We started a small container garden last weekend and I’m equal parts nervous and excited about this. For starters, the last time I engaged in any major gardening was when I followed my dad around the yard and into our back yard garden as a child. I’ve grown herbs from kits and sadly they wound up becoming an abandoned mess on the kitchen counter. In my defense, I was in graduate school and working full-time and remembering to water and feed myself was a project most days. That apartment was also suitable for vampire living, not one room seemed to get a big amount of sunlight and moving my little herb tower outside wasn’t an option. S0, as we picked out herb seedlings and seed packets last weekend I was determined to keep it small and keep it simple. Now, I’m hovering over two tomato plants, four herb plants, a pepper plant, and sixteen little peat pots that I’m hoping will sprout seedlings for green beans, yellow squash, and pickling cucumbers.
Because all of that didn’t blow my “keep it small” strategy out of the water, I decided to test out the concept that you can grow food from kitchen scraps so there’s also a pot with garlic cloves (that sprouted, yay!), onion ends, and scallions. The scallions grow wild all around the edges of our yard, and Lane always thought they would be bitter so he just mowed them down year after year. When I heard this, and that those little scallions grow back just in time to be mowed down again, I knew this was the crop for me. I pulled the scallions up with their bulbs and roots, cut off the tops (leaving about three inches of scallion and the roots), and plunked the ends into a cup of water. I’ll never have to buy scallions again, two days later I had new growth. Then, it occurred to me that maybe I should heed Lane’s warning about the bitterness and actually taste them. They taste exactly like any scallions I’ve ever purchased or eaten anywhere. While Lane ran off to let the neighbors know that they will also never need to buy scallions again, I started planning what I would do with my bounty of wild scallions.
Scallion pancakes were my first thought. I love ordering these at Chinese restaurants and we were just discussing them over some great Thai food on date night so this seemed obvious. I have made them before, so I knew that scallion pancakes are ridiculously easy to make at home. In my quest to keep it semi-healthy around here, I wanted to see if I could get around frying them in oil and still have a tasty reproduction of the restaurant staple. I was probably way more excited than anyone should be about scallions already, but I was even more excited when I cooked these in a non-stick skillet with a spray of olive oil (from a Misto sprayer) instead of frying each one in oil and they were every bit as awesome. If you don’t have an oil sprayer, I have some solutions. Any clean spray bottle can be used (please don’t use a bottle that held bathroom cleaner last week though), or non-stick cooking spray, or brushing the olive oil onto the pancake with a pastry brush are all great alternatives. The dough is simple to make and easy to work with and even though the steps seem numerous, they are quick steps so you’ll have tasty scallion pancakes in about as much time as it would take to order them and wait for delivery. With a simple soy sauce ginger dipping sauce, these were better than the ones I usually drool over at the restaurant.
for the pancakes:
- 2 C. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C. warm water
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- olive oil (I used a Misto to spray it, cooking spray or brushing it on would also work)
for the dipping sauce:
- 1/4 C. light soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
To make the dough using a food processor, put the flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade.
Turn the food processor on and stream the warm water in, running the food processor until the water is incorporated.
Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl or onto a clean work surface and knead the dough until smooth. The dough will be firm and smooth, not sticky, when fully kneaded.
OR, make the dough without a food processor by mixing the flour and 1/4 C. of the water in a large mixing bowl.
Stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, then knead until the dough is firm and barely sticky.
Once the dough is made, knead it about 20 times and then cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.
Work with 1 ball of dough at a time and keep all others covered with a damp towel.
Roll each ball of dough out on a well-floured work surface into a thin circle about 1/16 of an inch thick.
Sprinkle salt evenly over the pancake (I used about 1/2 tsp. of salt per pancake, use more or less to taste but they should be fairly salty).
Sprinkle 1-2 tsp. of scallions over the pancake.
Roll the pancake up from one end, like a jelly roll.
Curl the roll up into a spiral like a snake and pinch the end to the roll so they stay closed.
Press the coil using the palm of your hand to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to roll the pancake out to 1/8 of an inch thick.
Spray a skillet generously with olive oil (or non-stick cooking spray) or brush both sides of the pancake with olive oil, and heat the skillet over medium heat until hot.
Place the pancake into the skillet and cook until the bottom is crisp and starts to brown.
Flip the pancake, spraying or brushing on more oil as needed and cook until cooked through and starting to brown.
Remove the pancake from the heat and serve immediately, or place it onto a baking sheet in a warm oven to keep warm until all pancakes are ready to serve.
To make the dipping sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.
To serve, cut each pancake into four wedges using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors and serve with dipping sauce on the side.
Makes 8 pancakes, 32 wedges.
Source: pancakes adapted from Use Real Butter; sauce from Ming Tsai