For Valentine's Day, Keep it Simple

Transient

This year, keep Valentine's day simple with these heart shaped pancakes. (And if you're not in love, you can still make them for your mom, your best friend, or yourself).

Valentine's is the worst day of the year to go out to dinner (you're likely to pay a premium for uninspired food in a very crowded restaurant, and if you don't get into an argument, you'll probably have to overhear someone else's). The bombardment of chocolates and roses leading up to the 14th can seem more annoying than romantic. Still, if you have a sweetheart, its unkind not to observe the holiday. And isn't it nice, after all, to have a holiday dedicated to love?

Who doesn't adore having breakfast made for them? Even if you are totally unprepared (or you blew it on Valentines day and you need to get out of the doghouse the next morning), you can probably make pancakes for your sweetheart. You most likely have all the ingredients in your pantry, and you can dash to the corner store, or knock on a neighbor's door to borrow a cup of milk. If you don't have measuring cups and spoons, no sweat! You can use a mug and a tea spoon. This recipe is incredibly forgiving––just don't over-stir it.

Sometimes the simplest gestures are the most thoughtful. And this easy breakfast is a celebration of love that you might find yourself repeating throughout the year.

Basic Pancakes

To make these vegan, omit the egg, use nondairy milk, and add a teaspoon of lemon or cider vinegar. If you have buttermilk, use that instead of milk and substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the baking powder. Try replacing 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat, rye, or any other interesting flour for heartier pancakes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • oil or butter, for greasing the pan

1. Put a skillet on the stove over medium heat — it needs to be thoroughly heated by the time you drop batter in. Whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat the egg and combine it with the milk.

2. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients. Mix them quickly and leave some lumps (they will disappear as the pancakes cook). Don’t mix too much or the pancakes’ texture will be tough and chewy.

3. Pour a bit of oil into the pan to grease it lightly, turn up the heat to medium-high, and wait for the oil to warm so it shimmers. Or use butter and wait for it to melt. (If you want even-toned pancakes, use oil; butter gives a better flavor but makes the pancakes' surface splotchy and burns more easily).

4. Using a ladle, or a measuring cup with a spout, pour the batter onto the pan in a heart shape. If you're finding it difficult to draw a heart with the batter, try making the letter V (it will end up looking like a heart). You can use a spoon to quickly adjust the shape after the batter is poured.

5. When lots of tiny bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, it’s ready to flip. Flip it, and cook until evenly browned. You can check the center for gooeyness with a toothpick or the tip of a sharp knife if you’re uncertain of whether it’s done. Repeat until the batter is used up.

Pancakes can be kept warm on a heatproof plate in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

 

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Perfect Whipped Cream

 

really good sushi rice without a rice cooker

eggplant with sweet miso, quick shiso cucumber pickles and sauteed shitake for Quinciple

I want rice that's fluffy and tender, never mushy or crunchy. There's this funny thing where I can execute finicky pastries and complex sauces, but when it comes to the basics I often mess up. Maybe it's just carelessness (or arrogance). But really good rice is a devine thing, and worth anyone's attention.

I'm not talking about sesoning sushi rice, but cooking short-grain rice perfectly. It turns out the trick is pressure. If you don't have a rice cooker, you can acheive this by creating a tight seal, and weighting the lid of the pan. I put a big cake pan on top of my cooking pot instead of a lid, then weight it with another heavy pot, some big cans of beans, or whatever I can find. Look around your kitchen (heavy chopping block? cast iron skillet?) and improvise.


You'll want about 1 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, and a pinch of salt. Rinse the rice several times in cold water, then drain it and add the water for cooking. Another way to measure is by resting your hand on top of the rice: the water should just cover your fingers.

Turn the heat to high. As soon as you hear the water rumble to a full boil, turn the burner to low and set a timer for 18 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE LID. After 18 minutes, turn the burner to high and count to 60, then turn off the burner (if it's an eletric stove, remove the pan from the heat). DO NOT LIFT THE LID. Set a timer for 5 more minutes.

After the 5 minutes, lift the lid and fluff the rice. (If it's too wet, cover, turn to high for 30-60 seconds then cover for 5 more minutes.)

This might sound complicated, but really its easy. And it will likely be the best rice you've ever made.

Soothing Sorbet

Cool melon and mint, slushy and a little sweet: this may be the most refreshing thing I’ve ever eaten! Sorbet is quite easy to make if you have an ice cream maker. If you don't, the same mixture makes fantastic ice pops. I suggest you try some of both!

 

Cantaloupe & Mint Sorbet

  • ½ cantaloupe (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ¾ cup mint simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • small mint sprigs for garnish 

1. Cut the cantaloupe into cubes–you should have about 4 cups–and put it in a blender. Add the lime juice and syrup. Blend until smooth.

2. Churn in an ice cream maker until it holds together. Serve immediately, garnished with mint sprigs. Whatever you can’t eat right away you can thaw and re-churn, or freeze as ice pops.

 

Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • one bunch mint, stems removed

1. Stir together the boiling water and sugar to dissolve; this is your simple syrup. Put it in the refrigerator until it’s cool to the touch.

 2. Add the mint to the cooled simple syrup. Steep for at least an hour, but ideally overnight. Strain, and discard the leaves. This syrup will keep well for a few weeks, and is wonderful for sorbets and summer cocktails like mint juleps.