Savory Pancake with Mustard Greens, Onion & Cumin

by Maja Lukic

Happy new year, all! Everyone prepare their list of artificial goals for self-improvement? I'm joking. After months away from this place, I have a new recipe--and this dish should fit well into whatever health regime you've adopted for January. 

Staring into the dark tunnel of 2016, I can only hope for better things in the new year. Recent history gives us little reason to be optimistic. 2015 was strange and difficult, often so full of hatred and intolerance that turning away from the onslaught of news and social media commentary seemed the only rational choice. 

But as the brilliant writer George Saunders has often pointed out, regressing into darkness is easy--to be hopeful is hard. 2015 had its moments. I traveled to France and Serbia to see family, rediscovered cities I knew when I was younger, and remembered how much I love studying languages and discovering other cultures through music, food, and literature. I met fantastic writers, incredible people and thinkers, and there were many long and inspiring conversations. There were many great moments of silence, too--practically kneeling at the foot of some art piece or marveling over a beautiful poem or book. I moved further toward poetry as a way of thinking and understanding our world and reconciling its terrible and brutal complexities. 

From a more global standpoint, I was thrilled to see climate issues receive greater (though belated and still insufficient) attention in public discourse. And who wasn't impressed by these climate change activists in Paris who left their shoes behind on the Place de la Republique after the French authorities prohibited their scheduled march?

In a spirit of kindness, here is a recipe constructed almost entirely from farmers market ingredients. I say "almost" because the chickpea flour, spices, and oil certainly did not come from the market, but we're close. This savory pancake is a cross-breed between something like socca/farinata and a frittata. For lack of a more adequate term, I call it pancake. 

Technically, any other type of leafy green (or other vegetable) would work well here, but I love using mustard greens. There have been beautiful bunches at the market for a few weeks now. Their color is a chlorophyll yellow-green, and their scent and flavor are equally pungent. Eaten raw, the sinus-clearing abrasion of the greens is sometimes overwhelming. But when cooked down with onions and spices, they become beautiful and muted with only a background of Dijon sharpness remaining on the plate. And eating greens today is supposed to bring good luck in the New Year, yes?

I'm not the first person to make this request but in this new year, do something generous for others, for the environment, and for yourselves.

I end this note as I began it: wishing you a happy year.  

Savory Pancake with Mustard Greens Onion & Cumin (gf)

Makes 1 10" pancake

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup water

2 eggs

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra 

1 onion, sliced into half-moons

1 bunch mustard greens, washed, trimmed and sliced into ribbons

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Aleppo pepper and sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.

Whisk chickpea flour, water, and eggs together until the batter is smooth. Add turmeric, a pinch of sea salt, and a tablespoon olive oil. Cover and store in the fridge for at least two hours, and preferably overnight.

Wash the mustard greens and trim off any thick stems. Stack the leaves together, roll them into a cigar, and slice into 1-inch ribbons.  

Over medium heat, warm a little bit of oil in an oven-safe 10-inch skillet. Sautee the sliced onions until translucent. Add cumin seeds, Aleppo pepper, and a pinch of salt. Cook for a minute or so until the spices are warmed through. Add the mustard greens to the pan and cook for about three to five minutes until the greens have cooked down. Add more oil if the pan is dry.

Spread the vegetables evenly over the pan and pour in the prepared pancake batter. Tip the skillet slightly to evenly coat all over the vegetables. Continue cooking on the stove for a minute or so. 

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about five to seven minutes, or until the pancake is firm to touch. Be careful and don't over bake. 

Allow the pancake to cool slightly before using a heat-proof spatula to loosen the edges from the pan and slide the pancake onto a platter. Slice and serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge for up to two days.