Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Whole-Wheat Banana Pecan Pancakes

Get ready for the weekend, folks. We have a new pancake recipe threatening to supplant our favorite blueberry-cornmeal pancakes. This one is great for several reasons: it comes together quickly; it's healthy (whole wheat flour, not much fat or sugar); it's cook-friendly--not a single pancake had a burnt side or raw center; and the texture is light and tender.

What I like most about it, though, are the sweet, caramelized bananas. I did this years ago with different banana pancakes I made from a mix, but when it came time to cook these babies, I wasn't convinced the extra step was worth. Mike, in his culinary wisdom, insisted that we do it, and he was so right.

If you've studied banana pancake recipes (and, yes, I have), then you've noticed most call for chopping or mashing the bananas and stirring them into the batter. Instead of incorporating the slices, we add them to the skillet first, giving them a minute or so to brown BEFORE pouring the batter over them. Thanks to that direct contact with the heat, they have the chance to brown while their natural sugars intensify. And when it's finished cooking and flipped onto the plate, you have one very nice-looking banana pancake!

Brown the banana slices first.

Then pour the batter over and cook until bubbly; flip to finish.

Banana Pecan Pancakes
Walnuts would be a good substitute for the pecans. Another idea is to replace the nuts AND the melted butter with ¼ cup of chunky peanut butter. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would microwave it to loosen the consistency and add it to the liquid ingredients in place of the butter. Finally, this is mostly a note to myself, but you might find it helpful in a pinch: Since I was about ¼ cup short of buttermilk, I supplemented it with ¼ cup of reduced fat milk to no ill effect. I wouldn’t replace more than ½ cup of the buttermilk with regular milk, however, since buttermilk helps make the pancakes tender and reacts with the baking soda for leavening.

Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

1/3 cup pecans (28 g)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (150 g) (all-purpose may be substituted)
1/3 cup medium stone ground cornmeal (44 g)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 to 2 ripe bananas, sliced
Pure maple syrup for serving.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and roast 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once, until browned and fragrant. Cool slightly and chop.

Meanwhile, add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk and melted butter and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just moistened. Fold in the chopped pecans.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high and coat with nonstick cooking spray (oil or butter is fine too). Place 4 to 6 banana slices in the skillet and cook about 45-60 seconds. Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter over the bananas and spread to uniform thickness if needed. Cook until air bubbles form in the center, or until the bottom of the pancake is deep golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is browned, 1 to 2 minutes more. Watch carefully to prevent overcooking, adjusting the heat level as necessary (Of course, you can cook more than one at a time, or many, if you have a griddle.). Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tandoori Chicken Thighs

I love this Tandoori Chicken recipe. It's one of my favorite chicken dishes that I've cooked, plus it's really easy. I've always doubted that a homemade version could have the same intensity of flavor you get at Indian restaurants. Especially with just easy-to-find supermarket ingredients. Although most of us can't duplicate the smoky char you'd get from cooking in an actual tandoor (a clay oven), this recipe will still make you very happy.

And because I am so not loving the only non-blurry picture I managed to snap of this addictive, super-moist spiced chicken, I decided to lead the post with a puggy in the snow. It worked're still reading? Our little dog, Frank, would like you to know that this recipe comes mostly from the Gourmet Cookbook and it's very tasty, indeed.

Tandoori-Spiced Chicken Thighs
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Try this to prove that Indian food isn't really that hard, after all. Lime wedges and cilantro are a must for serving and some extra Greek yogurt is really good too. We had a dal (spiced, stewed lentils) inspired by this recipe, and some interesting homemade flatbreads that were sort of like naan, which you can look for ready-made in large supermarkets.

Serves 4

1 small onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 oz plain lowfat Greek yogurt (or substitute regular plain yogurt), plus additional for serving
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (10 to 12), fat trimmed
Garnishes: Lime wedges and fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except chicken and garnishes in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Put chicken and yogurt mixer in a gallon-sized heavy-duty zipper bag. Seal bag and turn to coat the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator, turning bag occasionally, for at least 4 hours, and up to 12 hours (I did 6 hours).

Line a broiler pan or baking sheet with foil and preheat broiler to high. Arrange chicken on foil in a single layer (discard the marinade, but there's no need to scrape the excess off the chicken) and cook 5 to 6 inches from heat, turning once, until just cooked through, 12 to 17 minutes. Serve with lime, cilantro and additional yogurt.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Scones

Here's something different for A Mingling of Tastes: chocolate for breakfast! I love chocolate. Love it. In fact, I generally eat some kind of chocolate candy every day. But not for breakfast. Chocolate pancakes, muffins, breakfast bars and pastries just don't appeal to me. The only exception I can think of are Dunkin' Donuts cake donuts with chocolate icing, and it's been an awfully long time. When I saw this scone recipe on Peanut Butter Boy (which is full of health-conscious, yet tempting, PB-centric recipes), however, I knew it was time for one more exception to my no chocolate breakfasts thing.

Despite sounding more like a cookie, these scones are packed with enough nutritious ingredients to qualify as actual food. Reading over the recipe convinced me that it may be possible to have a peanut butter and chocolate scone that wouldn't leave me feeling like a total slug. The peanut butter replaces the dairy butter you'd normally use in a scone recipe, and a mashed banana contributes not just subtle flavor, but moisture too. I tweaked PB Boy's recipe a bit, adding more oats, less peanut butter and cinnamon. The only change I'd try for next time is using my beloved Jif chunky rather than smooth.

Considering the scent emanating from the kitchen while these baked, I expected lots of peanut butter flavor, but it turned out to be rather mild. Not a complaint, just saying. The dough is definitely on the wet side, but otherwise these go together like your standard scone. And like your standard scone, they don't have much added sugar, so the light sweetness comes mostly from the banana, peanut butter and chocolate. To sum up, they taste like an awesome breakfast cookie. And Mike, the authority on all things peanut butter and chocolate, says he really likes them.

I'm curious: do you regularly eat sweets for breakfast? Do you stick to things like buttermilk pancakes and blueberry muffins, but draw the line at chocolate? Do you exclusively consume savory foods in the morning, or the opposite? Does your heart belong to cold cereal (that's one breakfast food I never eat!)?

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Scones
Adapted from Peanut Butter Boy
I used smooth peanut butter, but next time I'll probably try chunky. I think the bits of nuts would make the peanut butter flavor more prominent.

Makes 8-10 scones

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (180 grams)
1 cup quick-cooking oats (80 grams)
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, or any finely chopped chocolate of your choice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 ripe medium banana, mashed well
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (128 grams)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 1 large or 2 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the chocolate.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Add the mashed banana and whisk to combine.

Add the peanut butter to the flour mixture and mix with a pastry blender or your fingers until you have a coarse, sandy texture. Add the egg mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dough will be quite wet. Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead into a ball. Flatten the ball and shape into a disk, about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. With a large, floured chef's knife, cut dough into 8 or 10 wedges, depending on the size scone you want (the size you see in the pictures are from a 10-scone batch).

Keep flouring your knife and slide it under the wedges like a spatula, then carefully lift them onto the prepared baking sheets. Again, the dough will be wet--just pat any misshapen scones back together with your fingers. Bake 15 to 16 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean. If you using 2 baking sheets, swap their positions halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm.