I love, LOVE, to cook, but as the pandemic has gone on and on, this three-meal-a-day-seven-days-a-week cooking routine has gotten old. Food writer Jessica Battilana (who moved from San Francisco to Falmouth last summer) gets it. She has been cooking three meals a day for her family of four since the pandemic began. “I’m good at it. I’m fast,” she said when we spoke in January, “but I’m so over cooking.”
For me, as time passes (and spring calls me to go outside and play), my big project cooking has dwindled, and the words that food editors often dread – fast and easy – are the very ones I find myself drawn to. To keep myself from serving peanut butter sandwiches or popcorn for dinner several nights a week, I have been trying to expand my repertoire of fast, easy meals.
Cottage cheese pancakes are both those things, also inexpensive. When I was little, my mother sometimes served them for dinner. Now that I’m grown up, I’m guessing she did so on those nights she was very tired or had four ill-tempered small girls on her hands who needed dinner fast. Her recipe came from “A Treasure for My Daughter,” an earnest Jewish cookbook compiled by a Hadassah chapter in Montreal, where she grew up. (My copy is from 1978, but it was originally published in 1950.) I liked the pancakes not just because they tasted good, but also because it seemed subversive — not a word I knew then — to eat pancakes for dinner. During the pandemic, how apt: What about our lives hasn’t been turned upside down?
My mother’s version of the pancakes was sweet, to be eaten with sour cream and sugar. I created a savory version because I eat too many sweets as it is. The measurements, and even the ingredients to some extent, are guidelines. This recipe isn’t too fussy. Sometimes, I use wheat germ in place of some of the flour, and maybe later this month, for Passover, I’ll try matzo meal. If you don’t have cauliflower, I bet chopped caramelized cabbage or grated carrots would be just as good. Lately, I’ve been thinking I’ll swap in roasted beets and pickles (and skip the step of sauteing) for the cauliflower and onions. Yeah, it sounds weird but, to me anyway, maybe good?
Even with the pandemic’s end in sight (fingers crossed), I plan to keep this recipe in my dinner rotation.
Tell us what you’re cooking for Easter
Mainers, what are you cooking for Easter while you wait out this virus? Have you been vaccinated? Are you able to gather safely and eat your family favorites together? Or will you be making those favorites for just your small pandemic pod and hoping the next holiday on the calendar is the one?
Send us your recipe and a simple snapshot of your Easter dish by March 23. Tell us a little about the recipe and what it means to you and your family. Send recipes and photos to [email protected] for possible publication and the chance to share Easter dinner virtually until we can get back to sharing it actually.
SAVORY COTTAGE CHEESE PANCAKES
Cheesemakers have taken cottage cheese more seriously in recent years, so good brands are available. I grease the griddle with bacon fat if I’ve got any, otherwise a combination of oil and butter. Although the recipe doesn’t use commercial leavener, the pancakes puff up nicely.
Makes about seven (5-inch pancakes), which in my house feeds 2
About 1/3 cup chopped onion
About 1/3 cup chopped cauliflower
About 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more to saute the vegetables
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Chopped fresh dill, if you happen to have around
Applesauce, for serving
Preheat your griddle or iron frying pan.
Saute the onion, finely-chopped cauliflower and caraway seeds in butter or bacon fat in a medium-sized frying pan over moderate heat until the vegetables have softened, roughly 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir together the cottage cheese, egg yolks, flour, dill and the sauteed vegetables. Taste the batter and season it with more salt and pepper if need be.
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the pancake batter.
Grease the griddle with bacon fat or a mix of oil and butter, then form pancakes about 5 inches in diameter. Cook on each side until golden, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve immediately with applesauce (or not. They’re also good plain).