Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Aphrodite's Island: Milos

 They say that Milos is the island of lovers. It is Aphrodite's island, where the famous Venus de Milo (keep in mind that while in English we say, "MYlo," it's really "MElo") statue was found in 1820. To step off the boat and to see the crystalline blue of the water, as well as the whitewashed houses that speckle the island, you can only agree with the island's reputation for beauty and love.



Which is why it was a slightly cruel twist of fate that, before leaving for the boat that would carry us to Milos early on Thursday morning, I had started to feel somewhat nauseous and fevered. By the time we reached the island and stepped off the boat four hours later, things had dramatically worsened and I couldn't help but wonder if Milos would be the place where I took my final breaths. Call me dramatic, but there is nothing worse than being sick to your stomach in a place with relentless heat, eternal sunshine and delicious food. 

 So you can imagine that, while our first stop, at least in an ideal world, would have been one of Milos' 70 beautiful beaches, it was instead the Milos Health Center. Within 2 minutes of entering the center, we were ushered into a room by a cheerful blonde nurse, who took both my temperature and blood pressure. Then, a few minutes later, the young doctor sleepily stumbled into the room (he had been napping) after having been awoken by the nurse. His verdict was a stomach bug that would most likely pass in 3 days, the exact duration of our time in Milos. We all had a laugh about my bad luck (I insisted this was punishment for my former gluttony, of which there can be no doubt), I was ordered to stay hydrated, not to exhaust myself, to eat only bland foods and to get a hat to protect myself from the bright Milos sun. We left the health center without paying a thing (I wonder if Americans even realize what they're objecting to when they say no to universal healthcare: is there really anything wrong with no bill, no prescriptions and no waiting time?) and found a lovely straw hat that an elderly shop owner, Kyria Sofia, insisted suited me perfectly.

Soon, with the hat on my head and a Coke in my hand, we were strolling through the village of Plaka, which gave us a wonderful view of the sea, the cliffs and even of some of Milos' famous windmills. We also found a lovely restaurant, appropriately named "Aphrodite's Garden," where the Greek ate ravenously and I attempted to consume some grilled chicken and rice. Saddest of all was that we got a lovely yogurt with graham crackers and lemon for dessert, but I couldn't even bring myself to eat more than a spoonful. Clearly, the fact that I had no appetite for dessert is all the proof that is needed for how sick I was truly feeling.


 Fortunately, however, there is a silver lining in our Milos adventure. By the next afternoon my fever finally broke and I was able to accompany the Greek (who I now might start referring to as the Fish, thanks to his ability to swim tirelessly) to the small, private beach close to our hotel, the wonderful Milos Camping and Bungalows, for a short swim.

 It was already quite late in the day, so the sun was setting and, after almost a full day of being in the hotel room listening to the wind (the Cyclades Islands, of which Milos, Santorini, Sifnos, Siros, Mykonos, etc. are a part, are known for their winds), I was excited to again pick up my camera and to capture the varied landscapes of Milos, from the fields to the Aegean Sea. And especially with the sun setting majestically over the island, infusing everything around it with color.


Our next--and last--day in Milos was my best. We walked to Provatas and spent the day swimming and relaxing on the beach. Having felt my appetite for all things return, I hungrily ate a piece of cheese pie and also again started devouring book three of The Game of Thrones. It was slightly hard to concentrate, though. Is it so often that you come across water this blue? It was so clear that you could see not only each and every fish, but also the curling strip of dark blue algae that marks the sea like a distinctive birth mark.


I will confess, however, that while I was more than thrilled to have had my one good day in Milos, all of the swimming and the sunshine (even with the lovely straw hat) led to a tiny relapse. It was either that or the fact that, having spent myself swimming, I allowed myself to gorge at dinner on a stuffed tomato, a delicious salad with feta and the kerasma that the kind cook at the hotel gave us: fresh apricot preserves from the hotel's own trees.


 Regardless of my bad luck or faulty immune system or punishment by the gods (whichever you'd prefer calling it), I was still glad that we got to see Milos. A trip to Greece would hardly be proper without at least one island adventure.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Tour of Northern Greece



In beauty of face no maiden ever equaled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream - an airy and spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the fantasies which hovered about the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos. - Edgar Allen Poe

I didn't know what to expect upon my arrival in Greece. So much has been reported about it in the news lately that it was almost impossible to come here without certain expectations--of poverty, anger, Molotov cocktails and, most importantly, of a world that has essentially stopped functioning. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth. The Greece that I have seen for the last week is vibrant, friendly and passionate, especially when it comes to politics and soccer. Working to calm this fiery passion is the relaxed atmosphere that seems almost a part of the landscape itself, from the expansive beaches to the rocky cliffs. And, quite honestly, I can't remember the last time I've been this relaxed; I like it. A lot. It's like a mental shift has taken place that has been long overdue.



 Since arriving, I've almost been constantly on the go. There's been iced coffee at a rooftop cafe, a visit to the Greek Hagia Sophia, and a night out at Tsinari, an ouzeri (ouzo bar) with the Greek and a few of his high school friends. Tucked away in the winding hills of Thessaloniki, it's the kind of place that, as a tourist, you only dream of stumbling upon. The ouzo is appropriately strong and bitter, and the small plates are varied and flavorful. Out of everything we had, I liked the μπουγιουρντί (bouyourdi)--a saucy mix of feta, tomatoes and pepper--best. Keep in mind that my love of this dish was a bit ironic since I was originally somewhat opposed to it; to my American ear, it sounded like (Chef) Boyardee, though it couldn't have been less similar. All the way through the free dessert, which the restaurants give you as kerasma (an offering that shows their appreciation for your business), we talked about politics, the Euro and the upcoming election. I loved every minute of it.







Then, a few days later, we set off for a short tour of Epirus--the northwestern part of Greece that is known for its mountainous landscape, stopping in both Metsovo and lakeside Ioannina. In Metsovo we had a fantastic meal, during which I ate my first piece of lamb (mind you, this was only the first of many), a savory pumpkin pie (pie is a specialty of the region), saganaki (pan-seared cheese), lima beans, meat balls and the most amazing thing of all, glika koutaliou (spoon sweets), fruity, syrupy concoctions that can be eaten plain or used to top Greek yogurt. Needless to say, being in Greece and happily accepting all forms of kerasma, from wine to dessert, I am not only in awe of Greek hospitality, but I am also extremely concerned for my waistline. "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" came on the radio yesterday and, needless to say, having just bought a bikini with pineapples all over it and surrounded by all sorts of intriguing sweet and savory things alike, I feel that this song is in danger of applying to my condition. How can you not be tempted to try everything you see in this country? It's either try everything or stay forever. I'd be lying if I said I weren't more than a little tempted to do both.











































After Metsovo, we drove onto Ioannina, which was both quaint and lively. The cool breeze from the lake provided a necessary respite from the almost omnipresent heat and people were out and about, taking advantage of it, too. Many of the townspeople were biking and fishing, while we opted for a long walk around the lake and through the center of town, eyeing some shops to stop in the next morning. Watching the sun set over the lake was also nothing short of magnificent. We had a perfect view as well, since we had dinner at a lakeside Italian restaurant.








Walking through Ioannina the next day, I enjoyed seeing the various shops and their wares. Everywhere I looked there was something new to see: clay baking dishes, the workings of a butcher shop offering AAA quality meat, old churches and buildings...It does seem true that wherever you go in Greece, you're sure to stumble upon some kind of ancient ruin. It's one of those humbling experiences that reminds you of how old the world is and how our lives, in comparison with its own, are nothing but the briefest of moments.






After we looked around to our heart's content in Ioannina and had some ice cream to combat the heat, we set off for Smixi, the Greek's "ancestral village"and home to Greek Vlachs. Our first order of business was lunch--yet another filling meal that offered a variety of Greek foods that I've been able only to salivate over in Greek cookbooks--lemony chicken, stuffed vegetables, creamy and salty feta...



And then, again as kerasma (why other countries don't get on this bandwagon is beyond me), we had revani, a coarsely textured semolina cake soaked in syrup, with some ice cream on the side. Needless to say, I've been in a kind of heaven that even my wildest fantasies couldn't dream up. 

To exercise a little after the meal, we took a brief walk along the river, admiring the natural beauty of Vlach country. And then it was time for yet another round of food and conversation when we headed back to the village to have coffee with some old friends of the Greek's parents. As the American girlfriend of a much beloved only son, I suspect that I have been an object of great interest for the various people I've met. I'm happy to report, however, that all of these meetings have been pleasant and the assessment on the part of the Greeks who meet me is: "Oh, she's just like a Greek girl!" I'm not 100% sure what this means, but I get the feeling it has something to do with three things: 1) I am game for eating any and all syrup coated pastries placed in front of me, 2) when asked, I choose to drink Greek instead of French-style coffee and 3) I don't fulfill the stereotype that most Europeans have of loud, boisterous Americans. And even if it has nothing to do with any of these presumed reasons, it's certainly a positive thing that makes me happy. Rather than feel like a tourist, I already, despite my shaky command of spoken Greek, kind of feel like one of the family. 
   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Fruitful Layover: 5 Hours in Istanbul

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” -Cesare Pavese
 
After 36 hours of door-to-door travel, we have finally arrived in Greece. In a way, the trip was one of my more pleasant travel experiences: Turkish Airlines not only has good food (i.e good airplane food; I can't stress the difference between good food on land vs. good food in the air enough) and entertainment services, but since it's based in Istanbul, you might also get to have a long enough layover that you can escape the airport, stretch your legs and breathe in some of the morning mist that hangs over the city, just waiting to be burnt off by the sizzling heat that will come.



Since we arrived at 6:00 a.m., we made it to the city center, old Istanbul, before 8. And it was really fascinating to watch the city wake up. After the monotony of the airplane, it felt good to be involved in the hustle and bustle of urban life. Despite the early hour, the streets were crowded: shopkeepers were throwing water on the streets outside their stalls to clean them, boxes were being unloaded and, on several street corners, men were setting up tables with oranges to sell juice to the people walking to work.   



 As strange as it might sound, I was incredibly intrigued by the city's "juice situation." It quickly became apparent that whenever fruit was hanging outside a shop, that meant that fresh juice was to be had there; kiwi, apple, pineapple, watermelon: the options were endless. And while I would never call myself a juice person, I was suddenly craving orange juice. When we finally sat down for breakfast, my wish came true; to go with my cheesy breakfast börek, a flaky pastry made of layers of dough, I had a big glass of pulpy, frothy orange juice. It was so tangy and rich that it makes my bias against cartons of orange juice all the stronger. A juicer may be in order, although I still doubt I could replicate the flavors of a juice that seems to have come from an orange tree in the backyard.









After breakfast, we emerged into a city that was rapidly becoming hotter and hotter. Although we were each carrying a backpack containing our laptops, we were determined to see as much as possible. Part of our mission was to scope out the city and to plan a little of what we were going to do when we head back to Istanbul in early July. The other part of our mission was, I think, to try to feel human again. Airplanes simply have a way of dehumanizing you and of taking the joy out of travel--the air is stale, your body feels first inflated and then deflated and, worst of all, you're cut off from the rest of the world, from the smells and sensations that make travel so worthwhile.


Although we spent just a few hours wandering around, Istanbul definitely brought us back to ourselves. We saw in men in suits with thick mustaches sitting at coffee houses, looking very serious and most likely discussing business or politics. Then, outside a large mosque, people selling bird seeds were feedings the pigeons; somehow, we were crossing the square at just the moment that they were taking flight...It's hard to believe that I managed to capture the moment, given my fear that a kamikaze pigeon was going to fly into my head or, even worse, into my camera lens, but I did. And as I was walking away, an elderly woman tried to get me to buy some bird seeds from her; when I shook my head no, believe it or not, she stuck her tongue out at me. Nothing brings you back to the reality of the human experience more than flying birds and immature gestures. I was a cross between shocked and delighted; it was The Birds meets Mary Poppins.



Besides birds, we found several adorable cats loitering in the shade around shops and in gardens. Based on my initial impression, I would certainly say that Istanbul is more of a cat than a dog city--literally and perhaps even metaphorically. It's a sleek city, relaxed but alert.



In addition to our ramblings, we made it into one landmark--the mausoleums of Hagia Sophia. Not only were they absolutely gorgeous in terms of the colors and the construction, they are also amazingly cool, peaceful places. Stepping into them, you can almost feel how religion and faith acquired their power; even as they daunt you, they welcome you into their soothing, still embrace. Despite the fact that I covered my hair with a scarf (a requirement and definitely one that is not at all flattering--think peasant girl in glasses), I was loathe to leave the comfort that the marble structures offered....



But you know what the best thing about thick heat is? That you can eat ice cream in the morning and it doesn't even count. That's always been my philosophy and, after leaving the protection of the mausoleum and getting back on the crowded train for the airport, I suggested that we sit at an outside cafe and enjoy something cool. With the Blue Mosque in the background, the Greek was not all that persuaded by my logic and went the healthy route with grapefruit juice, but I opted for a Fruit Festival ice cream cone. The key word was fruit, which is how I justify all of my questionable life choices.  :)


It was a nice way to begin our vacation. I haven't yet taken any pictures in Greece, but, once I do, I'll be back with more tales from the Mediterranean.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Still Rotating, Two Years Later

 "A good rotation. A rotation I define as the experiencing of the new beyond the expectation of the experiencing of the new. For example, taking one's first trip to Taxco would not be a rotation, or no more than a very ordinary rotation; but getting lost on the way and discovering a hidden valley would be." - Walker Percy (The Moviegoer)

Two years ago today, using the same exact quote by Walker Percy, I started this blog with a post about granola. It was, as many of you know, my gift to myself for surviving the first four years of graduate school--for both writing and reading more pages than I could count, for forcing myself to grapple with things that I sometimes wasn't even all that interested in and, most importantly, for expanding my food repertoire. I had read and loved many of the Russian masters; in my newly discovered freedom, it was time to turn my attention away from Tolstoy's wars and Dostoevsky's drunken gamblers and onto things that were a little more pertinent in my daily life. It was, quite simply, time to cook, to bake and to eat well. After all, the world of food was a long germinating interest of mine that had, despite the occasional cupcake, often been pushed to the sidelines since I couldn't balance everything--and still manage to sleep.


Of course, there was a part of me that was afraid to start this blog. What did I know about food photography? As my early pictures can attest, not much. But the great thing is that I picked up a few skills along the way, moved into an apartment that has an abundance of natural light and got a better camera. But photography aside, there was also the small issue of how to write about food. While I had been trained to analyze language and pick out strange moments in literary texts, I wasn't quite sure about selling a recipe or describing the intense satisfaction of making gnocchi or a lemon yogurt cake. It was (and, at times, still is) a process of trial and error, of finding my own means of bloggerly expression, but one that I have enjoyed immensely.


In general, I've gone about this blog in my own way. As I'm sure you've noticed, all but a handful of my posts start with some kind of a quote, mainly literary, but sometimes also something inspiring that I stumbled upon in some article. I suppose that's my scholarly training coming through--I feel most comfortable when I'm writing through something else. Call it my anchor, call it the theme of the post, it hardly matters. Food and literature are two of the things I like best and, somehow, I couldn't have one without the other. So I write about what I read and cook and, sometimes even about what I write. I do sometimes worry that there's not enough "Dostoevsky" on this blog and that the blog's name is nothing but a misnomer, but the simple truth is that had I never read Dostoevsky (cliche that it is), my life might have turned out very differently. This man and this man alone drove me to want to devote my life to Russian literature (i.e. the PhD track).

