Let's talk about serendipity, shall we? Not the movie, or that spot in New York. The real thing.
"the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident."
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, at least.
Allow me a moment of etymology geekdom. Did you know that that word "serendipity" was apparently coined after the Persian tale of the three princes of Serendip (Sri Lanka)? The trio embarked on a mission, only to meet seemingly irrelevant things. Ultimately however, those irrelevanices ended up being exactly what they needed. NEATO!
Yesterday, whilst up to my ears prepping and photographing this week's recipe, my head nearly snapped off my neck when I noticed the quintessential video of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans playing on TV.
Could it be that it was actually Fat Tuesday? Could I have been so absorbed in my own petty comings and goings that I forgot Lent was upon us?!
Yes, I had. What kind of Catholic-raised girl am I? But before I could beat myself up with my whisk, serendipity and what I'm calling my "subconscious Catholic" kicked in.
I looked down, realised what I was making and laughed. See, when I was little, my first and only cooking experience at primary school coincided with Fat Tuesday. We made pancakes that day, and guess what this week's recipe just so happens to be? PANCAKES! Isn't that wild?
Why did we make pancakes that day? Well, since Lent was a time when you would abstain from fat and eggs, you would try use up all the remaining bits on the last day before Ash Wednesday. Hence the name Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" in French). Pancakes were a perfect way to use the last bits up. And so, Shrove/Fat Tuesday is also called Pancake Day in the UK. Other cultures make doughnuts and sweet pastries.
What a great day it is around the world! Flour! Eggs! Butter! Sugar! Down the hatch!! Eat it quick before the sun goes down and we have to start fasting!
And so I present you my humble offering for the global gorging of sugar and fat ahead of the long Lentan season: Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Maple-Cinnamon-Chile Caramelized Apples. It's an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe.
But before I leave you, since Lent is a reflective, sober time, and I'm a self-professed Jesus freak (ha!) I thought I'd end with a quote from the One to whom the next 40 days is dedicated, a rebel even by today's standards who challenged you and me to embrace this radical idea:
"You have heard it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?"
Like the princes of Serendip, this seems like an unlikely, irrelevant practice for me to achieve MY enlightenment or inner peace, doesn't it?!!! But I have a feeling that this is exactly what I need. What about you?
Serendipitous Pancakes: Meyer Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Cinnamon-Chile-Maple dipped Apples
You'll need this stuff (plus sugar!):
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2/3 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
3 tbsp maple syrup (fake or real stuff)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chile powder
(You can also make some cinnamon-chile maple syrup on the side to pour over the pancakes at the end by following these proportions)
1) Don't be a dummy like I was; peel the apple BEFORE you start slicing it!
2) Cut down the side of the apple, around the core. Alternatively, if you have a corer, core the apple and cut pretty rings. Slice the apple thinly, but not so thin that it will fall apart in the pan.
3) In a bowl with a wide, flat bottom, whisk together the cinnamon, chile and maple syrup until combined. You can also sprinkle a little salt in this mixture. Yum. Dip apple slices in the the maple syrup and let them hang out while you make the pancake batter.
4) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, ricotta, eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice, until the mixture just comes together. Don't over-stir; you'll get tough pancakes. Don't stir until all the bumps are gone -- those will give you fluffy pancakes.
5) Warm a griddle or a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Melt some butter in the skillet or brush some melted butter over the griddle. Meanwhile, if your house is cold like mine, set your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and place an oven-safe plate in there. You can keep cooked pancakes on this plate until you're ready to serve!
6) When the butter is nice and hot, grab three slices of dipped apple and place them in the skillet, like they're spooning (awww!). The syrup should bubble and sizzle and your mouth just might start watering.
7) After about 10 seconds, spoon a ladle of batter (about 1/3 cup) over the apple slices, and cook on both sides until golden brown (don't burn them like I did!). Keep cooked pancakes on your nicely warmed plate in the oven, until you've finished all the batter.
8) Serve with a squeeze of lemon and either regular syrup or a batch of cinnamon-chile syrup.
I hope your Lent is full of serendipity!