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In my personal mythology I am a graceful creature. I glide into rooms, move with the fluid ease of someone who is comfortable in her own skin; someone with elegance and poise. But the truth of the matter is, I’m actually a bit of a klutz. Okay, maybe not just a bit. I’m a terrible klutz, as anyone who knows me well can attest to. Miraculously, I’ve never broken any bones, but my skin is always bruised from bumping into furniture, my skin marred with the scars from more than a few burns. As it happens, food always plays a starring role in my mishaps.
I’ve ruined many a white shirt with blueberry or wine stains. My cupboards are full of sets of dishes missing pieces I’ve dropped on the floor. My hands, even my arms (don’t ask!), bear burn marks from my battles in the kitchen. It’s not that I don’t do my best to be careful, but because timing is so crucial while cooking, I can go from methodically and contemplatively chopping ingredients for a mirepoix to frantically trying to do three things at once. This is usually when accidents happen.
On Saturday, I was really looking forward to cooking dinner for my friend T. and had happily set aside the afternoon to work through my menu: lobster pie, strawberry and spinach salad, blueberry crisp. I knew things were not going to go well when I cut my finger chopping onions for the pie; within a space of an hour I also dropped a Pyrex measuring cup on the ground and cut my toe on one of the splinters.
Cooking can be a dangerous craft. I once contemplated a career as a chef–for about five minutes. I don’t have the physical stamina that is required for a life in the kitchen. Besides, I’d probably accidentally set my hair on fire or cut off my pinky.
So for now, I’m happy to write about food and cook for my family and friends, accidents notwithstanding. Because what’s a little cut or two compared to the satisfaction you get when you’ve made something truly wonderful and have made people you care about happy?
Individual Blueberry Crisps
I like to make crisps in individual 4-inch ramekins. They’re so pretty and easy to serve this way. You can make any kind of crisp you like with a couple of cups of chopped fruit and a crumbling of oats and brown sugar. Be sure to use rolled oats, not the quick cooking kind, or you will end up with a soggy mess. I chose blueberries, not only because they’re in season but because their tangy sweetness are the perfect foil for this crisp, buttery topping. Serve with a dollop of whip cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Loosely adapted from All Recipes
2 rounded cups blueberries
3 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup cold butter
1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the blueberries with the white sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl and set aside.
2) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut the butter into cubes and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. Butter the ramekins and press half the mixture into the bottoms. Fill each ramekin with the blueberries.
3) Sprinkle the remaining topping over the berries. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling.
Here on the west coast this weekend we lost a lot of the sunshine that had been blazing for the last couple of weeks. It’s known to rain a lot in Vancouver, sometimes even in June, so turning on my air conditioning for the first time this year was exciting. After the winter we’ve had, it’s been a long time coming.
But sun or no sun, it was a lovely weekend, spent with family and friends, and partaking in a few of my favorite pastimes–mainly reading, writing, and of course, cooking. I started Saturday morning off with these blueberry buttermilk pancakes. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t have cereal for breakfast. On the weekend I may treat myself to bacon and eggs, eaten with toasted homemade bread and a couple of vine-ripened tomatoes. I’m all for self-indulgence, but pancakes for one seems silly when I only eat one or two.
If I’m going to eat pancakes, it’s going to be with my niece. Nikka is three and loves blueberry pancakes. When I visit her house, I like to make us some for breakfast. We get some alone time while her parents catch up on much-needed sleep.
This weekend was a really special one for Nikka. She participated in the Children’s Miracle weekend to raise money for BC’s Children Hospital. She also won the t-shirt design contest; her design was printed on 5,000 t-shirts that were worn by children at the event! All in all, over 15 million dollars were raised to help children with cancer.
Here is that fabulous t-shirt!
Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t she brilliant? A Picasso in the making! She’s three!
Here we are on my birthday when she was a wee bit younger. Isn’t she unbelievably cute?
I was thinking about Nikka when I made these pancakes on Saturday. I did only eat a couple and froze the rest. Maybe she’ll come to her aunt’s house one day soon and we can have blueberry pancakes for breakfast together again.
Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”. Makes 4-6 servings.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 cup frozen blueberries
1) Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat while making the batter.
2) Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Coat the blueberries with some of the flour mixture so they don’t turn the batter blue when you add them. Beat the eggs into the milk and then stir in the melted butter.
3) Gently stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. The flour should be moistened but not over mixed and you may have some lumps. If the batter is too thick, add a bit of milk. Fold in the blueberries.
4) For cooking, use a bit more butter or a neutral oil to prevent the pancakes from sticking. Ladle batter onto the griddle or skillet to form the size of pancakes desired. Adjust the heat if necessary.
5) Brown the bottom of the pancakes for 2-4 minutes. Flip when bubbles appear in the center of the pancake and the bottoms are golden. Cook the second side until also well-browned, a couple of more minutes. Pancakes should be served immediately but can be kept warming in a 200F oven until you finish making the whole batch.