The Chef's Take: Quinoa Pancakes at Cafe Clover

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Brunch, epitomized by slabs of custardy French toast and chorizo-strewn omelets, is hardly the healthiest of meals. Yet this Bloody Mary-buoyed ritual mustn’t always be a lavish one. Consider the health-conscious Cafe Clover, in New York’s West Village, where weekends revolve around market-vegetable scrambles and hemp seed-and-wheat-berry biscuits. Even fluffy, carb-laden pancakes get a good-for-you revamp under the imaginative spell of Executive Chef David Standridge, who transforms the morning staple with the addition of quinoa and serves it with barrel-aged maple syrup.

”For me it’s about taking food that people want to eat and making it healthier without them missing any of the flavor,” explains the alum of New York restaurants Market Table and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. “There are certain dishes guests need to always have, and at brunch you can’t not have pancakes.”

Standridge’s solution, then, is to reimagine the indulgent flapjack. In his more nutritious version, quinoa displaces the typically high volume of flour, and sugar is shunned for agave. His from-scratch buttermilk melds together skim milk and vinegar, and he embraces coconut oil instead of pools of melted butter. “Butter infiltrates everything. Line cooks are notorious for fixing dishes with it, but we don’t even have it on the stations,” Standridge explains. “Coconut oil is a truly amazing alternative.”

Topped with apples and raw cashews, Cafe Clover’s pancakes are at once hearty and wholesome, a welcoming combination Standridge loves the challenge of creating. “I like working with such limitations,” he says. “You come up with things you never would have otherwise.”

Quinoa Pancakes with Roast Apples, Cashews, Barrel-Aged Syrup

Makes 12 pancakes

Ingredients:

3 3/4 cups skim milk

10 tablespoons white vinegar

5 cups organic unbleached flour

15 tablespoons agave

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

5 eggs

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Roast Apples

10 apples (Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored and diced

1/3 cup agave syrup

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method:

Combine all dry ingredients and cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine vinegar and milk. Let stand 10 minutes to make “buttermilk.” Whisk eggs into milk, and then add milk mix to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Whisk in melted coconut oil. Cook on a hot griddle or in a nonstick saute pan.

Apples:

Peel apples and cut into large chunks. Heat a little coconut oil in large saute pan and add apples, cinnamon and agave. Simmer until apples are soft and coated with agave.

Per serving: Calories 457; Fat 7 g (Saturated 4 g); Cholesterol 79 mg; Sodium 768 mg; Carbohydrate 91 g; Fiber 4 g; Sugars 43 g; Protein 12 g

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.