That's right; in the midst of all this baking, cooking and fiction reading, I've been working on my dissertation, too (and, oddly, I've been sleeping more than ever!). Some days it goes well, other days it is such a miserable process that I immediately retreat back into the kitchen to play around with lentils or dough. Only after this kind of mental "cleanse" can I even imagine returning to the computer.


This upcoming academic year is supposed to be the one in which I finish my dissertation and apply for jobs. In short, scary, scary things. I have no idea what's going to happen or how any of this will turn out, but I do know that this blog will continue to be a part of the process. When it all started two years ago, my life looked very different from how it looked today: I met the Greek, I've traveled to some amazing places, I've done a lot of work--more than I sometimes give myself credit for--and I've made so many foods that had formerly seemed beyond the reach of my culinary skills....Which just goes to show you that you can never really know how things are going to turn out.

But to those of you who stop by regularly and have been a part of this process, from my family and friends to the strangers who find their way here from other blogs and the wide world of the internet, I send you a sincere thank you. I would blog even if I had no readers, but it's a comfort to know that my words are not simply disappearing into the Great Beyond.


Since I'm leaving for Greece and Turkey tomorrow evening and I won't be back until mid-week when I've reached Greek soil and stuffed myself full of cheese, I wanted to leave you with a recipe--one that evoked the place I'm going and that also circled back nicely to how this blog began. The perfect recipe fell into my lap a few weeks ago when, while searching for an engagement gift for friends, I came across a used copy of In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. I just couldn't resist buying it with my birthday money, partly because of my Melissa Clark love, partly because of the 75% discount off the cover price and partly because the first recipe I opened up to was the Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios. Salty sweet things have always managed to turn my head and this was no exception; I was intrigued by the addition of olive oil in granola, too.  It sounded like a taste of the Mediterranean and the kind of fragrant breakfast that calls to mind sunshine and beaches, slow mornings and cloying heat. To stay true to my vision of Mediterranean bliss, I decided to use honey instead of maple syrup, to add both ginger and cardamom (Clark recommends that you make an impossible choice between the two), less brown sugar and more apricots. Texturally speaking, it's the stickiest granola I've ever made, but also some of the most flavorful. I think my impulse to add honey was spot on, too, because the granola is quite sweet--not in a bad way, but in a way that recalls the sweet syrups generously poured on baklava. Just imagine baklava in a bowl, served with either yogurt or milk:  does breakfast get any better than that?


"Going to Greece Granola," aka Honey-Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios

Generously adapted from Melisssa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite
Yields roughly 9 cups

Recipe notes: I've found that granola recipes are generous when it comes to adaptation. You can easily add things you like--nuts, seeds, etc.--and take out those ingredients that are less pleasing to your palate. In the case of this granola, the original recipe called for 3/4 cup pure maple syrup; I decided to substitute 1/2 cup honey + 1/4 cup water, heated together and diluted in a saucepan. Because honey is naturally sweeter than maple syrup, I added 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, as compared to the original 1/3 cup. I would also say, however, that all of these quantities could be cut again; this granola would most likely be delicious with less olive oil and even less honey and brown sugar; the texture would certainly change, but since this recipe is a tad gooey, you can move only in the direction of more perfectly crisped oats.

3 cups extra-thick rolled oats
1 cup hulled pistachios
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 cup dried apricots, chopped into quarters

-Preheat the oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, sugar, salt and spices.
-Stir in the olive oil and mix well.
-In a small saucepan, heat the honey and water until smooth. Remove from heat and stir into the oat mixture.
-Mix well.
-Spread the mixture evenly onto the baking sheet.
-Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a deep golden color. Be sure to stir the granola every 10 minutes, also rotating the pan, so that it bakes evenly.
-Remove from oven--make sure that no clumps have formed and, if they have, break them up with a knife--and let cool.
-Once the granola is at room temperature, mix in the dried apricots and place in jars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Astonishment Trumps Attention: Almost a Dutch Baby

