Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mark Bittman's Quick Scallion Pancakes: fast, cheap, addictive

My Hero
Having conducted "Scallion Pancake Week" and revisited with Super Simple Scallion Pancakes, I was not prepared for the ease and deliciousness of Mark Bittman's "Quick Scallion Pancakes" from The Minimalist Cooks at Home.

Fast, cheap, and addictive In 20 minutes, you can make a pile of beautiful green pancakes with 4 bunches of scallions, an egg, flour, salt, and pepper. It is as easy as boiling water, which is the first step. You'll need a blender or food processor, a small bowl, and a non-stick pan.

These will stay warm in the oven at 300 F. If you are frying for company, these will have the same effect on your guests as potato latkes. They will hover around the pan.

Cooks' notes: Know your stove and frying pan. It is pointless to write "on medium high heat" because yours might be blazing hot or vaguely energetic.  The goal is to cook them through, with either lightly brown or deeply brown (my favorite) exteriors.

Lots of scallions

4 bunches of scallions, washed and trimmed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
Oil for frying, salt & pepper
Lemon slices
additions (see below and use your imagination!)


  1. Boil a pot of salted water.
  2. Scallions:  Mince one bunch and reserve. Rough chop three bunches.
  3. Add the chopped scallions to boiling water. Boil 5 to 6 minutes or until the thickest scallions are tender. Drain, but do not rinse.
  4. Puree scallions in a food processor or blender.  Remove to a medium bowl. Add the flour, slightly beaten egg, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and reserved scallions.
  5. Heat 2 T oil in a non-stick pan.
  6. For dollar-sized pancakes, drop the batter by tablespoons. For larger pancakes, use 1/4 cup or eyeball with a large spoon.
  7. Green in the pan
  8. Cook the pancakes 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until brown. I like brown-and-crispy, so I lean toward 3 minutes. Serve with lemon slices.
Unable to leave well enough alone, I also added:

Garlic: throw 2 or 3 peeled cloves into the boiling water with the scallions.
Ginger:  Process a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger before adding hot scallions.
Chili pepper: With the ginger, I processed skin and seeds of a jalapeno. Feel free to use some (a technical term, indicating as much or as little as you want, taking into account the Scoville rating of the pepper and your ability to cope with it) fresh or dried pepper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

5 easy changes to improve your cooking

Five easy changes to your kitchen will improve both the quality of your food and the ease with which you make it. Whether you are an experienced cook or a novice, whether your kitchen is packed with tools or you are outfitting your first apartment, smartening up your organization and paying attention to basic tools will benefit your cooking for yourself, your friends, and your family.

1.  Move your herbs and spices away from the heat.
Resist the temptation to keep spices handy and to keep a peppermill on top of the stove. Purposeless-random heat does not improve your parsley. Extra credit: Alphabetize your spices on a rack. You will save time and rarely buy what you don't need. True confession: This habit dates from my days of selling Spice Islands spices to grocery and drug stores in Northern California.

My travel-size Peugeot Peppermill
2.  Keep your knives sharp. This is Rule #1 under the heading "Safety First." Trying to cut with a dull knife is frustrating and dangerous. Unless you are willing to invest in an electric sharpener, find a local professional knife sharpener (Eversharp in Minneapolis) and take your knives in once a year. Expect to pay between $1 per blade on sale, or $1 per inch. Buy a knife-steel from the sharpener, who will demonstrate its use, and remind you to use it every time you chop.

3.  Purchase a heavy-duty sheet pan.  Unlike the thin pans from the grocery store, a heavy duty aluminum pan will never buckle under extreme heat and will last forever. An 18x13 weapons-grade pan called "half-sheet," can be had for less than $20, from either a restaurant supply house (Hockenberg's, $7.30) or a cooking emporium (Williams-Sonoma, $19).  I bet you won't want just one.

4.  Buy (or beg for a gift) a good quality peppermill.  There is no substitute for fresh ground pepper.  I have one near-but-not-next to my stove, and a tiny Peugeot Peppermill that travels with me.

5.  Acquire one Microplane grater. In an entertaining history of Microplane, the New York Times reminds us that this handy tool was born in a woodshop. Now that Grace Manufacturing, Inc. has embraced its culinary functions, there are a dazzling number of choices. If you must pick just one, I recommend a long, thin one with small holes that grates mountains of fresh Parmesan in minutes. It will zest your lemons, grate nutmeg, and make short work of ginger and garlic, too.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Registration open for 2011 susan-cooks! season

The essence of susan-cooks! is “Fun with a side of skill-building.”  
Three dishes and their variations in each class will launch you with new skills into a new season Come to learn, to laugh, to enjoy great snacks and appetizers, and great food.  

Details.  Class size limited to 6. Secure registration through PayPal:  $45 per person; $200 for a 5-class pass. Cost of food will be extra. Location: St. Paul. Each class (except for Canning) begins at 6 p.m.

March 26, Knife Skills: Prep forever. Coconut Braised Beef, Cucumber Salad w/Carrot Brunoise & lots of chopping, Spiced Fruit Salad. Includes dinner.

May 21, Spring
: All about Fresh. Fresh Spring Rolls, Spring Vegetable Stir Fry, Fresh Fruit Torte. Includes dinner.

July 16, Creative Canning. Local, available fruit for jam. Dried Apricot Chutney. Includes appetizers. Begins at 4 p.m.

September 24, Fast. Easy. Healthy. Mom's Creole Sauce with Your Choice of Protein. Chili Shrimp. Smart Chopping for Fast Roasted Root Vegetables. Includes dinner.

November 19. Holiday Baking. Laurie Colwin's Black Cake. Spiced Pecans. Caramel with a candy thermometer. Includes appetizers.

To create a class for you and your friends, your book group or your special event, contact Susan Gainen at 651-917-0219 or