Since we last spoke, I’ve somehow reached the end of my first year of business school (marking the halfway point!!), secured a summer internship in market research, watched my sister win division 3 ultimate nationals with her team, and consumed divine cupcakes with Nora in Chicago.
Hanging out with Nora felt kind of like seeing a childhood friend you hadn’t seen in years and picking up right where you left off. That is to say, it felt like an instant connection, at least on my end. We’ve emailed and talked over the phone (#mbabonding), and finally got to meet in Chicago, when I had all day Friday to explore the city solo before watching my sister’s Ultimate tournament. I will be forever grateful to her for spending a good couple hours with me eating, walking, and ‘gramming like nerds (“okay, if you’re standing, I’m standing”) and talking about everything under the sun even though it was her husband’s birthday! Kind soul that she is, she also greeted me with a container of homemade, out-of-this-world cookies and doughnuts (which she promises will be posted soon) and assured me that though I’ve been vegging instead of getting back in the kitchen ever since finishing finals, the lacking-inspiration thing is okay. Decompression is a real thing, and so are kind humans. She made me feel eons better about the fact that inspiration has been lacking lately–partly out of an instinctual avoidance of the kitchen instilled over the past school year (should be studying/networking/anything but procrastinating with food!) and partly out of a sense of paralysis about this space. I keep feeling as though I need to find my niche, but the more I try to identify one, the less genuine anything feels. Which means I’m backing away slowly from that.
OXO catapulted me out of my posting slump with a campaign about a new line that I’m genuinely really excited about: GreenSaver Produce Keepers. Food waste is a huge problem in the U.S. (as much as 25% of all produce bought is wasted or discarded) and even though I was raised in a household that carefully monitored food waste and I try to buy only as much food as I will use, I’m still guilty of uncovering furry onions and wilted yellow kale in the bowels of my fridge.
The idea behind OXO’s GreenSavers is to combat the three elements that cause produce to spoil quickly: uncontrolled humidity, improper air flow, and ethylene gas, which is emitted by all fruits and vegetables and aids the ripening process. Carbon filters within the GreenSavers absorb excess ethylene while the mesh basket design helps aerate produce and prevent moisture buildup; a vent on the lid slides open and closed to help maintain humidity levels. And the mesh basket can be used as a colander, giving it dual functionality! I am ALL ABOUT every single aspect of these GreenSavers…except the fact that you have to change the carbon filter every 90 days, but small price to pay for longer-lasting produce, eh? You can find out more about GreenSavers here.
So, rhubarb. I’ve only dealt with it once before, and when Melissa’s Produce sent me a bundle to test out in my OXO GreenSaver, I immediately thought of classic strawberry-rhubarb combination, perhaps in pie or crumble form. But my laziness (just thinking about pie crust makes me sweat) and the oppressive heat that appeared overnight quickly transformed those early ideas into a far simpler, long-lost favorite: ultra-thick and fluffy buttermilk pancakes scattered with chunks of barely-sweetened rhubarb. The absolute best part of these pancakes is the crumble that’s pressed into the still-wet surface of each pancake before flipping. It adds a textural element that’s a little crumbly and sweet and makes these pancakes into my idea of a love child between a fruit crisp and a fruit-studded buttermilk cake.
I made one version with raw rhubarb macerated in lemon juice and brown sugar and one with rhubarb cooked down in brown sugar and butter. I slightly preferred the cooked rhubarb version, but raw bits make for delightfully crunchy, acidic highlights if that tickles your fancy. You can also sub any other fruit in for the rhubarb if rhubarb frightens you (as it used to frighten me). But I’ve since overcome my fear, and have compiled a long list of rhubarb to-do’s, mainly thanks to the wonderful Alanna (for more ideas, her Rhubarb Love board on Pinterest is a brilliant resource).
I strongly urge you to make these and BRUNCH LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW.
The key to these ultra-fluffy pancakes is a separated egg; I don't know why this works, but pay careful attention to the addition of the wet ingredients in this recipe. A few extra steps will reward you with extra-puffy, cakey pancakes. You can substitute any other fruit in place of the rhubarb, but please don't leave off the crumble!
- For the pancakes:
- ½ tablespoon butter
- 2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/4 or 1/2" chunks
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup milk of your choice, soured with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or neutral vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups wheat flour (I used half whole wheat/half all-purpose)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg, separated and at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
- For the crumble:
- 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
For the pancakes:
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add the rhubarb and sugar and cook for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Add a dash of water if the skillet starts to look dry. Alternately: For crisp, raw chunks of rhubarb, toss the rhubarb with sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and let sit while you make the batter.
Combine the milk with 1 tablespoon of acidic medium and let sit. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the egg yolk into the "buttermilk" and gently stir into the dry ingredients until barely combined.
Stir in the egg white until a thick, lumpy batter forms--it's okay if the egg white is not completely incorporated. Stir in the melted, cooled butter and lemon zest, if using, until just combined. Lastly, fold in the rhubarb mixture.
For the crumble:
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon, if using, then stir in melted butter or coconut oil. Flatten the mixture into a smooth layer along the bottom of your bowl.
Cook the pancakes:
Place a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Use a quarter cup to dollop batter into the preheated pan, then press some crumble gently into the surface of each pancake. Cook until bubbles start to appear around the edges of each pancake, about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancake and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter and crumble, lowering heat if the pancakes start to scorch; you shouldn't need to re-grease the pan. Serve immediately, topping pancakes with any extra crumble.