Buttermilk Pancakes with Salted Sorghum Butter Syrup

I have several hindering, neurotic tendencies.  None that constitute madness or the need for medication, per se,  just ones that are terribly annoying.  It has to do with the way my brain orders things. It all harkens back to this whole "not quite right-brained, not quite left-brained" thing I got going on over here. 

For example, I have a deep need for order (don't catch me without my calendar) yet that doesn't translate into, say, a well-organized desk or a car that doesn't look like I've been living in it for the past six months. When I read magazines, it's imperative that I start at the beginning and read it page by page all the way to the end. No detours, no flipping to random pages or starting in the back. Same with books. I have to finish one before I start another. Unless it's a short story compilation because then I can start and finish stories without feeling like I've disrupted the order of the book on deck. Wacky, I know. 

This brings me to the neurotic thorn in my side I am presently trying to conquer. The impossible, self-imposed mental order of my blog queue. I can't shake it. Therefore, a blog that sits in this fancied queue must be completed (in proper order) and published before I move on to the next one.

Is this the law? No. Am I bound by contract to go along in this way? Nope. Is someone holding a gun to my head? Um, negative. But, it feels this rigid in my head.  

I am currently working on a rather long and involved post about my trip across the Carolinas on a BBQ tour and I noticed my brain doing that strange, left-brained stutter step. You should see my photo files. It's like the graveyard of blog posts past.  There are symposiums and sandwiches- well documented, styled and lovingly snapped that may never get a day in the sun. So sad.

All of this to say that I'm trying to break this odd habit of mine. Right now. With buttermilk pancakes and salted sorghum butter syrup. I finally got a batch of sorghum molasses from Underwood Family Farms, the fabled syrup raved about by some of my favorite food peoples in town. I've heard wondrous things about this sorghum, namely that it's the best. A jar of this amber tar finally landed in my kitchen last Saturday and may have ruined me for any other sorghum syrup that walks into my life hereafter. Not even kidding. I have never tasted anything like it. It was thick and viscous, deep, complex and sweet.

My friend Brian Rollins gave me a loaf of sourdough bread at market and I took to slathering sorghum all over torn hunks of bread for a little longer than I care to admit. The next hour was spent with my nose in cookbooks looking up all the ways I can use this sticky tar of the heavens. Braised and glazed short ribs, tossed on roasted root vegetables, in warm spice cakes, scones, cookies, dressings… My mind is proverbially covered in the stuff. 

Aside from the shameful bread and molasses combo,  my first real attempt at using the sorghum happened with buttermilk pancakes. Partly because I had leftover buttermilk but more because I wanted to use that incredible sorghum molasses. Essentially, the Mister and I ate pancakes with salted caramel but, for appearances sake, we called it syrup. Because that sounds more civilized than dessert for breakfast, right? Of course it does. 

Buttermilk Pancakes with Salted Sorghum Butter Syrup

While making pancakes, I realized I ran out of A/P flour and substituted some spelt flour for the remainder of the flour called for by the recipe. I rather liked the result and flavor the spelt added. If you don't have spelt on hand, substitute A/P flour or try another type and see what happens. Also, I recommend a large flaky salt for this recipe whether it be Maldon or some other kosher or coarse grain. 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, eggs and vanilla and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together until just combined. Heat a pan over medium heat and add butter (or oil) to the pan, drop 1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle. Once bubbles form on the top, flip the pancake over and cook until golden on the other side. Keep warm in the preheated oven until ready to serve.

For the salted sorghum butter syrup: 

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1/2 cup sorghum molasses 
  • 2 teaspoons flaky salt such as Maldon (plus more, to taste) 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the sorghum molasses and whisk to combine thoroughly. Stir the salt into the butter. Taste, and add more if necessary. Drizzle over pancakes and definitely add a few flakes of flaky salt on top for good measure. 

February in Pictures

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I'm not sure I could remember what happened during the month of February were it not for this recap in pictures. I'm also sure that I reached my quota for the phrase, "I'd lose my head if it weren't attached" because it was the only apropos way to describe the frantic and wide-eyed terror that quietly possessed me most of the month. Not to say that this was a bad month. It was quite good. Perhaps this quote from Robert DeNiro, shared by my friend and respected writer, Amy Rogers will explain: 

"The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeinated, addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And, that's on a  good day."

I feel you, DeNiro. I feel you. 

And, I can hear some of you now….letting out a sympathetic "awwww" for me.  But don't.

It really is all good. In spite of feeling like someone took to scrambling eggs inside my brain (a mental burden not unique to me, by the way), I enjoyed the beginnings of a new season in February.

Let's review. 

We sprouted seeds inside the house for the first time ever. The Mister constructed a bomb table and fluorescent light setup and I tended to the seed babies ever so vigilantly. It was a true joy until I got overzealous and transplanted them a smidge too early. Okay, weeks early. Live and learn, I guess. That's what March is for I suppose.  The Mister and I also planted onions outside in one of the boxes we found while dumpster diving and they heartily enjoyed the ten inches of snow that was the evil (and awesome) polar vortex.

