He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary. ~William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?
~Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

This post is not intended to be overly didactic or pontific. That capricious punctuation mark that separates words large and small, the comma, does not lend itself to such stringencies. Commas have been used since ancient times, but the modern comma descended from a revered Italian printer, Aldus Manutius (1449-1515). He also laid claim to italic typeface and the ever underutilized semicolon. Before the comma, the oblique virgule (/) — still the French term for comma — denoted a natural pause in speech. While committing Greek masterpieces to type, Manutius dropped this inclined slash lower relative to the text lines and crafted a distinct dot with a gentle metaphorical curve tailing down to the left. The new mark acquired the name comma, a word derived from the Greek komma (κόμμα) which means “to cut off.”

Always adaptive and even idiosyncratic, textual rules have been historically lax for commas. Over time, comma protocol became more codified and emphasized consistency over tonality. For instance, commas have been used to separate independent clauses when a conjunction (e.g., and, but, or) is used in a compound sentence. With appositives and parenthetical phrases, commas are crucial. Serial commas have also been used to separate listed items before the word “and” in a sentence. While some grammarians have insisted upon a squiggle there, others have not.

How punctuation rules have changed over time sometimes appears a matter of whimsy. In recent years, rules of thumb seem to be fading and a more laissez-faire approach has returned. More rules tend to be broken than followed in modern prose. Commas are again being inserted by ear and seem more attuned to individual style and meter. When in doubt, sound it out and listen for natural pauses and rhythms.

This recipe aims to gently kindle the hsien, those altruistic souls who promote munificence. The givers, not always the financial ones though. I have a hunch they love pancakes (and openly dislike or feign subservience to Trumpsters, otherwise known as takers).

Homey stuff.

RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH MEYER LEMONS & BLUEBERRIES

2 C all purpose flour
3/4 C sugar
Small pinch of sea salt
1 t baking powder

4 egg yolks
1 C+ ricotta cheese
3/4 C whole milk
2 Meyer lemons, juiced
1 Meyer lemon, zested

4 egg whites
Pinch of sea salt

Butter
1 pint fresh blueberries

Pure maple syrup

Sift together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the egg yolks, ricotta, milk and lemon zest and juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir/fold until combined.

In another bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture, so the pancakes will be light and fluffy.

Preheat griddle or sauté pan.

Melt butter onto the preheated griddle, then spoon or ladle the batter onto the prepared griddle to desired size. When the pancake top shows bubbles and then holes, it is ready to flip. Sprinkle each pancake with a few blueberries and press down lightly. Then, flip the cakes and cook until the bottom is golden as well.

Serve on plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

SCALLOP PANCAKES, CREME FRAICHE & CAVIAR

1/4 lb. scallops, chopped
1 T fresh chives, minced

2 large organic, free range eggs
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 C club soda
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

2 T peanut oil

Fresh chives, sliced lengthwise
Crème fraîche
Caviar or salmon roe

Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, club soda, salt, and pepper and stir until a batter forms. Stir in the scallops and chives.

Heat enough peanut oil to cover a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Spoon enough batter into the pan to form a 3-4″ diameter pancakes. Cook until lightly browned and then turn and cook the other side.

Serve garnished with a dollop of crème fraîche, a spoonful of caviar and chives; or serve or over a fresh frisée salad which has been tossed with a champagne vinaigrette.

CREME FRAICHE

2 C heavy whipping cream
4 T buttermilk

In a medium heavy saucepan over low heat, warm the cream, but do not simmer or boil. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Transfer the to a large bowl and allow to stand covered with plastic wrap until thickened but still of pouring consistency. Stir every 6 hours for one day. The crème fraîche is ready when it is thick with a slightly nutty sour taste. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours before using. Crème fraîche may be made and stored in a jar the refrigerator for up to one week.

I remember when I was a kid I used to come home from Sunday School and my mother would get drunk and try to make pancakes.
~George Carlin

Is Kansas truly as flat as a pancake?

A few years ago, three geographers compared the flatness of Kansas to the flatness of a pancake. The findings of these scientists from Texas State and Arizona State Universities were published in the Annals of Improbable Research. They used topographic data from a digital scale model prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, and they carefully culled a pancake from the International House of Pancakes. If perfect flatness were a value of 1.00, they reported, the calculated flatness of a pancake would be 0.957 “which is pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat”. Kansas’s flatness however turned out to be 0.997, which they said might be described, mathematically speaking, as “damn flat.”

