Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Home Run Blueberry and Walnut Pancakes


This post was in honor of National Pancake Week earlier this year. In my mind, however, Pancake Week is every week. 


I took my three nephews - David, Michael and Tommy - when there were small to Boston's legendary Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in the South End. I had just moved out of the apartment I shared with my husband, soon to be Ex. Charlie's was an oasis, and it was a way to thank my nephews for having come to my place to help pack boxes and hang out. 


At Charlie's we shared some precious moments over pancakes (griddlecakes in their lexicon) and serendipity broke out when a famous Red Sox player walked in. You can read the whole post in Where Hash Rules, a delicious narrative about the people - past and present - surrounding this iconic diner, which opened in 1927. 

Where Hash Rules is available at Powell's Books (great indie bookseller based in Oregon), Amazon and other retailers. Buy Where Hash Rules in May and fight childhood cancer: One dollar from each sale will go toward Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Oh, and if you try this recipe, let me know how it goes!  


I often bribe my nephews with food. So, when they came to help their city-living aunt pack boxes to move, I rewarded them with breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe. Now, picture three brothers—ages 12, 10 and 9-ish—from the ‘burbs in the South End for the first time. Even looking for parking was exciting.
We took our seats at the counter and marveled at the action in the short-order kitchen. We all got pancakes. They came as these giant, steamy discs hanging over the sides of the plates with gobs of melting butter.
The guy at the counter, covered in tattoos, engaged the boys in banter, adding color to the morning as we ate. It was rumored that then Boston Red Sox star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra often came in for breakfast. David, the oldest, joked, “Oh, there he is!” He wasn’t. “Oh, Dave,” the boys teased. We tore into the pancakes, creating gooey goodness sweetened by maple syrup.
Five minutes later, guess who walks in.
Though the cliffhanger can wait, the pancakes cannot.
Home Run Blueberry Pancakes with Walnuts
Thanks to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 13th Ed. (by Marion Cunningham, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), I discovered a foolproof recipe for delicious blueberry pancakes. This version is my own recipe, earning kudos from friends who love the combination of brown-sugar sweetness, walnuts and blueberries.
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried; if using frozen blueberries, thaw thoroughly and drain
¼ cup chopped walnuts
In a large mixing bowl lightly beat the milk, melted butter and eggs. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients—flour, sugars, baking powder, salt—together until blended. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture, stirring just to coat the flour. Add the blueberries and the walnuts and gently mix in, be careful not to stir the batter too much or the pancakes will be more tough than fluffy.
Heat butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Once the pan or griddle is hot, spoon about ¼ cup of batter onto the pan to create the pancakes. Make sure you leave room to flip them. Reduce heat to medium. Once bubbles form on top and along the sides, and pancakes are lightly browning on the bottom, they’re ready to flip with a spatula. Brown the other side—about 2 minutes. Remove and keep the pancakes warm in an oven-proof dish in a 200-degree oven. Place a lightly damp, clean dish towel over the pancakes to keep them soft and warm.
Serve with butter and real maple syrup.

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