Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sarabeth's Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

In a town where brunch is as much about the people sitting around you as it is the food, I was hesitant to try the much hyped Sarabeth's on Central Park West. Indeed, its slightly 80's, overly fabric-ie, overly painted, overly cutesy interior and overly preserved patrons with a suspiciously high plastic to human flesh ratio did nothing to assuage my fears.

Then the food came, and all was forgiven. The lemon ricotta pancakes were so good, it was embarrassing to eat them in front of people. Fluffy and light, their gentle sweetness was perfectly offset by the tang of lemon. The berries served alongside were like fruit that had been hand painted for a TV shoot, picked at the zenith of ripeness. I actually had to order an extra bowl full of them (and, had I been a dieter, these could have been brunch in and of themselves.)

Last time we went, I made the mistake of eating breakfast beforehand and ordering a Ceasar salad because I wasn't that hungry. A plate of boring lettuce and boring grilled chicken arrived, staring up at me from the table as if to say 'why didn't you order brunch? All the love here goes into brunch!'

It's a mistake I won't make again, even if I have to sprint around the park in heels to work up an appetite.

Meanwhile, friends scarfed down their individual orders of Eggs Benedict with Salmon lox then ordered the Apple Cinnamon French Toast which then disappeared in a frighteningly short period of time.

So if it's brunch you want, and not salad, go to Sarabeth's. Their hype is a well-deserved one. And if you can't get there, here's as close a recipe as I can find (adapted from one of Bobby Flay's.)

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, styled after Sarabeth's:

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons sugar, depending on your preference of sweetness (if you like them unsweet, only use 2)
1 cup ricotta cheese (fresh ricotta, if you can find it)
2 eggs, room temp
2/3 cup milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
butter and/or Spam for griddle
Confectioner's sugar
Fresh raspberries, blueberries or sliced strawberries

Preheat a nonstick griddle or large skillet.

Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Brush the hot griddle with butter or spray with Pam. For each pancake, pour approximately 1/4 cup measure of the batter on the griddle and cook (3-4 minutes per side) until light golden brown.

To serve, stack 1-3 pancakes on a warmed plate. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar (through a sieve) then top with fresh berries. Serve immediately.

* You can of course also serve with maple syrup and/or warmed lemon curd, but in my opinion they require neither. In fact it would be, as they say, too much.

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