3.11.15 Blini Meenie Miney Mo

Blini 790 xxx
photos by glutonforlife

Many great Russian writers, including Chekhov, Pushkin and Gogol, have dedicated plenty of ink to blini. These sturdy yet tender pancakes—originally made from oats but now also from wheat, rye, buckwheat and barley—were made for the pagan festival Maslenitsa, a celebration of the sun that heralded the coming of spring. The blini, round and golden like little suns, were eaten by the dozen in hopes of ensuring a rich harvest. Today, they are made for occasions both celebratory and pedestrian, topped with (or rolled around) a great many fillings, from mushrooms, potatoes and fish to fruit, cheese and honey. Blini are incredibly versatile, as welcome at the breakfast table as they are at the most sophisticated cocktail party. I think it's time to add them to your repertoire.

Flours 790 xxx
grass fed

Always in pursuit of gluten-free options, I make my blini with buckwheat. It has a deep nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with everything from caviar to wild blueberries. This recipe is lightened with a bit of all-purpose flour; a gluten-free mix works fine.

Buckwheat 790 xxx
cereal installment
Egg whites 790 xxx
whip it good

The spongey batter is made with yeast, the flours, buttermilk, egg yolks and a little melted butter, and sits, covered, in a warm spot for about an hour, until it bubbles. Then beaten egg whites are folded in and the batter rises for another half hour.

Salmon 790 xxx
fish tale

While the batter sits, you can turn to making the necessary accompaniments. This might be a warm fruit compote and some ricotta thinned with a little cream; grated egg and chopped raw onion to accompany salt fish roe; or, as for a recent brunch at my house, smoked salmon, roasted beets, horseradish cream and pickles.

Horseradish 790 xxx
deeply rooted

In the late fall, G pulled some horseradish roots from the tall plants that flourish in one corner of our garden. I keep them tightly wrapped in the back of the fridge and have been using them all winter long. Freshly grated, horseradish is intensely pungent and spicy, a wonderful foil for anything rich and fatty.

Horseradish2 790 xxx
sprouting ideas

Like that garlic clove I showed you recently, these roots are yearning to go back to the soil, putting out tender green shoots that seem to know spring is on its way.

Beets 790 xxx
scarlet fever

I roasted these beets in the oven, then peeled and sliced them. They got tossed with a little garlic vinegar, some buckwheat honey and a sprinkling of ground caraway.

Pickles 790 xxx
in a pickle

This quick pickle of cucumbers, radishes, shallots and shaved carrots was also a nice counterpoint to the oily smoked salmon.

Sides 790 xxx
on the side

I cooked down some apples and pears for a sweet option to be plopped on a blini with a dab of sour cream.

Linen cover 790 xxx
put a lid on it

These linen dish covers came from Heidi Swanson's excellent little shop, Quitokeeto. I don't think she has them in stock any longer, but you can find them from the maker, here. (I try to avoid using plastic and foil wherever possible.)

Bubbles 790 xxx
bubble up

Seasoned cast iron is the best surface for making pancakes, dosas and quesadillas. If you don't have a griddle, consider this modest investment—maybe in this one from Lodge, a reputable firm in business for more than a century. Keep your eye out for vintage seasoned cast iron at flea markets and country stores.

Blini2 790 xxx
a pancake by any other name

I made stacks of blini, thinking I would freeze some for later, but they all got gobbled up. They were delicious with the lightly smoky salmon, vinegary pickles and spicy horseradish cream. I enjoyed my chef's perk—eating one hot from the griddle with nothing more than a smear of salted butter.

Table 790 xxx
breaking the fast

A little spring sunshine joined us for the meal, which was served on my beloved vintage stoneware plates by French ceramist and sculptor Pierre Digan and platters by Mirena Kim. Love stoneware? These, though not the same, are a nice option. Christiane Perrochon also makes gorgeous pieces...we can dream can't we? And, sometimes, we can make our own dreams come true. Just pick the one that matters most...blini meenie miney mo...xo


Blini (Buckwheat Pancakes)

lightly adapted from The New York Times
makes about 16 medium-large blini
  • — 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • — 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • — 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • — 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • — 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • — 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free is fine)
  • — 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • — 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • — 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • — 2 large eggs, separated

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Stir in the lukewarm milk, and let stand for five minutes.

Sift together the flours and salt into a medium bowl, then whisk into the yeast mixture. Whisk in the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolks. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise in a warm spot for an hour, or until bubbly.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter. Cover again, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes until bubbly.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat and lightly grease. Ladle on a scant 1/4 cup and cook until bubbles break the surface, about a minute.

Turn and briefly brown on the other side, about 30 seconds. Remove blini to a plate or sheet pan, covering with a towel to keep warm.

They can be kept warm in a low oven, or wrapped tin foil and reheated in a 300º oven.

Blini keep well for a couple of days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to a month.

Separate them with parchment paper, wrap them in plastic and place them in freezer bags. Thaw them, wrapped only in foil, in a 350º oven for 30 minutes.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


am on a mad buckwheat rampage and this will slot in nicely.
janet on March 11, 2015 at 10:09 am —
Maybe you'll post some of your concoctions?
laura on March 11, 2015 at 10:57 am —
Lovely. It's an interesting phenomenon with your posts- the food is always enticing but the photographs are so elegant and artistic, and truthfully quite perfect, that it makes you forget about the recipe. Photographs of this caliber could easily be seen at MOMA. I’m not one to gush but really- Well done.
Celina on March 11, 2015 at 11:07 am —
*Blushing* I am a rank amateur as a photographer, so such praise is very welcome encouragement!
laura on March 11, 2015 at 11:18 am —
Serendipity! I just received an email from a blog that asked viewers to vote for blog awards on saveur dot com. I added yours for best photography.
Celina on March 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm —
Thank you. I am truly humbled.
laura on March 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm —
I took great interest in buckwheat when I studied soba last fall. I fell in love with buckwheat, the plant and the food, but soba making is not a quick thing, so I left my love for buckwheat there. Then on the plane home from Tokyo the other day I finally got to read the last Art of Eating which contained a long article on the Buckwheat Belt of West Virginia. And now to continue, here with this wonderful idea of a delicious looking, accessible buckwheat based meal. Thank you!
Prairie on March 11, 2015 at 7:50 pm —
AND, it's really great for sustainable agriculture - makes an excellent cover crop!
laura on March 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm —
True, true! And the bees! Have you ever tasted buckwheat honey?
Prairie on March 12, 2015 at 10:05 am —
Yes, that is made locally here! So deep and mysterious.
laura on March 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm —
Your snaps have officially reached Maria Robledo caliber. The shadow of those fork tines! XO AV
Amie Valentine on March 13, 2015 at 2:35 pm —
Please! Maria Robledo is a goddess and I am but a bit of gum on her shoe.
laura on March 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm —
Viva la blini...I will create and consume these to ensure the arrival of the sun and a great harvest any time! Happy Feasting.
thefolia on March 23, 2015 at 11:01 pm —