breakfast, brunch, feast magazine article

feast magazine, march 2014: cheese-filled pannenkoeken + lemon-blueberry sauce.

cheese-filled pannenkoeken with blueberry lemon sauce.

Full disclosure: I’ve fled Saint Louis for the sandy beaches and international octogenarian culture of southwest Florida. Everyone is down here, friends: license plates from almost every state were represented in a downtown parking lot yesterday, including some from Canada. I hear there’s another round of bad weather headed for you, so I’ll spare you the weather report from here; it would just make you angry. My own personal weather report, however, is warm and happy, with a sun index of 9 and a 5% chance of returning to my homeland before May. Winter may not be over, but I’m pretty over winter.

I’m so excited about the recipe for this month’s Feast Magazine that I actually photographed the dish in a semi-professional way! Hooray! I suppose all this time spent watching a real professional work in my own home has motivated me to try some new things. Next up, I go scavenging for aged wood pallets, and then everybody better watch out, because I’m going to tear it up. I’m currently using my time between beach jaunts here in Florida to scavenge through the thrift stores for old dishes and silverware. Take some time to let that sink in: I’m smack in the middle of a retirement community, average age 83. They migrate to Florida from all over the country, they simplify, they think of their old stuff as junk because they’ve always had it. They don’t need it anymore, so they donate. And then they become mine. I think of it as a rescue operation.

I am currently residing in a gold mine of old things, otherwise known as a photo-happy food blogger’s paradise. It’s called Sarasota County, and I’ve claimed this land of questionable treasures as my own.

cheese-filled pannenkoeken with blueberry lemon sauce.

While I am away from my desk (read: dining room table strewn with flour, cookie crumbs, and lined Post-Its), I give you this recipe for cheese-filled, blueberry and lemon-sauced, almond-smothered pannenkoeken. My mystery ingredient this month was mahlab; have you heard of it? If your family hails from the Mediterranean region, you may be familiar with it: it’s a key ingredient in lots of Greek and Iranian pastries. Have you ever seen tsoureki, the braided Greek Easter bread with the colored eggs on top? it’s in that, among other things. I’ll be attempting one of those for Greek Easter this year – although I’m not Greek, Mr. Table’s cousin (my closest thing to a sister-in-law) is, and I’m going to surprise her with it.

Bakers, this one is for you. Out of all the things I’ve done for the Mystery Shopper column, this is the one you most want in your repertoire. It’s the thing you never knew you always wanted, and it’ll add all sorts of special to whatever you’re making. It’s got a distinct cherry-almond flavor (and indeed, it’s the seed of the St. Lucie cherry, which you grind and then use as a powder), and it’s like nutmeg in the way that it adds a note of difference to baked goods. It’s noticeable, but not so loud that it overtakes anything, just adds a grace note of flavor that’s lovely. It’s not “too” anything, and it’s perfectly delicious.

It works wonderfully in “vanilla” things, like coffee cake, almond pastry, buttermilk donuts, sweet breads; the list goes on and on. It’s great paired with mild sweet cheeses too, which is how this recipe came about. The pannenkoeken itself contains a hearty dose of the mahlab, and the cheese danish-like filling is laced with it as well. Add some lemon-scented blueberries and toasted almonds over top and you have yourself a pretty indulgent breakfast party, pitch perfect for early spring.

Pannenkoeken, if you’ve noticed from the photo above, are just thin pancakes, very similar to crepes, but slightly more forgiving, in my opinion. If you don’t have any experience with them, try a test batch prior to your actual gathering; they’re not hard, but there’s a “feel” to swirling the batter on the hot pan that comes with a small amount of practice. They keep well in fridge or freezer, so make a crepe cake with those, perhaps, and consider them a confidence-booster for when you make them for friends. The other components are easy to make the night before as well, so you’re not messing with that the day of. Simply store the cheese filling, blueberry sauce, and toasted almonds jars until the next morning: let the cheese come to cool room temperature on the counter and warm the blueberries in a small saucepan over low heat. By the time you’re done impressing your friends with your pannenkoeken-swirling skills, everything will be ready to serve, and you’ll look like a total pro.

cheese-filled pannenkoeken with blueberry lemon sauce.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to make pannenkoeken, look no further than Feast TV this month, as this is the recipe which gets made throughout the episode. The episode airs today on our local PBS station at 2 pm CST, but the episode will be online shortly; when it shows up, I’ll link you to it.

