In this city, noted for its bagels and the ubiquitous Sunday brunch, it can often be a slight challenge for the “_____ free” crowd (fill in the blank; they all fit). The notion of alternating sips of coffee and orange juice as your friends nosh on pancakes, french toast and, sigh, bagels and lox sounds rather alienating — and unappealing — if you ask me.
I’m usually a shut-in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Maybe I’ll sleep in, maybe I’m up studying, reading or drinking coffee. At any rate, I’m usually still wearing whatever I slept in the night before. Still, when my parents are in town I tend to feel rather lazy sleeping in any later than 8 a.m., at which point they’ve already woken up, walked my dog and taken a quick trip to the farmers market for some fruit and veggie essentials. Usually, we’ll go to church, then head to brunch. So I’ve picked up a few brunch tips along the way. One option is to go unconventional. Think Indian. One especially exciting discovery was the daily 12-4 brunch at Brick Lane Curry House for something like $11, which gets you all-you-can-eat access to several varieties of curries, rice, soups and sides. Caracas Arepa Bar does a weekend brunch from noon-3 that is equally filling and unique. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you’re in New York — now or ever — GO TO CARACAS. You’ll thank me. I’ve been for brunch only once, but did appreciate how, unlike many other Mexican/Latin American restaurants, Caracas doesn’t forgo their roots by offering the usual eggs and meat fare during brunch. You can still get their famous gluten-free cornmeal arepas, just prepared in different ways. Word of warning: expect to wait outside for a table. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.
So, if you’re going out and worried about what you can eat, I’ve found that the further you can get from standard American fare, the better (that is, if you can’t eat pancakes, waffles, eggs, french toast, etc.). If you’re looking to stay in and enjoy a lazy weekend morning as I often do, try this recipe for cornmeal pancakes. In the true spirit of brunch, I’m offering a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe: a sweet and savory option. Now the only thing you’ll have to worry about is which option to go with.
Lemony Cornmeal Pancakes:
Please Note: This recipes makes a very thin, crepe-like pancake batter. It’s important to drop batter a few inches apart and that your pan is very hot before cooking pancakes, so that the batter doesn’t spread.
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill; medium grind)
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons agave nectar
3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup water
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanila extract
Warm Blueberry Sauce:
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
2 teaspoons arrowroot
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (brown rice flour through salt). Add wet ingredients and lemon zest and whisk vigorously and batter is smooth and slightly frothy on top.
2. Spray or rub large non-stick or cast-iron skillet with canola or grapeseed oil. Heat over high heat. When skillet is hot (allow a few minutes), pour batter in scant 1/4 cup-sized amounts, making sure to leave an inch or two of space between each cake. Cook 1 1/2-2 minutes on the first side, until bubbles start to form on the outside edges. Flip and cook for about another minute or two, or until the second side is golden brown. Repeat steps 1 & 2 with remaining batter.
3. To make blueberry sauce: add ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbly and sauce begins to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Serve over pancakes.
Savory Southwestern Cornmeal Pancakes:
Same as cornmeal lemon pancakes with the following changes: omit lemon zest. Reduce water to 1/4 cup. Add: 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (drained; canned is fine); 1 4-oz can diced green chiles; 2 scallions, sliced; 1 teaspoon chile powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Serve with sliced avocado, salsa, guacamole, or anything else you think you might enjoy!