I wonder what dish I'll be remembered by.
I don't mean by my boys, who'll have too many schizophrenic food memories to settle on just one, but by people who knew me only peripherally, perhaps only for a meal, or for a moment.
Helen came to my wedding. I don't think I'd met her before, and I certainly didn't see her after. She was a dear friend of Colin's parents, and she and her husband Steve gave us a fancy bedding set. It was our only "what-the-hell" registry selection -- you know, the one we added just for fun, knowing no one would ever buy it. The sheets maybe, but not the luxurious comforter. Not the shams. Not the dust ruffle, for god's sake.
Helen and Steve bought it all.
The wedding was a whirlwind. I hugged and kissed, danced and ate, giggled and marveled at my good fortune. And Helen was there, but so was my grandma, my friends, my parents, my newly minted in-laws. Do I remember quality time with Helen? I don't. Not really.
But, you see, I do have Helen in my life, still, because at some point, before she died, she shared her recipe for cottage cheese pancakes with my mother-in-law. She called them Siriniki (also syrniki) since they're of Eastern European origin, like she was.
And my mother-in-law has made them for years, so they're now firmly embedded in Rule family tradition. She even passed the recipe to me, and I make them, too. My boys light up when their forks nestle into the tender cakes, sweet syrup mingling with mild, creamy cheese.
They never met Helen, but every few Sundays as we pad around in slippers, settling in around the breakfast table, her siriniki form a centerpiece, a reminder, flanked by warm syrup and soft butter.
I wonder who will remember me.
Recipe for Cottage Cheese Pancakes, adapted from Helen by Clifton, then by me
Beating the egg whites separately and folding them into the batter makes these pancakes exceptionally tender and light. The cottage cheese adds additional softness and creaminess. I suggest making the pancakes small to ensure they'll cook all the way through.
Makes about 25 small pancakes
6 eggs, separated
Pinch cream of tartar
16 ounces cottage cheese (do not use nonfat -- I actually prefer full fat in these)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Maple syrup, for serving
Separate the eggs, placing the whites and yolks in separate medium/large mixing bowls. (If you have a stand mixer, place the whites in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.)
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Add the cottage cheese and salt to the yolks and beat well with a wooden spoon, hand-held electric beaters, or the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Stir in the flour and combine well.
Lighten the egg yolk/cottage cheese batter by stirring in one-third of the beaten egg whites. Then pour all the cottage cheese batter into the bowl with the remaining whites. Fold until the batter is uniformly combined, taking care not to deflate the whites too much.
Heat a large non-stick skillet or cast-iron griddle over medium-high heat. Coat with nonstick spray if necessary. Use an ice cream scoop to dollop small rounds of batter onto the hot skillet, dragging the batter a bit to create somewhat oblong shapes. (This will help the cakes cook through.) Cook two to three minutes per side, flipping once, until golden brown and speckled, working in batches. Serve warm, with maple syrup.