Mahlab is fantastic: I’m already almost out of my jar, and I’m getting more the minute I get back into town. You can get it from Penzey’s Spices, and I’m sure if you have a Greek or Middle Eastern grocery near you, they would have it as well. If you want to learn more about it, you can read more about it in my article, found here.

cheese-filled pannenkoeken with blueberry lemon sauce.

If you’d like the recipe for these lovely things, it’s right here. Enjoy. And for the digital issue of the March 2014 Feast Magazine, click here.

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  • Reply Sarah @ The Cook's Life March 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I saw this last week in the Post. They published in the food section. AND you got a plug on the front of that section โ€“ย you were most of the blurb advertising Feast. You are hot, girl!

    Great looking pictures, and great looking recipe. I have some mahlab, but I have not actually used it yet. Now I will. Can you say, “weekend breakfast!” Unfortunately I forgot about it until after breakfast today, but you can better believe it is going to be next Saturday’s breakfast. Yum!

    Enjoy your Florida escape! So envious! If we could swing it, we would be at the in-laws’ in a heartbeat. But 8th grade frowns on family vacations during school. Embrace these preschool years while you can! Soak up some sun for the rest of us!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

      did you? i’m NOTORIOUS for not seeing it when they tease my food in the post: one of you (usually it’s Wendy) always has to tell me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I never know when they’re going to do that, and it’s exciting to see! always a fun surprise. lol. maybe i’m trendy now in STL? i don’t know…i highly doubt it.

      Thanks! you must use that mahlab for something, for serious: such a fun flavor profile to play with, and i know you enjoy playing with flavors. ๐Ÿ™‚

      we did enjoy florida and the sun and warm weather (shorts!) very much, thank you. We were both at varying stages of illness when we got there, but we spent so much time out in the fresh air and on the beach that i really do think it kicked most of this winter grossness out of us. the Wee goes back and forth with it every time it does a cold snap here, so this week is not fun :(, but hopefully it won’t reach epic proportions as much as it did this winter.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs March 1, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I’ve heard of mahlab but never used it. So now, of course, I will — and maybe in this wonderful looking pannenkoeken! Something else I’ve heard of, but haven’t made. It’s fun what we’ll do for backgrounds, isn’t it? We have a really weathered fence in our yard that I’ve been eyeballing — I may remove a few planks (I’ll replace them with new ones, of course) and make a background out of that! Have fun in Florida — we lived in Tampa for over a decade, so know the Sarasota area well.

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 9:58 am

      It’s very fun to work with in terms of its flavor profile: I’ve said it before, but if you enjoy the whole almond/cherry thing, you’ll like what mahlab does in baked goods, for sure. A weathered fence would make a fabulous background! the more beat up the better, it seems. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I fly in to Tampa when we travel, and have friends there, so i’m familiar with that area too! A nice short drive to where my mom is at in Sarasota, and we’ve spent lots of time there as well.

  • Reply elizabeth March 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I am so, so jealous of you right now–not only because you’re someplace WARM, but you’re shopping for props. I would love love love to spend a nice afternoon tooling through thrift stores looking for fun things right about now.

    The pannenkoken look sensational–I’ve never heard of mahlab before, but now I’m curious to see if Fairway has it, as I’d like to try making these.

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Prop-shopping is the best, right? i was sad i didn’t see as much as i’m used to, but this is what the residents lovingly (not) refer to as “season” i.e. when EVERYONE heads down to stay in their winter homes and rentals. so sometimes it’s slim pickings now, but in July when we go? GOLD MINE. So i’m waiting. I picked up a few things, because, old people are crazy amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚

      thank you! I’ve looked everywhere from our local grocery to Whole Foods, and have yet to see mahlab. If you’ve got an ethnic market, they may have it, and penzey’s is where i get mine. For as good as it is, it seems as though it’s relatively unknown, so i guess not everyone stocks it. Ashley (a fellow blogger in the Project) told me she bought some at Penzey’s a few weeks ago and they told her they’d never seen anyone buy it before! aw. I’m on a personal mission now to make everyone try mahlab because it’s so much fun.