One of my now grown nieces asked for the pancake recipe which we often made on Saturday mornings when everyone was young—a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. For good measure, a recipe for their more delicate French cousins, crêpes, is posted as well. By no means are these flat delicacies limited to breakfast fare.

BUTTERMILK PANCAKES

Dry Stuff:
3 C all purpose flour
6 T sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t sea salt

Wet Stuff:
4+ C buttermilk
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs

2 T coconut or canola oil
1-2 T unsalted butter

Unsalted butter
Maple syrup
Preserves or jam (optional)
Berries (optional)

Whisk dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and with a spoon gently mix them together until just combined. You may need to add more buttermilk to attain the proper batter consistency. After mixing, the batter should have some small lumps. Make sure you do not over mix the batter, or the pancakes will be tough and rubbery, as gluten is created.

Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium low heat — until a few sprinkles of water dropped on the griddle or skillet dance about (a lesson mother taught me). Then, place some coconut oil and put a tablespoon or more of butter on griddle or skillet. When oil & butter foam subsides, ladle pancake batter onto griddle or skillet, using a ladle or 1/3 measuring cup, directing the batter into rounds and making pancakes of any size you desire. But, do not overcrowd.

Cook until bubbles form on the top of the pancake and turn until the underside is light brown. Adjust heat as necessary; usually, the first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. Almost invariably, the first batch will be of lesser quality. So, as with all cooking keep the faith.

Pancakes can be served in many ways: by rolling them around a curtailed sweet preserve filling; presented flat with butter and real maple syrup; or with just a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

For blueberry, blackberry or other berry pancakes: using restraint, sprinkle fresh berries on the tops of the pancakes just as bubbles start to appear on the top surface of the batter, then turn when ready.

Serve.

Pourboire: Pure maple syrup is far superior to the artificial varieties, which are often made with corn syrup and maple flavoring. Maple syrup is graded based upon USDA regulations according to color and flavor. Grade A Light Amber, is quite light and has a mild, delicate maple bouquet and flavor. Grade A Medium Amber, is a tad darker, and has a more pronounced maple flavor. Grade A Dark Amber, is darker yet, with a robust and hearty maple flavor. Grade B, sometimes called Cooking Syrup, is made late in the season, and is very dark, with a very strong maple flavor, as well as some caramel flavor. Finally, consider topping a small stack of fresh pancakes with a healthy dollop of fine ricotta.

CREPES

1 C whole milk
2 large eggs
1 C all purpose flour
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 t salt

Unsalted butter for cooking

Jam or preserves (your choice)
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 200 F

Blend milk, eggs, flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt in a blender, scraping down side once or twice, until batter is smooth, about 1 minute. Let batter stand at room temperature 1 hour which allows the bubbles to subside and helps prevent tears during cooking.

Add butter to a heavy nonstick skillet to coat bottom. Heat over moderate heat until hot, then pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet, tilting to coat bottom evenly. Cook until the underside is pale golden, 1 to 2 minutes, then loosen crêpe and flip with a spatula. Again cook until the underside is pale golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a heatproof platter and keep warm in oven.

Again with restraint, spread with your favored jam or preserves, roll them up and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Hae mul pa jun, hae mool pa jun, haemul pajun, hae mul pa jeon, haemool-pahjun, haemul jun. This scallion pancake is a flat delectable app and speaks to the Korean sea culture. I tend to make both dipping sauces, fine balances between sweet, spice and acid—as they can be used with other dishes, fishes, finger foods and keep fairly well in the fridge for a day or two.

HAE MUL PA JUN

2 C all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-2 T canola oil
1 1/2 C cold water

6 scallions, green parts only, cut into 3 inch lengths and sliced lengthwise
8 chopped scallions
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 small to medium zucchini, trimmed and grated
6 oz fresh squid, cleaned, rinsed and thinly chopped
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, rinsed and chopped

In a medium bowl, mix flour, eggs and oil with water until a smooth batter is formed. It should be a tad thinner than traditional buttermilk pancake batter. Stir chives, carrots, zucchini, shrimp and squid into batter.

Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then coat bottom with oil. Ladle in about a quarter of the batter and spread it out evenly into a circle; if first pancake is too thick to spread easily, add a little water to batter for remaining pancakes. Turn heat to medium and cook until bottom is browned, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

As each batch of pancakes finishes, remove and drain on paper towels.

Cut pancakes into triangular wedges and serve with dipping sauces.

RICE VINEGAR & SOY DIPPING SAUCE
1 T rice vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

RED CURRY PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2 to 3 t Thai red curry paste
8 to 10 T water
2 t peanut or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then thin with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.