Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tiny Tip: Scallions

It's a rainy day, and I've been slaving away over 16 batches of bread lined up to bake today. Since I'm hanging out so much in the kitchen, and since the flour will pretty much cover half the horizontal surfaces of the kitchen anyway, I've got a little treat lined up for between oven loadings and unloadings. But first I'm going to write a little on the primary ingredient of said treat: scallions.

I didn't grow any onions this year, so the various forms of onions are among the few items I've been buying from the store all along. Scallions are some of my favorite cooking ingredients, though they are quite pricey as produce goes. So I thought I would share a few tips concerning them.

Storage: I think most readers will have heard the tip about wrapping the bunch of scallions in a paper towel and then wetting it down before storing in a plastic bag in the fridge. This is a good tip, provided that the paper towel isn't soaking wet. Damp but not drenched will do better by the scallions. This will let the scallions keep for about three days in the produce bin, but they deteriorate rapidly no matter what you do. Have a specific plan to use them up before you buy scallions, or pull them from your garden.

Black belt frugality move: When you're ready to use up the last of the scallions, there's no need to throw away the paper towel. It never really got dirty, right? Hang it up to dry somewhere and later on you can use it to wipe up a spill.

Using them up: Lots of recipes call for either the white part or the green part of the scallion. And plenty of other recipes use whole scallions, but not an entire bunch. So what to do with the extras? There are lots of good things to do with them. The green parts make excellent garnishes for many dishes, especially those with eggs or potatoes. One of my favorite things to do with leftover scallion whites is to trim off the roots, cut the whites in half lengthwise, and then turn them into a gourmet salad ingredient. I separate the long layers of the whites and toss them in a skillet with a little bit of cooking oil. Over very low heat, I let them slowly caramelize until they are well browned and have transformed into crispy, oniony decadence. Put these in a green salad and watch as people fight to get more than their fair share in their salad serving!

So here's where the treat comes into play: scallion pancakes!

There are lots of versions of scallion pancakes. Some are leavened, some have egg, some are flat and greasy. The version I make is the flat and greasy type, and I gild the lily by loading them up with ginger and garlic as well. Here's what I do.

Start with a quantity of all purpose flour. I usually use 1 1/2 cups. Measure out however much flour you want to use and place it in a bowl with a generous pinch of salt. Add half a measure of boiling water. So, in my case, I add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir the flour and water around with a spoon. Avoid the temptation to start working the dough with your hands as you will probably burn yourself. The dough will look odd and lumpy and rough and uneven. That's okay, just make sure all the flour is absorbed into the dough. Take the dough out of the bowl, pour in a small dollop of cooking oil, and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn the dough to coat it with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.

Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator. Finely slice a quantity of scallion greens. Mince a large clove of garlic very fine, and peel a 1" cube of ginger. Mince or grate the ginger cube. (The America's Test Kitchen has found that grating releases more flavor than mincing from an equal quantity of ginger.) Set each of these ingredients aside in separate containers.

Dust a board or countertop generously with flour. Roll out the dough to form a large circle, between 1/8" and 1/4" thick. Brush the dough lightly with cooking oil so that the entire surface is coated. Scatter in turn the minced garlic, the ginger, and the sliced scallions evenly over the surface of the dough.

Starting at the edge of the dough nearest to you, roll the dough and the seasoning ingredients up like a jelly roll. Then, beginning at one end of the log, roll it up like a spiral snail shell. Put this package back in the oiled bowl, turning it again to coat on all sides. Refrigerate the dough again for at least 1 hour.

Dust the board generously with flour again. Take out the dough and knead it gently for a few minutes, to distribute the ingredients and obliterate the layers. Form a roughly cylindrical log, about 2" in diameter, with the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut off a coin-shaped slice of the log and roll this out in a thin pancake, about 4"-5" in diameter.

Pan fry the pancake in cooking oil in a well seasoned skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Allow about 2 minutes per side. If the pancake domes up with steam underneath, poke a hole in the middle to let it escape so that the whole pancake cooks, rather than just the edges. Drain on pages torn from an old phone book. If you like your snacks very salty shake some salt on the pancake just as it comes from the pan, or if you prefer, dip in soy sauce. Serve whole or cut into wedges.

