Buckwheat Beet Blini with Beluga Lentil “Caviar”
You see, I have a freezer full of pureed vegetables–neatly frozen in 1 oz cubes– that my once-adventurous fressers now refuse to eat. Never one to waste food, I’ve been looking to repurpose these colorful little cubes of wholesomeness, and have tried many different experiments to that end.
My most successful experiment to date has been the fluffy pink pancakes that resulted from adding 2 oz of thawed beet-sweet potato puree to a storebought buckwheat pancake mix. (My kids will eat anything in a pancake form, as it turns out.) Since the mix was not gluten-free, however, I’ve been unable to sit with them and share breakfast, which is an important part of raising good eaters. So I turned my attention to finding a good, gluten-free buckwheat pancake recipe that the whole family could enjoy.
I love the beet-buckwheat combo for so many reasons. For starters, buckwheat is naturally a good source of iron, which makes it a great grain for women and kids alike–gluten-free or not. Beets are a fantastic source of folate, another female-friendly nutrient that, notably, is missing from most gluten-free flours and baked goods (whereas conventional wheat flour must be fortified with folic acid by law). For those adults and kids who aren’t getting enough leafy greens (read: most of us), beets are a great alternative source of folate. Beets have a natural sweetness and mild flavor to them as well, making them easy to blend into a pancake recipe. (Because they tend to be watery, I mix them with sweet potatoes for the puree to keep it nice and creamy). Lastly, as an Eastern European gal by ancestry, beets and buckwheat speak to my inner Ashkenazi.
Blini, for the uninitiated (or those of us who don’t get invited to fancy parties), are mini pancakes of Russian origin, traditionally made with wheat or buckwheat, topped perhaps a dollop of sour cream, and served as the base for caviar. While bona-fide blini are made with yeast, my American-style shortcut uses a chemical leavener (baking powder) to save effort and time. Though this recipe may seem just like a breakfast pancake by another name, these blini are decidedly in the salty/savory camp– they lack any semblence of sweetness. If you are keen on modifying them to be more breakfasty, you could add 2 TBSP sugar to the dry ingredients. Or just leave them as-is and top with maple syrup.
Regarding the topping: while caviar is not a staple in my pantry, Beluga lentils– the “caviar of lentils“–most certainly are. They’re easy enough to make from scratch, but for the seriously time-pressed, note that Trader Joe’s does indeed sell pre-cooked Beluga Lentils in shelf-stable packaging. In addition, you can add an optional dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche or plain greek yogurt to anchor the lentils in place if you wish. A storebought horseradish cream sauce would be fabulous here as well. Of course, you need not limit yourself to these toppings. Savory buckwheat blini would make a fabulous, gluten-free base for a variety of toppings and spreads– smoked fish especially (think whitefish salad or herbed cream cheese with lox).
Recipe: Gluten-free Buckwheat Beet Blini with Beluga Lentil “Caviar”
Makes 24-30 blini. Great as a party appetizer… and leftovers double as a fabulous toddler snack.
For the lentils:
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup dry beluga lentils, rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cups water
- Salt, to taste
- Heat olive oil in a small saucepan.
- Saute onion and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes
- Add 1/4 dried beluga lentils, bay leaf and water.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for ~20 minutes (or until lentils are tender to your liking)
- Add salt to taste. Remove bay leaf. Set aside.
For the blini:
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup beet-sweet potato puree (click here for recipe)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 1/4 cup milk (you can use a dairy-free milk substitute, such as soymilk or almond milk, if you wish)
- 2 Tbsp melted butter or margarine, plus more butter for frying
- Optional garnish: sour cream, plain greek yogurt or créme fraiche
- Cook beluga lentils as per above.
- While lentils are cooking, combine buckwheat flour, salt and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl
- Add beaten egg, milk, melted butter and beet/sweet potato puree to the dry ingredients
- Stir mixture until just combined
- Melt just enough butter in a large, non-stick frying pan to coat the bottom. When pan is hot, pour small amount (about 2 tablespoonfuls) of batter for each blini. Cook 1 to 1½ minutes, turning when edges look cooked and bubbles begin to break on the surface. Continue to cook 1 to 1½ minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool blini completely before garnishing with toppings and serving.
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