21 February 2012

Vermont Ruminations; Adapted Cottage Pancakes

I recently returned from a quasi-vacation in Vermont - I sampled the local coffee shop-and-laptop culture for a few days, but the rest of my week was spent relaxing, sightseeing, and spending time with E's family. Not counting a few-hour layover in Newark for an international flight some years ago, this marks the first time I've visited a state in the East (Columbus, Ohio being my previous record, narrowly beating out Detroit). My liberal, snobby, San Francisco-yupster opinion of the place? In one word: cool. In more words:

Have you ever seen Portlandia, more specifically the song "Dream of the 90s" which opened the pilot? Well, Vermont was a bit like that, except instead of the dream being that of the 90s, it is that of San Francisco farm-to-table obsessives. The atmosphere is libertarian - taken to mean personal freedoms and self sufficiency, not whatever cable news has decided it means this week. There are co-op grocery stores with an embarrassingly large local produce section, restaurants striving for local ingredients, and plenty of land with which to fish, farm, hunt, harvest, and otherwise get the good stuff. Cast iron pans were everywhere, which one should take as a sign of an advanced culture. The meal's host would casually mention the wonderful farm/friend that provided ingredients, a spiritual opposite of the name dropping one finds on Kanye albums. That isn't to say everything is good - the restaurants that aren't trying to source local fare are not trying just as hard as other greasy spoons in other states. The diners are just as diner-y as elsewhere; the population density isn't quite high enough to support artisan coffee ($4.50 for a 8oz cup of drip and the sultry attitude when you ask for sugar and they say they only have simple syrup which you'll find next to the compostable napkins though, oddly, not near the compost bin for said napkins which doesn't exist).

I came back from the trip, then, with two cravings. The first was for good, not drinkable, coffee. The second was for pancakes. A home-cooked brunch featured a yeasted waffle recipe, complete with blue corn freshly ground that morning. And 101 Cookbooks posted the Cottage Pancakes recipe I've been dying to try. I don't have the recipe yet for the yeasted waffle/pancake batter, but I did bastardize the cottage pancakes.
I very much toned them down, taking only the idea of putting cottage cheese in pancakes and scaling it to a single serving (as I prefer). My batter was 1 egg, 1/4 cup oat floar, 1 tbsp cottage cheese, 1 tsp baking powder, and about a thumbs-length of crushed/pureed banana. I would up the cottage cheese but otherwise leave that alone and call it a success. Maybe change out the oat flour for something more standard (all purpose) or less standard (spelt/rye/etc mix).

I also wanted to cook some more simple, flavorful creations, so I made what you can see below. A recipe is left as an exercise to the reader. As a hint, the central part of the dish features roasted parsnip in a mushroom/onion "gravy" (a bit of butter and a helping of water). The only spices were cayenne (on the asparagus), rice vinegar (dressing for the arugula salad), and herbes de provence (in the gravy).

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