Saturday, March 19, 2005

Spring Sunlight (with Ricotta Pancakes and Plum Butter)

It is hard to believe that it once felt perpetually dark.

The return of the sun and the display of a particularly enticing bin of plums at New Sagaya, inspired me to make J. a breakfast of:

Dollar-Sized Ricotta Pancakes with Plum-Raspberry-Cranberry Butter.

I had the plum-raspberry-cranberry butter from earlier in the week. I had made a big batch of it, first adding the raspberries for the sweetness then adding the cranberries for a tart enhancement of color, earlier in the week. Some of it I used to make a savoury plum sauce (with shallots and balsamic vinegar) for a tenderloin of pork that I pot-roasted with fennel, apples and leeks. But I made so much of it, that J. will be eating plums as savoury sauces, as pancake syrups, as ice-creaming topping, etc. Fortunately, I think it's delicious enough that there won't be many complaints.

In any event, it is a particularly perfect accompaniment to ricotta pancakes.


Ricotta Pancakes (from Garden Way's Bread Book)

1. Blend 3 eggs with 1 cup of ricotta cheese until light and airy.

2. Blend in 3 tablespoons of honey and 5 tablespoons of melted butter.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Add to the cheese mixture and blend together.

4. Pour about 2 tbsps of batter, at a time, onto a hot (and lightly greased) griddle.

* My little comment to J. in the note stashed into the freezer-locked ziplock bag of pancakes: Before making these (or in J's case, reheating them in the skillet), fry up some bacon. Drain out the grease, and then wipe it out with a paper towel so that there's maybe just enough grease left to keep a feather from sticking to the pan. Make the ricotta pancakes in this pan and serve with the bacon on the side. I didn't do it this way, but I have a pretty hefty certainty that there will be something about the bacon (its crunch? its saltiness?) that will bring out the subtle taste of nutmeg in the pancakes and the sweet simplicity of the barely sweetened plum butter.

Plum-Raspberry-Cranberry Butter (inspired by recipe for plum butter in Native Harvest - exact name to be added)

Skin, pit and chop a bunch of plums. Put fruit pieces in a heavy pot. Add raspberries, if you like, for sweetness. Add cranberries, if you like, for tartness and colors. Add, in fact, anything you'd like. Pour in some water. Not too much - you don't want it runny. Not too little - you don't want scalded fruit bits. Add some honey. I also added cinnamon, cloves and cardamom - but only enough to bring out the fruits' flavours, not enough to taste. Simmer softly for awhile until fruit starts to liquify and congeal - about 30 minutes. (If there are cranberries, it may need to simmer longer). The actual recipe suggested using a blender to get a uniform consistency. I like the chunks of fruit, and the delight of having each bite taste a little bit different. Truth - I'm not a big fan of uniform consistency. So I keep my fruit butters "rustic"...I think that is the currently coiffed coin of term for 'real'.

On an unculinary note.....I don't know how or why I can or would say this....but sometimes it almost feels TOO bright. There. I've confessed it. It's crazy to say that though, isn't? It is! And yet, I've had this perpetual headache for about a week. I hesitate also to call it a headache. It's more like an eye strain or something. My theory is that I...that my EYES have become dis-habituated to sunlight.

I remember, when I first moved here last June, how I was constantly surprised by the general use of shades and sheets and other sunlight blockers. When I came into the office, I thought it odd that colleagues had blocked off their amazing, million dollar views out to Cook Inlet by closing their blinds. In contrast, my post-Manhattan reaction to all this crisp, exhillerating air and perpetual sunlight was to throw open windows and shades and linger as much as possible in all of the sunrays pouring in.

Today, however, my blinds are closed.

Not because I don't appreciate the sun. I do. I'm so happy it's back. In fact, I'm exhillerated that it's back. I have loads of energy. A suddenly replenished cache of creative plots and a burgeoning chest of courageous aspirations. I even drive faster. My binds are closed because my eyes, I think, have not yet adjusted to it. They will, I'm sure. But for the moment, I fear I'm still in the opportunity to appreciate the adventure of the mole just emerging from its dark tunnels.

Though it is lovely sun, we're still in the season that is called "Break Up." In other words, the ice is starting to thaw. So things can get a little muddy. Puddles can swamp a street or a yard overnight. And it's still cold. Not cold enough to preserve the freeze, but cold enough to require mittens and a hat at times. Having said all this, it really is just a matter of weeks until my neighbors and I will drag out the picnic table from its winter perch beneath the shelter of the big spruce back to his summer throne in the middle of the yard between our houses. And therefore it is a mere matter of weeks until I'll be drinking my morning coffee and reading my Alaskan newspaper at its benches whilst Puck frolics around the yard (chewing on, more than likely, random twigs).

As for other Alaskan observations....J left me a voicemail on St. Paddy's Day that still stirs up a broad grin every time I recall it. With a wry undertone, and an understated actual tone, J. told me about how he was sitting at his desk during the lunch hour, watching the bald eagles outside his window and contemplating a particular argument asserted in a particular motion. He heard bagpipes. Coming closer. Thinking that it must be Kodiak's St. Paddy's Day Parade, he stepped outside to watch it pass. He was happy to report that all five people in the parade looked they were having a great time.


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