The snow days were a welcome respite. I crafted with my girlfriends, baked cookies, watched movies, drank coffee and made the Mister these snow day short ribs topped with our homemade kimchi. 

February was ripe with events too. I attended another beautiful symposium by my friends in Rock Hill who continually inspire me and encourage my thinking. This time the topic was truth. As always, the subject matter was right on time. The symposium was my break from a particularly pressing deadline which proved to be exactly what I needed. Tommy Tomlinson gave an inspiring talk that came in handy when I needed to put that deadline to bed. I'm eagerly looking forward to April when that story, a tale of beauty and bottomless faith, publishes here

I also enjoyed a one night stand with the Cheshire Dinner Society and got to watch Chef Greg Collier of the Yolk Cafe get his creativity on.  Just so you know, dude is way more than breakfast.

The rest of the month inside the hamster wheel was broken up with a few opportunities to cook for others, one of my favorite things to do.  I roasted a chicken with fresh herbs and root vegetables for the parents of a brand new baby girl with the best hair I've seen since I came out of the womb looking like Liza Minelli.  I also cooked a massive batch of collards for a friend making an unexpected move. You know, now that I write it all out, February was ALLLRIGHT. I had wonderful moments of togetherness with friends, new experiences and ample rest.  Now, if someone will please notify the committee in my head to stop making all that racket. 

Kimchi Love

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I can't pinpoint when my obsession with kimchi started. Or, fermented vegetables for that matter. I love that sour tang of patiently aged produce, that signature "zing!" that hits you in the back of your teeth in such a way that you can feel it in your temples. I can eat whole jars of sauerkraut in one sitting, juice and all. One of my favorite, regular and admittedly strange breakfasts is a plate full of scrambled eggs topped with sauerkraut and diced avocado. The more kraut the better. I don't know what it is about the stuff and I don't care. Sometimes you just have to go with it. 

My love for kimchi comes from an equally strange place. I did not grow up eating or knowing much about Korean food. I am not well-versed in its cuisine. All I know is that I have an innate affinity for the flavor of kimchi– spicy, garlicky, fermented cabbage, laden with onions and ginger kissed.  If and when I get the rare chance to eat Korean food, I house the kimchi portion of the banchan. When I visited San Francisco for the first time last year, I delighted in a Kimchi Ramyun bowl from Namu Gaji, a comforting bowl of hand pulled noodles in a spicy kimchi broth that I still talk about like an old lover. 

As my love for kimchi grows, I've taken an interest in learning more. Enter Maangchi, a blog by a woman named Emily Kim. My Korean food tour guide, if you will. For a beginner like me, the Maangchi website is helpful on so many levels. Kim offers lists of Korean food products, how and where to find Korean ingredients and best of all, her video tutorials.  Plus, she's got pretty dope knife skills for a home cook. I followed the Maangchi recipe for Kimchi and kkakdugi (Korean radish).  

I came upon some gorgeous Napa cabbage heads while working on a story about the Bush n' Vine, a third generation family-owned farm in York, South Carolina.  Nearly nine pounds of it. If you're local, the Bush n' Vine also sells their produce inside the Atherton Mill and Market food hub.  Making kimchi is not hard, but it takes time. Then, it takes patience. The process of salting the cabbage and preparing the signature gochugaru (Korean red pepper) paste that is the hallmark of traditional kimchi takes a few hours and then fermenting takes weeks longer. Old school kimchi was placed in jars and buried in the ground to ferment. I let mine go for about three weeks, mostly in the refrigerator but for a couple days on my countertop which helped the flavor immensely.

I've been sharing my bounty with friends and finding uses for it everywhere–on my eggs (because that's my life), on top of soy braised short ribs, over rice, out of the jar… the options are endless. The obsession is real.  My house stinks, kimchi stains linger on my fingers (although I did use gloves for the initial application of the kimchi paste) and I'm already plotting my next batch. Next up is kimchi-jiggae, kimchi buchimgae and this kimchi relish

How about you? Tell me of your fermenting adventures. 

On Turning 33

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NOTE: It's February. My birthday was over two weeks ago.  I had great intentions to post this blog on my birthday. When that day passed, I agreed (in my head) that it would be shortly after. Surely in the month of January at the very least, I told myself.  And now, it's February. Sigh.  As a mature woman of 33 years, I'll have to classify this as a "leaves in the pool" kind of problem. What I'm really saying is I'm not sorry. But, I had to make a note telling you that because I still care what you think of me, even if you are some faraway person in the digishphere whom I've never met. Also, because I needed to get right with all the people who are keeping tabs at home on their wall calendar about when and how much I actually blog . Because that really happens, right?  It doesn't? Oh, well just in case- I want you to know that I'm not sorry. But if I were, there's this note. Or whatever. 

I turned 33 two and a half weeks ago (back when it was January) and anyone who knows me, knows that birthdays are my jam. Yes, I'm that annoyingly upbeat girl that wakes up early on birthday morning, exuberant grin plastered on my pillow pocked face ready to proclaim to EVERYONE that it's MY day.  For the ENTIRE day. The Mister gets the first dose. I roll over and tap him on his sleepy shoulder and whisper, "It's my birthday." And, off I go into the world.

