With all that’s going on right now, it can seem difficult to spend much time thinking about cooking. I know I’ve kept busy by checking the news and social media, wondering if I need to clean more and canceling every social interaction for the foreseeable future.
But after realizing how anxious and tired I felt over the past week, I decided I needed to take a break from the nonstop updates. While we should absolutely take COVID-19 seriously, and pay attention and follow the recommendations from health officials, there’s no reason to drive ourselves mad in the process. Let’s stay both safe and sane, not to mention rational and thoughtful. We’re all in this together.
So maybe now is actually a better time than any to think about cooking. With social distancing, we’re spending more time at home. For many of us, this may mean less eating out and more eating in. Although it may be a somber time for the world, we should still take comfort where we can get it, and for me, that’s always with food and cooking.
On the bright side, spring still starts this week, and I’m craving more fresh flavors with the longer days and slowly warming weather. It also happens to be just about the end of fresh citrus season. There’s something inherently cheerful about citrus. Maybe it’s the bright colors and association with the sun. Since we could all use some cheering up right about now, it sounds like a great time to make something extra citrusy.
The juice and zest of citrus both help to add the burst of fresh flavor to cooking and baking. Zest comes from the thin outer peel of citrus fruit and is easily obtained using a microplane or grater. You just don’t want to include the white part just under the skin, known as the pith, which is bitter. The juice is easy to get by squeezing the halved fruit by hand, or even better, by using one of those pointy wooden things called reamers. They cost about five dollars and are totally worth it. Though to make it easier to juice, you can roll your citrus on the counter before cutting open or heating it up for about ten seconds in the microwave.
You can add citrus flavor to so many dishes, but I went with something simple that we already know — pancakes. These pancakes feature the zest of Meyer lemons, which is actually a cross between lemons and Mandarin oranges. The result is an extra juicy fruit that’s sweeter and more flavorful than an ordinary lemon. I found bags of them at the grocery store the other week. Keep an eye out for some on your next outing to the store. If you can’t find them or don’t have them, that’s fine, as regular lemons or even oranges work just as well in this recipe.
The other interesting component of these pancakes is the ricotta cheese. Yeah, sure, it may be a bit indulgent, but we can use some indulgence these days. The ricotta, which is a fresh cheese that’s creamy and mild, makes these pancakes almost melt in your mouth. It’s what is used to fill cannoli and lasagna. Between the citrus and ricotta, you’ll have upgraded ordinary pancakes for these extraordinary times.
Meyer lemon and ricotta pancakes
makes: about 10 pancakes
2 Meyer lemons
1 cup ricotta
½ cup milk
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons neutral oil
Lemon curd, for serving (optional)
Honey, for serving (optional)
Zest and juice the lemons.
Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, milk, zest, one tablespoon of lemon juice and one tablespoon of honey in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and ginger. Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry until just combined. Let the batter rest for at least 5 minutes.
While the batter rests, heat the blackberries in a small pan over low heat with the remaining lemon juice and two tablespoons of honey. Let this gently simmer until the fruit starts to soften.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil to the pan. Add 1/3 cup of pancake batter to the pan and cook until bubbles form throughout, about 3 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook another couple of minutes until cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve the pancakes warm, topped with the cooked blackberries and some lemon curd and honey.