  • Reply Ashley March 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I want these in my mouth right NOW. And you know I’m going to get my hands on some mahlab asap. And if you could bring back some of that lovely Florida weather and sunshine, I’d greatly appreciate it. Hope you’re having fun and soaking it up!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

      i know you did, too! I’m proud you grabbed some: i’m serious when i say everyone needs a little in their pantry, JUST to try. i can almost guarantee all of us could find a way to use it.
      I tried to bring some weather back, sort of? i mean, it *has* been mostly warmer here in STL since i came back, so maybe i broke up some of the cold a little bit. not as much as i’d like (as i sit here with my scarf still on, indoors, because cold.) :/

  • Reply Deb March 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Prop shopping in thrift stores is the best kind of fun! I feel like a secret shopper, no one knows what I am there for. And it’s rare for anyone else to covet what I want! Have fun! Never heard of pannenkoeken or mahlab before and am diving into the recipe to explore. Thank you for the tasty introduction.

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:05 am

      ha! do you feel like you’re on a hunt? I always do. And even though like you, i’m sure no one else is going for what i want, i will RUN at some old glasses like it’s my job if i see them and think someone else will pick them up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply movita beaucoup March 2, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I’ve been considering a move to a retirement community, and this post has convinced me to do so. I DON’T KNOW WHY 2.0 IS RESISTING.

    Also, I can’t even tell you how badly I want those freakin’ pannenkoeken. With the blueberries and the fillingโ€ฆ it’s everything one could want in a pancake/crepe/flapjack. I can almost picture myself eating this poolside at The Home…

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Seriously: i actually have an old people’s community/”activity center” up the street from me, and do you know they have an indoor pool WITH SCULPTURES HANGING ABOVE IT? they also have a few grand pianos, a workout center, and a free (FREE) ice cream parlor inside. I’ve threatened Mr. Table with moving in there more than once. a day.

      How about this: you move into the retirement community up the street from me, then I’LL move in, then we’ll make these while we lounge by the pool. I’ll even play the piano for you once i’m done swimming. In? good.

  • Reply Monica March 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    These look absolutely heavenly. Mmmm…we love any kind of pancake, crepe, dutch baby, etc…so this would be polished off in no time for a weekend breakfast.

    Enjoy your vacation in the sun. I say this as snow softly descends on us yet, again. In other words, nothing new at this end.

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:10 am

      thanks monica! pancakes are our thing on the weekends, too. or waffles (but only if i feel like lugging the waffle iron out of its hiding place, so mostly pancakes). although the Wee likes hers fluffy, i prefer this version the best.
      i did have a great time, thank you! the sun and the salt air really did us a whole lot of good. at first i felt a little guilty about needlessly heading out of town, but now? NO REGRETS. It was good to get from the winter for a bit and see some palm trees and wear shorts. We have some cold weather right now too, so nothing lasts forever, but i have high hopes for us all come…April? maybe?

  • Reply Brianne March 3, 2014 at 7:57 am

    What a neat recipe! Blueberry sauce on cheesy-filled pastries for breakfast is such a win. Adding almonds and mahlab takes it over the edge. Have the best time in warm, sunny Florida!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

      i knew you’d enjoy the blueberries in this: blueberries and cheese filling have always been a much-loved flavor combo for me as well. We had a great time! I’d say good to be back, but…cold. SO MUCH COLD TODAY. *sigh*

  • Reply Willow @Will Cook For Friends March 3, 2014 at 10:15 am

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Mahlab… it is now on my shopping list. No questions asked, I already know I’m going to love it. And that plate of Pannenkoeken? I think it’s going to haunt my dreams for a while. As will the thought of a warm-weathered thrift-shopping paradise. I’m tempted to hop a plane to Sarasota right now, and we can meet for lunch and go prop shopping afterwards. I’m with you about winter — it may not be over, but I am so over it. Come on, spring!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:15 am

      i can’t believe you haven’t either of ALL PEOPLE. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s good, i promise, and you’ll want to experiment HEAVILY with mahlab once you taste it. I want to.
      Florida was way fun: we spent tons of time walking around outside, either on the beach or downtown, so it was pretty great just to feel warm sun versus freezing, suck-your-breath-away wind, you know? THIS WINTER NEEDS TO END.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog March 4, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I’m so stinkin’ jealous right now. Your in the warmth and sun, and I’m sitting here in the cold trying not to slip on the ice whenever I venture out my door. I’m so excited to see all of your food prop finds from the retirement community. I love old stuff. Half of the crap I own is old. Your photos look gorgeous! Have a lovely vacation.