Birthdays are mostly an unplanned event.  I prefer things to happen organically. My only wish is to spend the early parts of the day on my own, wandering where and how I please with no agenda. This year, I got my wish plus quality time with my mama (birthday pedicures, woot!) and the Mister. We had a great meal at Fork! in Cornelius, cupcakes from Sunflour and I squeezed in a quick photo shoot at The Asbury for my latest column. We were home early and the day was just as good as any. To be honest, it was pleasantly uneventful. 

It wasn't about the day, more the reflection on all that has transpired up until now. Namely, in the last three years. My thirties, really.  I feel like the years leading up to my thirties were filled with incredible amounts of waiting–waiting to find my path, waiting for the right opportunity, waiting for my life to change. 

Then, like getting swept into a rapid current, everything changed. Brand new life. Wham! Bam!  We moved. The Mister and I changed career paths and as quick as Thanksgiving dinner gets scarfed off the table, all the seemingly endless waiting faded into the minutiae and life spit me out into a new season. 

Things have been moving so fast that I don't think I've even had time to properly reflect on it. Distilled into two words, my thirties have been about work and change. Positive change, even when it didn't feel like it. The Mister and I are still living like college students thanks to our desire to pursue the things we love, but we're a better team these days. We've learned to live with less and to laugh more. Teamwork to make the dream work is the mantra. 

To me, 33 feels a bit like staring down the barrel of a deadline pretty much all the time. I've gotten used to that pressure, but haven't fully grasped the balance of it all. I still struggle to nurture my relationships and live a well-rounded existence.  I used to have a fear of failure and now it's fear of success.  At 33, I've learned that fear can be more of a symbiotic parasite than a bloodsucking demon. I can have it, move through it and remain unharmed. 

I am more at peace with the world around me. Not that I was a cantankerous ball of nerves before, but I don't sweat the small stuff as much. Faith has been a huge factor. As it strengthens, my dependence on things material and temporal lessens.  The kung-fu grip of self-will releases its tightly balled fist and instead reaches out and up for help. 

I hang onto a little saying from the Mister that helps with this frenetic new season: "What's supposed to stay is gonna stay and what's supposed to go, will go."  

So, like I do each year on my birthday...off I go into the world. 

P.S.- every month I'll share a grid from my Instagram photos. In the month of January, I was pleased to see that I had done two things that I've never done before. I painted something and made kimchi for the first time. Blog post on the kimchi is next.  Looking forward to learning, doing and enjoying more firsts in 2014! 

Roasted Matchstick Carrots with Mint-Walnut Pesto

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I am just now realizing that this is the second post in a row about carrots and no, I am not sorry about it. We keep it seasonal around these parts. Every Saturday, I venture to the farmer's markets with a general list of items to buy- meat, greens, eggs. But, as seasonal eating goes, there is never a guarantee you will find everything on said list. More often, though, I end up finding more. The market is full of beautiful surprises which I just can't pass up. This is precisely I love about eating seasonally and this is how I came upon these carrots.

I already had a big fat bundle of workhorse carrots in my market sack from my friends at Way of Life Farm, the kind of sturdy staples you need for mirepoix and flavor bases. But, when I landed at Atherton Market (my second stop on Saturdays), I noticed the daintiest bundles of rainbow carrots lining the Coldwater Creek Farms booth. I made a mental note to return after circling around once. Less than five minutes later, the carrots were nearly wiped out. I scooped up the last two skinny bundles in a hurry.  

I love roasting a skinny carrot and dressing it up with big flakes of sea salt. Roasting deepens their flavor and gives them a tender crunch while the carrot maintains its trademark sweetness. Finger food at its finest, if you ask me.  On this day, I had some leftover mint and set out to make a mint-pistachio pesto. Except I had no pistachios. I did, however, have walnuts and so it was a mint-walnut pesto I made. I'm learning (slowly) to use what I have instead of running to the store for every little ingredient. It's a hard habit to break, but is helping me to stretch my resourcefulness in the kitchen. 

I was gifted with some lovely light on this Saturday afternoon which made these beauties even more stunning. I couldn't help but honor them with a blog post. I also made kimchi for the first time that day. More on that soon. Until then, enjoy this simple recipe for roasted carrots and keep your eyes peeled for a beautiful bundle in your neck of the woods.

Roasted Carrots with Mint-Walnut Pesto 

2 Bundles of matchstick rainbow carrots

2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread carrots evenly on baking sheet and drizzle with coconut oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes and then flip the carrots and roast five minutes more.  Toss carrots with mint-walnut pesto and serve warm if you can. 

For the Pesto (from Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 cups mint leaves 

1 cup flat parsley, with stems

1 garlic clove 

1 anchovy fillet, in oil

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted 

Salt and fresh ground pepper 

Puree the first 7 ingredients in a food processor and season to taste with salt and pepper. Recipe can be made two days ahead. I salted the carrots liberally and so did not need to add extra salt to the pesto recipe that was tossed with the carrots. 

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