Tuesday, August 24, 2010

White Peach Pecan Pancakes

It's peach season, people!  Juicy, tender, soft-fuzzed peaches abound.  I've become particularly enamored with white donut peaches this summer; I cringe at the steep cost, but they're just so darned cute.  Like holding a baby chick in your palm--so adorable and fuzzy.  Not that I've munched on a baby chick...
Weekend brunch is a pretty common occurrence around my house.  In fact, I love the idea of going out to brunch, but always come out a little disappointed because I end up feeling like I could easily whip up most items on the menu--for a lot less, too.  One brunch exception comes to mind: the day I had white peach pecan pancakes at a cute restaurant in St. Louis.  The chunks of fruit and nuts protruded from the pancakes in every which way and the pancakes just winked at me, knowing their juicy allure.  Yum.

Two years later, I thought it was high time I attempted these beauties at home for myself.  Friend JD was over, and chemistry teacher that she is, we decided it best to experiment a bit for ultimate pancake pleasure.  In other words, I didn't know whether it would be better to plop the peach and pecan pieces (excuse the non-deliberate alliteration) on top of the batter, or to mix them in.  Because big chunks are a must, I was afraid that mixing would create lumpy and awkward pancakes.
I was wrong.  Mixing in turned out to be way better.  The plop-on-top method looked kind of cool, but these pancakes had no structural integrity: they fell apart.  The mix-in method was perfect.  Huge fluffy pancakes, lip-smacking cooked peaches, and crunchy pecans.  The natural sweetness of the peaches means that these pancakes bring to mind peach cobbler in every bite.  Definitely yum.

You should give 'em a try this weekend.  Or tomorrow.  Or right now.

White Peach Pecan Buttermilk Pancakes, adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe

2-3 white peaches, chopped in chunks
1/2 C toasted pecans, roughly chopped
2 C all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 C buttermilk
1/4 C sour cream
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Veggie oil

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, and melted butter.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Gently mix together until just combined, do not over mix.  (Batter will be lumpy with a few streaks of flour remaining.)  As dry and wet ingredients come together, fold in pecans and peaches.  Let batter sit for 10 minutes before cooking.

Heat small amount of oil in pan, medium to medium-high.  Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake.  Flip when batter stops bubbling, about 2-3 minutes.  Cook on second side until pancake is golden brown.  If not serving immediately, you can keep all your pancakes warm in the oven, set at 200 degrees.

Butter, syrup, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Apricot Quinoa Salad

It's that time of the summer when I start to feel the upcoming school year creeping ever closer, and I begin to lament my completely uncompleted "to do" summer list.  This is a mental list I make mid-June, anticipating the never ending days of summer that lay before me, knowing with certainty that I will make the most of every minute.  Le sigh.
To date, the linens/medicine closet has still not been cleaned out.  Who knows what lives in it at this point.  I have not written a single letter or email to catch up with people who I think of often but talk with never.  I assigned two educational summer reading books to the teachers at my school; have I read either of them yet?  Um, no.  Nor have I cooked profiteroles for my friend, JD.  But I will.  I will make profiteroles...someday.
I have, however, spent many a fine day with friends and family this summer.  And I have traveled here and there.  And been to the beach on more than one occasion.  And I have been running--without rest, it sometimes seems.  These things are not without merit.  I just forgot to put them on my list back in June.  Henceforth, writing a "to do" list will be much simpler: I will simply record the enjoyable items that I figure I will accomplish regardless.  Not sure why I didn't figure this out earlier...
Well, at least I have delicious food in my fridge and a new happy salad to share with you.  It's a quinoa salad.  Quinoa is amazingly good for you and endlessly versatile.  Only problem is, it never quite floats my boat.  Recently I was directed to try red quinoa (as opposed to the regular cream colored type) for its slightly sweeter flavor.  Turns out, not at all bad.  Happy tummy, happy body.
Apricot Quinoa Salad, adapted from #99 of this fantabulous article.  Just toss in ingredients that please you, to taste.  Here's what I threw in.

3/4 C uncooked red quinoa (cook and cool first)
4 apricots, chopped
1/3 C dried cranberries
1 large scallion, sliced
1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Juice from 1 lemon
Lotsa fresh ground black pepper


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Training Day: Breathlessly Running

As I mentioned before, I've taken up running the last few years.  This is mostly inspired by Greg, who actually enjoys running on a regular basis.  From the start has encouraged me in a genuine, non-patronizing sort of way.  We often run together, and though he can easily go twice as far and as fast as I can, he happily runs alongside me, letting me set my own pace.  This, in fact, makes a pretty good metaphor for our relationship overall, now that I think of it.

In Iowa a couple weeks back, we stayed with Teresa and Todd, Greg's sister and her husband.  These fine people are the parents of three highly energetic youngins, yet they still find the time and motivation to run or bike most days.  This is more than I can say for myself.  Last fall Teresa and Todd decided to run the Kansas City half marathon and invited us to join them.  In a frenzy of excitement, we booked plane tickets and hauled ourselves to KC.  Greg ran the half marathon, and I ran my very first race: the 5K.  My only goal was to finish the race without walking.  What a goal, eh?  Nonetheless, I met my goal and was absolutely thrilled with myself.

So I find myself a couple weeks ago looking through Todd's copy of Runner's World and reading this article about training for shorter races.  And since it is summer and I sit around a lot on my arse in the summer, I am inspired to train for another 5K--not just run one, train for one.  And while sitting on one's arse, training sounds like a fabulous idea!

Fast forward one week to me--mid work out--lying lost, in some cemetery, crying, complaining, and generally feeling dejected and sorry for myself.  Yup, that's me.  You see, I was visiting friends in Syracuse, and decided to do my daily run outside--not realizing that Syracuse is hilly.  Very hilly.  Hills on par with Seattle and San Francisco.  Add to that my miserable sense of direction, and that leaves me running nowhere close to the route I had intended, and going up one hill after another.  Logic would suggest that with that many hills I would eventually have to go down one or two of them, but logic was not my companion last Friday.  And so, I finally gave up and flung myself into a shady patch of grass bordering a somewhat overly cheerful cemetery.  (You know you're in a bad mood when even a cemetery seems too sunny and pleasant.)

But last night--last night I was an awesome runner.  I ran a 2.5 mile loop in the park faster than I've ever run it--faster by nearly a minute per mile.  And the huge hill?  I kicked its ass.  That hill was so surprised, it didn't know what hit it.  Greg had a look of honest shock on his face as we finished our run, jaw slightly dropped in disbelief.  Because you know what?  I have improved!  Can you tell I'm excited?

Okay, so just under four more weeks to train.  The big race date is Sunday, August 29.  A race for Kiva in Prospect Park.  Here I go.