the flour, baking powder, whole egg, melted butter, salt, cumin, and milk in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the green onions, chiles and spinach and mix with a fork. Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and gently fold it into the batter. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a heavy frying pan (I use a non-stick pan), and place on medium-high heat. For each pancake, ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently. You should get smallish pancakes, about 3 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until you get a good golden-green color. Transfer to paper towels and keep warm. Continue making pancakes, adding oil to the pan as needed, until the batter is used up.
To serve, pile up three warm pancakes per person and place a slice of flavored butter on top to melt.
* In my experience, savory pancakes reheat well, wrapped securely in foil and placed in a low oven (300-325F) for about 10 minutes. Compound butter can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen. Mr Ottolenghi’s book is based on a column he wrote for the Weekend magazine of The Guardian newspaper, called “The New Vegetarian”. It is a beautiful book, full of inspired vegetarian recipes. Look for more details in an upcoming cookbook review.