These are absolutely irresistible! One batch will make quite a few pancakes. The dough will keep in the fridge for two days. After that it begins to discolor, though there's nothing spoiled about it at that point. Better to keep any dough you don't plan to use up in the freezer though. You can cut it into chunks for quicker freezing if you plan to only make a few at a time. That makes this recipe a good way of salvaging food that would otherwise go to waste.

More tiny tips: More Sunlight in Your Garden, Parboil Your Pasta, Repurpose Your Credit Card, Make the Most of Old Man Winter, Broccoli Stalk,


Anonymous said...

That looks MAHvellous, dahling! Why so much bread, though? I suppose it's a couple weeks before Thanksgiving and you COULD be making bread for stuffing...

I have a growing tip for you. You can do it indoors or not, and it's a nice tip if you have a kitchen window. Put the rooty ends plus 1-2" of the scallions in a small pot of potting soil; leave about an inch or so exposed. Doesn't need to be in bright light at all, and soon you will have home-grown greenery. You can also plant them out in your garden. I do the same kind of thing with sprouting garlic.

I go one step further with bunching onions from Kitazawa seeds...they have the most varieties, plus all other wonderful Asian veggies too. The best thing about bunching onions is once you have them you will never be without them! Perennial onions!

Anonymous said...

oops forgot the link for Kitazawa:

Daisy said...

I dice and freeze mine when they're overrunning the garden. By fall, I have to search to find one to add to an omelet. In January, I reach into the freezer -- a little taste of summer!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kate,
I recently found your blog, and I'm so glad I did. I, too, live in SE Pa. and so I find that I can generally apply all of your advice to my situation. You're living the life I have coveted for quite a while: the chickens, the orchard, the extensive gardens, etc. I even dream of someday having bees and goats! I'm doing what I can given the small space with which I have to work, and your blog provides me with the inspiration and motivation I need. Keep up the good work, and thanks again so much! (The bread looks awesomely good by the way.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate. I recently found your blog through a link from another website and I am really loving it. I really admire what you do. I had a question regarding your chickens. Where do you keep them in the winter? I live in northern NJ and I imagine it gets just as cold where you are. I would love to keep chickens. How do you do it?

Kate said...

Thanks, El. Most of the bread was earmarked for others. Relatives spoke up for ten of the loaves. Neighbors we owed favors to are getting another three. One is earmarked for some friends that are going to host us overnight next week. And the rest are for us. It was a good use of a rainy day. Thanks for the link to the seed company. I'll definitely look into them.

Daisy, do you just freeze them in bags? I've wondered about freezing the greens packed in oil. But if there's no need, there's no need.

Sheri, welcome. It's good to hear from a relative neighbor. I had to laugh though at your impression of my life. You do make it sound rather more elaborate and impressive than it is. We don't have an orchard yet, by any standard, though we may yet get there. What we do have is one massive, old, and still productive apple tree on our 2/3 acre lot. We really like having it, but I think it would be a stretch to call this one tree an orchard. But next spring we'll add more fruit trees, so maybe then we'll see. Do you have your own blog, Sheri? Please share!

Neisha, welcome! I've posted recently about winter plans for our hens. We had planned to slaughter them as we're not set up for keeping them through the winter and they are old for layers. But a couple of things emerged. Several people in colder climates than mine chimed in to say that chickens can stand colder weather than we think. And a nearby farmer offered to take my girls for the winter and give them back in the spring. So that's the plan we're going with for the moment. Get some chickens! They're much easier and more amusing than you probably imagine.

cheers to all,


Anonymous said...

I guess if I had read through more of your entries I would have seen that you have only one apple tree and not an entire orchard, but I was just so excited to have found your blog that I commented too soon!:) Don't have a blog of my own yet. I've been cruising around and checking things out first. Not sure of the "angle" I'd want to use either. I'm still in the "what do I have to say that anyone would be interested in" stage.
Now to read more of your entries...