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Me too! i’d say a good portion of what i own is old, kitchen and in general. I like things vintage, and things were made better way back when, PERIOD. Don’t be too jealous: the sun and sand and warmth were great, and i had high hopes when i got back that it would maybe start to get warm and it did, and today? gloomy and cold. but in my heart i’m still sitting on a beach watching the Wee One roll down sand dunes and giggle. So i wish i was still on vacation, and i wish all of you could have come with me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) March 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Beautiful photos! Those look SO good. And I’m jealous of all the thrift store shopping you’re getting to do in Florida!! (I never thought about what good thrift store finds Florida must have until you pointed it out…)

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:18 am

      thank you, Allison! do all of us like thrift stores, i wonder? maybe it’s a blogger thing, b/c you all seem pretty excited about that which means I’M NEVER TELLING YOU WHERE I GO. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Emma March 5, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I make pannukakku all the time because it is my absolute favorite weekend breakfast item! I grew up calling it pannekoeken without the 3rd n because of a chain of restaurants in the MSP area.

    I bake mine to give them a super floofy appearance, but I’m going to have to try it this way because that cheese filling looks damn good!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:20 am

      nothing wrong with floofy: i say make the pannenkoeken in the way you most love. and spell it the way you most love, also (b/c evidently there’s a few schools of thought on the correct way to go about it). FREEDOM!

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} March 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    The idea of going to Florida makes me so giddy that I could run outside, smash my face into a snow bank, and scream for joy/sorrow. What fun you must be having! Has the wee one’s beach protocol changed since you last went? I imagine that over time children get more comfortable with the water/building things with sand/digging for shells, etc. I never got to experience this progression because I tragically lost a jelly shoe to the surf when I was 8 and it left me in a state of arrested development with respect to the ocean. I cried over that shoe for DAYS.

    I can’t wait to see your new food styling props!!!!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

      So much fun! although i will say it wasn’t all beaches and hilarity: the first night was great, and then we all woke up the next morning to a coughing and sneezing and totally gross Wee One, so one trip to the urgent care and some meds and a few days later? back to the beach. i’m just thankful that we were down there when it hit, because she was able to counteract it/kill the germs with salt air and a copious amount of sunshine.
      her beach protocol has, yes, changed since we were last there: definitely better with building things, feels more free to run about (but that could be me feeling more free to let her run about) and with a good grasp of how much her mother DOES NOT LOVE THE OCEAN except to look at it. I used to, but i got stung by a jellyfish when i was a kid (probably the same age that you lost your jelly shoe to the surf, RIP jelly shoe!) and it’s been all dark side for me since then with the open sea. because i know what lives in there now, and i want nothing to do with it. POOLS FOREVER. It goes without saying, at this point, that she’s never been *in* the ocean. too cold actually right now for her even to do that, but we’ll see this summer.

      lol! me either because i didn’t get a ton of things while down there: not much to grab! so i’ll wait until July’s trip, because there’s always lots to choose from then.

  • Reply Kristan@the-broken-bread March 11, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    What a genius idea! I bet you will find amazing things during your stay in Florida. This recipe looks incredible, and your pictures make me want to eat my computer screen.. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply shannon March 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Kristan, thank you! this was a delicious little breakfast to make. we had so much fun in florida, and we did find some treasures, for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Danielle @ theCHARMITspot March 14, 2014 at 9:57 am

    This looks absolutely amazing! These are making me hungry, haha I want to try them right now. Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats March 18, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I’m going to have to try this mahlab- i’ve never heard of it before. These look so tasty! They remind me of blintzes, one of my favorite foods of all time, just because you have a crepe-like thing around a cheesy filling and a blueberry topping.
    I’m excited for your Florida finds…although if cleaning out my grandma’s house was any indication, the things she had were more cheap than cool. I hope you’re more successful than I was. And lovely photos, Shannon!

    • Reply shannon March 19, 2014 at 9:14 am

      If you like almond and cherry flavor, then you will love mahlab: i’m running low and i’m definitely getting more. It’s such a fun thing to play with in baking b/c it’s not an overt flavor, but it gives things a different dimension, if that makes sense. OH BLINTZES!! mahlab would be so delicious in those.
      I found a few things: i excel in vinyl record-collecting when i’m there – like i have a specific thrift store I go to where i just park it in front of their offerings and search. I go for total 40’s and 50’s old people music, and classical too, so it’s basically a gold mine of amazing down there. Found a few dishes and things: nothing super good this time in that regard, i was surprised. July will be better for that: dishes sometimes have a season down there which directly relates to the vacationers coming and going. thank you! I really tried on those photos; can you tell? ha.

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