Friday, September 9, 2011
Recently I have been meandering around the internet via “StumbleUpon.com”
which is a unique search engine that will take you directly to websites in the categories you choose and the categories are extensive and constantly increasing.
If, like me, you are interested in cooking, you just need to select that category from the drop-down list in your toolbar and the first site will appear. With each click on “Stumble” in the toolbar, subsequent pages will open. It’s a great way to “discover” sites that you would never find with a simple Google search.
However, this page is NOT about my
addiction enthusiasm for StumbleUpon!
While “Stumbling” around the web, I have landed on some terrific sites that discuss food, have extensive lists of recipes and some very useful advice.
On one site there was a discussion about the different kinds of “griddle cakes” – not the ubiquitous pancakes or flapjacks familiar to most of us in the U.S., but the thicker types, such as crumpets, “English” muffins, Welsh griddle cakes and other types of breads that are baked on a griddle, between the plates of a grill or fried in a skillet.
One “Stumbler” was the bitten word with this recipe for Corn and Amaranth Griddlecakes with Spicy Black Beans, which I filed away for future reference, then promptly forgot all about.
FIRST TYPE: SOMETHING FROM THE NEW WORLD NATIVE CULINARY TRADITION
I’m a believer in serendipity and so was pleasantly surprised a few days ago when one of the eGullet members (EatNopales), who is also doing a weekly blog on the typical foods he prepares for family and friends, posted a recipe for amaranth pancakes, a traditional Mexican food that goes back to ancient times, in this topic “Making Mexican at home” – scroll down to post # 313 and post #326 for the recipe.
I have long been a fan of amaranth and other New World grains that have become available in the U.S. in recent years. I used to grow amaranth – not the ornamental plants that are rarely more than 2-3 feet tall but the tall plants that produce huge seed heads with lots of seeds. There are also giant amaranth plants but I never tried growing those.
Amaranth was an important plant to the Aztecs, with religious significance so great that the Catholic church banned it and it nearly disappeared except in remote areas. Fortunately it was saved and we are the beneficiaries of those people from long ago who maintained this most interesting and nutritious food grain.
In the past I have ground amaranth into flour to add to breads and have prepared it as porridge, usually combined with other grains such as quinoa, teff and kaniwa as well as nuts and seeds but I have never made this type of griddle cake with the whole grain. I have made something similar with a mixture of grains, seeds and dried fruits but that was with porridge based on oats, wheat, barley, millet, etc.
Not having much to do today, I decided to make a 50% version of the recipe with amaranth, adding kaniwa to equal 1/4 the total volume.
I probably added a bit too much water because it took about thirty minutes to cook it to the desired consistency.
The cooked grains:
A close up shot. Isn’t it pretty? Almost like little jewels.
To make the “batter” I added 1 egg and a scant 1/4 cup of self-rising cornmeal (very-fine) because I couldn’t find the masa harina (until after I mixed the batter!) and by then it was too late.
I aimed for a rather stiff batter – about like drop cookie dough – because I planned on cooking the cakes between the Griddler plates instead of on the open griddle.
Here is the batter, ready to go. It’s also rather pretty, much more attractive than some raw batters.
I used too large a scoop for the first batch
Closed the Griddler –
and they ran together.
I did better with subsequent batches.
These turned out about 1/4 inch thick, or slightly more, and in this photo I have torn one in half, exposing the interior so you can see the texture.
I really like the contrast of the pale amaranth with the dark kaniwa and the flavors are very similar.
A a detail close up really shows the contrast.
These turned out very tasty – I didn’t even top them with butter, for me the flavor was fine without any sweet, such as honey, syrup or jelly. These could certainly be added but I like the flavor of the cakes themselves.
I will certainly make these again. The health benefits of the amaranth and the kaniwa are an excellent addition to my diet.
And now it is Saturday, September 10 and I am making another batch but with some additions, just to see how much the flavor changes.
SECOND TRY IN WHICH I COMBINE THE NEW WORLD GRAINS WITH SOME OLD WORLD GRAINS
1/2 cup amaranth
1/4 cup kaniwa
1/4 cup teff (Ivory teff grain from Barry Farm)
2 Tablespoons ground golden flaxseed
2 Tablespoons toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 3/4 cups water
Cooked for 35 minutes over medium heat until all the water had been absorbed.
Again, this porridge is fairly thick.
The yield is almost a quart. I had to keep wiping the lens because the stuff is still hot and steam was created.
In the closeup you can see the individual grains and the larger sesame seeds. The little curled “strings” are the germ part of the grain seeds that separate during cooking.
This has to cool completely prior to adding eggs, otherwise I would have scrambled eggs in porridge. Not a pretty picture.
More to come.
The next step in the process was to convert the cooled porridge to a batter.
I divided the porridge into thirds and to one third I simply added the masa harina (1/2 cup) and cooked them on the griddle the same way, just using a smaller disher (ice cream scoop).
To the second third, I had a brainstorm and added half a cup (or so) of organic potato flakes (Shiloh Farms) in place of the masa harina or corn meal.
These are slightly more crusty than the plain ones made with masa harina.
For the rest of the batch I wanted something with a bit more flavor, perhaps a “southwest” influence. I checked my pantry and found this can of Bush’s Grillin’ Beans – Black Bean Fiesta in chipotle sauce with corn and red peppers.
I drained them well and after as much liquid as possible had drained away, I mixed them into the remaining porridge along with 1/2 cup of self-rising cornmeal (fine) and a pinch of McCormick’s Southwest Seasoning because the bean mixture was a bit bland to my taste.
I allowed the batters to “rest” for half an hour – so the potato flakes could hydrate and so the flavors of the bean mixture could blend.
I baked them in the Griddler, just as I had done the batch yesterday. I have griddle cakes with three distinct flavors that are all very tasty.
This is one of the “bean” cakes.
And a closeup of a bean cake after baking.
The “basic” flavored cakes could be served with syrup, honey, jam or ?. Those made with the potato flakes are very good with applesauce (I tried this with a small dollop of yogurt).
And the cakes with the bean mixture taste lovely when topped with salsa (which I also tried.)
All three are also good on their own as a snack, gluten-free and high fiber. They fall into the sneakily healthy category.
Pictured on a cooling rack. From left to right –
The bean cakes, the “potato” cakes and the plain cakes.
And closeups of same: