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Can you Orecchiette me?

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Home for the weekend and almost no travel ahead of me for the next 30 days – just a day trip here and there. It’s an awesome feeling. I will be sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my own kitchen, running along the isar, playing with the cats, every single day through the month of July. Today, after a month of no significant interesting cooking/recipes because I was on the road most of May/June (or it felt like it), I got a chance to really splurge and spend most of the day in the kitchen, quietly preparing dinner, almost meditating as I pressed and folded, pressed and folded, little Italian-shaped “orcchiette” – which means “little ear” in Italian.

I’d seen this recipe a month or two back, and though it is more of a late spring recipe, because stinging nettles are rather more of a spring ingredient, I didn’t have a chance to tackle it until today. And there are still plenty of nettles around my neighborhood, you just have to take care and look for younger ones, preferably those that haven’t yet flowered. I loaded up the bike basket with a bag, rubber gloves, and scissors and went in search of the weeds. It didn’t take long to find some.

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There they are, to the right of the bike, mixed in with all kinds of other stuff, but easy enough to spot, their nasty little venomous needles out and ready to bite.

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You only cut the top tender leaves off, which I did. Cups of them – perhaps seven or eight – and then I brought them home, to soak in cold water. I wear the gloves all the way through the moment I get them in the pan. I was reminded during the collection, that even a gentle swish of an arm against a leaf is enough to leave a burn.

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But washed and prepped, they look innocuous enough. Sauteed with garlic and onion and then pureed, they are a bit like spinach, but with a wild tang to them. Supposedly quite healthy as well, and I always like gathering things that end up in my dinner.

So on to the pasta. That was a nice mix of standard semolina and in my case, buckwheat, as I didn’t have any rye and couldn’t find it at the store yesterday. Mixed with water, the dough rests for an hour or so before you roll it out and begin the process of creating each of the little “ears.” I had no idea it would take so long, but I did a 600 gram recipe, meaning about 210 or 220 of those ears…each carefully hand rolled, hand pressed, hand folded. It was sort of relaxing ultimately, especially if you can just sit there and watch Netflix for two hours while you do it.

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Weigh out 100 grams, roll it into a log, cut the log into 30-35 pieces.

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Roll each into a little ball. And then press them into shape – a little concave hollow and then press the edges back…to look like an ear. Repeat with the next 100 grams, taking care to always keep the rest of the pasta well covered in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out as you roll.

There is probably a shortcut, I just haven’t learned it yet.

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And let them dry out on a cloth or some baking sheets for a few hours.

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I’ll put the uneaten ones in the freezer and cook them another time. But for tonight, the rest of the recipe was quite easy.

Chop herbs (mint, dill, chives) and crumble some feta. Zest a lemon. Place it all in the bowl where the dish comes together.

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While you boil the pasta, saute some oyster mushrooms, throw in some fresh peas, dollop the nettle pesto you’ve made into the mix, stir in some pasta water, and finally mix it all together.

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I love how the little ears gently cradle the peas – a perfect bite of sauce in each little ear. (Cute, no!!?!).

And each bite was lovely, a medley of flavors, each bite a little different: fresh herbs, the salty cheese, the sweet peas, the gentle buckwheat flavor of the dough in the background.

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And to finish off our meal, I’d made a simple upside-down cherry and cornmeal cake. A coffee cake, as it turned out, served with a spoonful of petit suisse cheese mixed with a bit of honey.

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Happy Sunday Supper.

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After that, Monday doesn’t feel so bad, does it?

 

 

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Bananas for Bananas

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Well the last business trip wasn’t quite as inspiring as some of the ones before. ;-) An interview meeting here two weeks ago …ja, not in the middle of the dirt field, but around the corner in a very nearby building…where was that again? Ah yes, not too far from Cologne. An hour drive into the boonies from the Cologne airport, where we saw huge machines pulling coal out of the ground. I suppose that is something to at least gape and wonder at, if not be inspired by. The customer we spoke with, a grumpy guy who wanted to know what we were doing there, “What do you know about companies like this?!?!” but who sorted his manners out and got much nicer by the end of our 90-minute discussion. Relief. And a sunny, beautiful day to smooth out the rough edges.

But the recipe below is inspiring. Especially because I didn’t believe a word of it even though I read it in at least 10 different places or 100.

Another ice cream recipe. With one ingredient. Or maybe two. Three or four if you want to get creative.

Let’s start with one.

banana

Here’s how this one goes.

Wait until banana is nice a ripe. Not slightly rotten or brown, just aromatic and sweet. Peel the banana. Chop it into slices. Place in a bag, Put in your freezer.

Next day. Take frozen banana out.

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Break the slices up a bit – just separate – and stick them into a blender.

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If you like, add a little milk. Or a little cream. But that’s unnecessary.

For some spice, consider a bit of cinammon.

For some decadence, throw in a spoonful of nutella.

But you don’t need any of that.

Blend.

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Somewhere halfway through (a few pulses), your bananas might get stuck. Just take a tool and push them down again. Blend.

Keep going. Maybe a minute in total.

Open up the blender and look at your beautiful banana ice cream.

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That’s it. It’s perfect. Cold, sweet, creamy, refreshing, and just a banana that has the power of ice cream.

Ok, maybe not this much power

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But at least this much power

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Happy summer from Munich!

 

 

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Addiction

Tell me, please, how it’s possible that the end of April has already arrived. Last time I looked at a calendar it was January. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy that we have scenes like this just outside my home:

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and scenes like this when in Hamburg for a day of client visits:

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Those gorgeous blossoming trees really are a motivation to get out of bed for the day, go for a run…and then maybe sit down to a bowl of this:

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Ummmmmmm. The photo doesn’t even begin to do justice to my new breakfast addiction. (And I have quite a few nice new breakfast suggestions here.) Have you ever made a granola mix yourself? I hadn’t. Friends, let me tell you, if you like to eat cereal in the morning…this stuff is crazy good. Yes, I will reveal the secret ingredients. What’s nice is that it’s also easy and fast to make.

I started with this recipe as a basis for what I ended up with. And I admit, I didn’t stray too far from it.

Nevertheless, here’s my version, tweaked a bit (consider doing a recipe and a half or even doubling it, this stuff goes fast!):

Coconut Cardamom Granola

Ingredients

2 cups whole oats

1 cup coconut flakes (not the tiny flake shreds, you want the large flake)

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup hemp seeds (see – that must be where the addiction comes in)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 ½ tsp cardamom powder

2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

Mix together all the seeds and grains in a bowl:

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On the stove, melt your coconut oil in a small pot, add the honey, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir to combine. Remove from stove, pour the mixture over the mixed grains and nuts, and stir until the liquid is even distributed over the rest.

Spread the mixture on a baking tray, and bake in the oven at 275 F/135 C for about 45 minutes.

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Stir every 10 minutes for a few seconds to make sure you are evening toasting the mix. When the coconut flakes begin to get nice and toasty brown, remove the mixture from the oven, let cool, and then store it in the air-tight container of your choice.

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I haven’t yet tried to create granola bars from this mix, but I guess that is next on the spring agenda.

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Magic words: “Biang noodles?”

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This nasty cold I have. It doesn’t go away. I’ve tried everything from ginger tea to hard drugs. Ok, not that hard. Four weeks in, I swear I would be willing to make an animal sacrifice (no, not my kitties) to get rid of the damn thing. I’m looking for a magic cure at the moment. Three weekends have now been spent in bed, and really, enough is enough.

I’m not really sick enough anymore to stay in bed all day (although I did that most of today), but I am working from home more often than not. After taking a week and a half off to “be sick” and “not infect anyone else,” enough was enough last week and I flew off to our Cologne office to work with a few colleagues for two days.

Anyway, one of my favorite bloggers out of Beijing put this blog post up a few days back and it was irresistible. Magic words – “Biang” and “Hand-smashed.” I hoped they might have some magic cure-all properties. Those hand-smashed homemade Chinese noodles looked too incredible not to try out right away – especially after her many reassurances that they were ridiculously easy to make (true.)

I wasn’t really into the idea of a spicy lamb cumin dish, though – her recipe for the sauce. Cumin and stuffed nose didn’t appeal. The husband wanted duck, and I had seen a pistachio pesto that looked interesting…but I twisted things up a bit into a strange fusion that worked in the end:

Hand smashed Chinese noodles with peanut/almond cilantro/mint pesto, wild mushrooms and roasted duck. Yes, it was a bit much, but it came together. The duck was superfluous – a rich extra that we didn’t need at all, but still didn’t overload if you had a few bites.

Mandy (up there from the Lady and Pups blog), recommends using a dumpling flour, which has at least 10% gluten. So I went out and got some yesterday. Not hard to find at your local Asian grocery.

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Her instructions to make the noodles:

  • 218 grams (1 1/2 cup) Chinese dumpling flour
  • 2 grams (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 126 grams (1/2 cup) water + 15 grams (1 tbsp) for adjustment

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a dough hook mixer (I have a hand-held) for 5-6 minutes. Let sit for an hour, then roll out to about a centimeter in thickness.

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Cut into strips (10 strips), take each strip, oil it so it doesn’t stick, smash it down on your counter with the back of your wrist, and then pick it up and stretch it out a bit by holding both ends and gently smacking it against the counter. It’s quite easy. You end up with a bunch of these – which you can lay out on a baking sheet. This goes quite fast – not the painstaking process of rolling out the dough and running it through a pasta machine x times and then cutting it. You only have about 10 strips – so ….really – quite fast.

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Next, you want to boil each of them – dropping them into salted boiling water one at a time – for about a minute – until they rise to the top of the water. Drain, and mix with your sauce, whatever you choose, on the stove – gently tossing the noodles in the sauce.

For the pesto – I simply went with the “by feel” cooking method: a few cloves of garlic, a handful of peanuts and almonds, a chili, a couple handfuls of cilantro and mint, a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, a tablespoon or so of fish sauce, and oil. Best go with canola or similar, although I went with olive oil. Zap in your blender, adjusting for flavors and consistency with salt/oil/water.

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For the mushrooms, I chopped them and threw them in a hot oven (200 degrees C) for about 20 minutes, tossed with oil, chopped garlic, and a chopped a spring onion, some sliced baby corn – until they were brown on the edges

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Bringing it all together – warm the pesto, mushrooms and slivered duck (I cheated and bought a pre-roasted Chinese duck and then used pieces of it, torn up – would work just as well with a roasted chicken) on the stove in a pan while you finish cooking the noodles. Drain them and toss with the sauce.

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Magic? No, she says with her still-blocked congested head. Back to ginger tea.

But they were yummy.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home

 

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Not quite Archimboldo

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I was about to line all the veggies up on my cutting board in the usual way and realized that this is getting a bit boring. So instead I give you a rather untalented Archimboldi portrait. I should study his paintings a bit and see if I can create something a bit more inspired.

Anyway, you’d think after last night’s Korean feast over at Munich’s Seoul restaurant on Leopoldstrasse (good, but not great, wouldn’t go there again probably, but that’s me being very picky) that I would have had enough of Korean for at least a ….week? But no.  I get into these moods, and nothing can sway me for a few days if not longer. I swear, sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking about putting some kimchi on my toast. Ok, that’s a lie. But I do love it as a snack, I think especially during the winter when it is very cold or during the summer, when it is very hot. Maybe it’s when I’m in need of vitamin C/A, kimchi is supposed to be full of it – due to the cabbage. But it also has a ton of salt…not so good. But after yesterday’s incredibly beautiful but painful run (it was so slippery on the icy snow that I was a tense mess during the standard 9-10k, all muscled seized up the whole time), I knew I wanted some Korean snack food. It was calling to me.

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I dropped by one of the Asian groceries in Munich yesterday in the late afternoon and picked up a bag of Korean rice cakes – Garaeddeok 가래떡- (basically a Korean pasta or dumpling) while I was poking around. I’ve made them a couple times. They’re not so far from Italian gnocchi or Schwabian Schupfnudeln in nature. Basically it’s all about layering a comforting soft starch with a delicious sauce.

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I made them this evening. These were fresh, not dried, so to soften them, I simply boiled them in salted water for about 5 minutes and them pan-fried them for a couple minutes to give them a bit of a crispy exterior while the inside stayed nice and pillowy.

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I had marinated a chopped up chicken breast this morning – in a mix of sesame oil, vegetable oil, some Gochujang (Korean pepper paste), chopped garlic and ginger, a bit of brown sugar, and some Vietnamese fish sauce.

I chopped a large onion and a medium sized carrot and sauteed them in oil until the onion began to brown a bit and sweeten up. Then I added the chicken plus marinade, and let them simmer together, adding in some more ginger and garlic, a handful of reconstituted shitake mushrooms, and several slices of lotus root, chopped into quarters. These simmered for a bit – until the chicken was cooked through. Then the rice cakes went in and were mixed in, letting the sauce coat the dumplings. I added in more of the Gochujang paste, a bit more sugar, and some soy sauce, perhaps a tablespoon. Mixed, tasted, corrected a bit here and there. Sprinkled it all with coriander and chopped green onion. Mixed these in and removed it from the hot stove.

Meanwhile, I had this beautiful kohlrabi in the fridge, so while the dumplings were frying and in between steps, I made a favorite salad with it – just chop it into matchsticks, and then make a simple dressing: 1 tsp soy, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1 tsp black Chinese vinegar. Stir and them pour the dressing on the kohlrabi, mixing well, and let sit at least 15 minutes.

I had also bought some Choy Sum (a relative of Bok Choy, not so bitter), which I blanched in salt water, and then layered with slivered green onion, red chili, and ginger. Then you heat a little oil in a pan until it’s quite hot, and then pour the hot oil over the greens, followed quickly with a mix of soy and hot water. Also lovely and simple. (Both above veggie recipes from “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuschia Dunlop)

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The greens are served room temperature as is the kolrabi.

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Best thing is that there are leftovers tomorrow for lunch or dinner.

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Looking forward already.

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home, Famous Chefs, Pasta

 

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Green Green Green

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Yes, this kale fad is beginning to hit Germany, although I do wish it would speed up a bit. At the moment, to find kale I have to order it in advance from the produce guy down the street or hope that the bio shop in town carries it, or in a lucky moment find it at the Viktualienmarkt. I know that I am only singing the chorus in a many-versioned opera that has resounded in the US in the last years over kale. Although I was informed that there is a backlash now against it. (A backlash? Why? People don’t like the taste anymore? They are resentful of the health benefits? They feel forced to express their individuality by *not* liking kale? I don’t get it. ) It’s such a versatile vegetable, you can eat it raw, saute it, juice it…endless variations. And as one of these “superfoods” I have to just shake my head and ask…why ever not?

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Yes, a bit over the top on the kale. But most of it was for a dinner party on Friday night. One last bunch went into last night’s dinner.

I have a variation on a theme salad that I make fairly frequently, and decided to use the kale for that last night. Rather light, incredibly satisfying, a good salad when you are still recovering from the drinks the night before and you want to feel like you are doing good things for your body.

It’s essentially a light Asian-styled noodle salad. For the noodles I can recommend either a soba noodle – although they are quite delicate and you have to be careful not to overcook them – or in my case last night – a whole grain spaghetti. You could even go with a rice noodle, although not vermicelli, or also good is a yam noodle, harder to find, but much less delicate than the rice noodles. And then I just riff on the rest:

Noodles
Protein – can be leftover cooked chicken or duck breast, can be raw or cooked tuna or salmon, or alternatively you can go with strips of firm tofu lightly sauteed in a bit of peanut oil.
Mushrooms – I like the funky crunch of tree fungus mushrooms, but I could recommend anything – shitake, oyster, even simple button – also lightly sauteed in oil. With the tree fungus mushrooms, I just reconstitute a few of them in hot water and chop them up roughly. Enoki are also really lovely. You don’t even need to cook them. Just pull them apart and sprinkle them in.
Greens – here I went for a combination – par boiled kale, reconstituted wakame seaweed, arugula. But spinach works, as do other dark greens
Herbs – last night there was cilantro and green onions, but I’ve also used mint and shiso leaf. Stick with the asian flavors – I wouldn’t do anything like parsley and certainly nothing like sage or thyme, etc.
Optional – other veggies – like halved sweet cherry tomatoes, slivered sweet red bell peppers, matchsticks of cucumber with or without skin, and avocado is always really nice – ripe, cubed.

For dressing, I try to stay as simple as possible: I like olive oil, although I know it’s not an asian flavor – but I mix it with sesame oil and some chili oil to give it some aroma. I usually put in ginger (1 inch or more if you like, peeled and processed in your garlic press – it works!), 1 clove of raw pressed garlic, a few squeezes of lime juice or lemon juice, salt to taste – perhaps start with a half a teaspoon and then add more, a bit of freshly cracked black pepper is also good. For a little heat, be generous with your chili oil or sprinkle in some cayenne. I mix it up, adjusting proportions and amounts based on how many I am cooking for – and rather go light on dressing, adding in a little more of this or that after tasting.

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So the recipe last night – serves 3-4 – we have leftovers in the fridge – was approximately this:

  • 200 grams noodles, cooked until just barely al dente in salted water, drained and rinsed with cool water
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, par boiled for about a minute or two in salted water, drained, squeezed of water and chopped (about two cups after processing)
  • a small handful of wakame seaweed, reconstituted in boiling water, drained and chopped (a cup after processing)
  • a large handful of arugula (a cup or so)
  • a half of a leftover roasted duck breast, cut into strips
  • a half of a sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • two or three green spring onions, chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped (about a quarter cup)
  • about 5 or so tree fungus mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and chopped (3/4 cup when done)
  • half of a ripe avocado, cubed – toss this in last because it is delicate and you want it to stay somewhat whole
  • a heavy shake or three of my japanese furikake mix (seaweed, salt, sesame seeds) to give it some crunch, but some toasted sesame seeds – perhaps a tablespoon or two – is a nice touch and works just as well.
  • Dressing was just as described above. I had perhaps a third of a cup of dressing when I poured it on, but I added a bit of this or that to correct flavors afterwards.

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Mix all your ingredients  above, making sure to coat everything evenly with the dressing. You want the salad to glisten with the dressing, a just barely there feeling. Correct for salt – you may likely need to add some.

For a wine pairing I would go with a dry Riesling. Alternatively, a dry French cider could be nice as well.

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Waffle Latkes

Happy Hannukah! :-)

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Time to make the donuts!. Uh…Waffles! Uh…Latkes.

Oh well. Want a bit of a cheat/shortcut?

I just read about this – mix up your potato pancake mix (I used 1 large potato, a two-inch chunk of zuccini, a 1-inch slice of celery root, 1 egg, salt, pepper, a few pinches of rosemary and about 5 chives snipped. Shred all the veggies, squeeze them out as much as you can and then mix with the rest), butter up your waffle iron, and when it’s nice and hot, simply put a few spoonfuls of your mix on the iron and let it waffle just like you would normal batter. It takes a bit longer, perhaps, but not by much – until your fresh potato latke is done.

Put on your favorite topping and voila – instant Hannukah. Makes 2 large pancakes.

Although it would probably be better if one of your favorite toppings wasn’t procuitto…just saying…;-)

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