Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pinaattiohukaiset: Scandinavian Spinach Pancakes (Finland)

Plate of Spinach Pancakes and bowl of preserves
Lingonberry Preserves = Perfect Compliment

Recipe by The Cooking of Scandinavia

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post for a special announcement: Spinach is delicious in pancakes! I didn’t plan to make these, or even know about them. If I were a more disciplined cook and hadn’t gone to Ikea I might have never known. But let me back up a bit.

I’ve been curious about lingonberries for decades, because of my interest in Scandinavian cooking and cultures. So I was excited to find lingonberry preserves at Ikea last weekend. Being somewhat compulsive, I derailed my plans to make Mom’s potato salad and started researching uses for lingonberries. A quick look through The Cooking of Scandinavia recipe booklet revealed that Finnish people make traditional spinach pancakes and often  serve them with lingonberries. Perfect recipe for the half pound of summer spinach in the fridge!

Bowls of Ingredients, Plus Chopped Spinach
Prepare Ingredients Before Combining
Okay, honestly, there was not quite half a pound, so I added some basil leaves from the garden to make up the difference. Feel free to use a couple ounces of any soft green (arugula, young beet greens, young chard, etc.) if you’re a little short on spinach. The key is to cook it till tender, squeeze out as much water as possible and chop it really finely, so it will blend into the pancake batter without clumping, so the pancakes will be thin and light.

Compared with my recently posted blueberry pancakes, these spinach pancakes are thin, small, and more egg-y than starchy. They make a more protein-based breakfast or brunch. The nutmeg is key in making the spinach pancakes compatible with the sweet-tart taste of lingonberry preserves. They’d be good with other tart berry jams like cranberry or blackberry, or even sour cherry. Or, serve the pancakes as a savory veggie side dish at dinner, with an optional bit of butter, like the Finns do.

4 Pancakes Browning in Butter
Pancakes Almost Ready to Flip
I reduced both the salt and melted butter in the pancakes by half. You can double them if you want to be more traditional. Because of the rich taste the butter adds to the eggs and spinach, I wouldn’t substitute oil in this recipe. Post a comment if you find something besides butter or jam that you like to top these pancakes with!

On Thursday we’ll return to our regularly scheduled post: Mom’s potato salad!

Plate of Pancakes, Sour Cream, and Lingonberry Preserves
Sour Cream or Yogurt Adds Contrast
Scandinavian Spinach Pancakes
serves 6 – 8 as side
serves 4 – 5 for brunch
makes about 22 3-inch pancakes

1 cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 ½ cups milk
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 eggs
½ tsp. sugar
½ lb. spinach
1 – 2 tbsp. softened butter
Lingonberries or lingonberry preserves, optional

Melt and cool the unsalted butter.

Steam spinach about 4 minutes, until tender. Remove to cutting board to cool. Press out as much water as possible and chop finely. Press out water again, and chop a bit finer. The finer the spinach, the easier it will be to pour the pancakes and make them uniform.

Mix dry ingredients together in small bowl: flour, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Beat eggs together with sugar until sugar is dissolved and eggs are well blended. Set aside.

Measure milk into large mixing bowl. Sift in dry ingredients, whisking until just combined, small lumps are okay. Whisk egg mixture into the batter. Whisk in spinach gradually, adding small amounts by hand and stirring in.

Heat heavy skillet over medium high heat, or heat electric frying pan to 375 degrees F. With a pastry brush or paper towel, coat the bottom of pan with about 1 tsp. soft butter. When butter is slightly brown, drop 2 tbsp. (1/8 cup) batter into the pan with  spoon, spatula, or 1/8 cup measure. Spread out evenly, if needed, to form a 3-inch disk.

Cook pancakes, 3 or 4 at a time, for about 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Keep warm on a heated platter.

Add more butter to the pan as it becomes necessary while cooking the remaining pancakes.

Serve spinach pancakes as a vegetable course, accompanied by lingonberries if you like. Or, if you’re less traditionally inclined, serve for breakfast or brunch with lingonberry or other tart jam.

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