Instructions for living a life: 
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it. -Mary Oliver ("Wild Geese")

I try my best to live these words on a daily basis, and, thanks to this blog, I think I'm most successful when it comes to number 3; I certainly do a lot of telling and think that my life is all the better for it. Through food, I've created some kind of record of my experiences.  I also like to think that I'm astonished often enough--on most days, I find myself snapping pictures of seemingly unremarkable things that maybe seem ordinary, but enchant me in some small way.  Maybe it's the play of light, maybe it's the hour of the day, maybe I just need, in that instant when I pick up my camera, the everyday objects with which I surround myself to be interesting again.  Needing alone can be half the battle. But, when it comes to "paying attention," I think this is where I struggle the most.


I am, for better or for worse, simply one of those people who has an ongoing list of things to do running through her head. Even while I'm engaged in some task, I'm usually thinking of what will come next, what I'll be doing tomorrow and, in some cases, even what I'll be doing next year! It's really difficult for me to embrace the words that, even if true, have become a cliche: "to live in the moment." I have discovered, however, that cooking is usually the time when I'm most aware. It may be because cooking can be hazardous if you don't give it at least 99.9% of your attention, but I like to think that it's more because it's an all-embracing sensory experience that forces you to smell, touch, see, taste and listen for sizzles and pops.


But even so, this past weekend the pile of things I needed to do intruded upon my quiet Sunday morning breakfast-making ritual.  Since we're leaving for Greece this upcoming Sunday, I was thinking about laundry, a haircut, correspondence I needed to take care of, the dissertation, the article and, of course, the blog, too. My mind wasn't quite where it should have been, which was on the recipe for a pancake that I had found at our B&B in Tahoe: a cross between a Dutch Baby, a thin, puffy pancake that looks like a bit like an inflated crepe, and a Finnish cottage cheese pancake (Mokki Pannukakku).  Given my obsession with both pancakes and Finnish food, it seemed only fitting that I add this recipe to my ever-growing collection of breakfast recipes.


As I reread the recipe, however, I realized I'd have to make some modifications. It called for the ingredients to be mixed in a blender, which I don't have; I'll admit that I'm sometimes a bit of a snob when it comes to these things and I'd rather mix the ingredients myself than let a machine do it for me. It must be because of my inner do-it-yourself girl. I also noticed that the recipe didn't call for any salt, which struck me as strange, so I added some. Then I go to thinking that instead of sugar, agave would work nicely....All this was happening as I was snapping pictures--it's been ages since this blog has seen a proper breakfast post!-- and enjoying the way the shadows from the tulips the Greek had given me could be seen on the ingredients.


I mixed the wet ingredients with the dry, added it to the butter-coated cast-iron skillet (as a sidenote, this thing has fast become my favorite kitchen object with which to cook. Seriously, what could be better than a skillet that works on the stove and in the oven? It may be a lot of work to keep it properly seasoned--I once read an article in which it was compared to caring for a puppy--but it's worth it...just like a puppy would be) and put it in the oven....I had a niggling thought that the texture didn't seem to be quite right; it looked a little too thick to be a Dutch Baby, but I figured that maybe this was due to the addition of the cottage cheese. And then I was puzzled by its cooking speed:  it cooked in 15 minutes, when it was supposed to take about 30...But it was delicious, light and fluffy and slightly sweet--in a way, more like a sweet egg frittata with crispy edges than like a pancake.


After breakfast, I took another look at the recipe to see if I had done something wrong and then it hit me: I had forgotten to add the two cups of milk! These two cups would have thinned out the batter. They would have increased the cooking time. I remember having had every intention of adding them, but then somewhere between snapping a photo and melting the butter, the milk never even made it out of the fridge. But I can't say that the recipe was incomplete without them; it simply led to something different, but no less wonderful. In a way, I guess you could say that I was so busy being astonished by those tulips that I forget to pay attention. I think this is proof that not only is balance hard to achieve, but also that sometimes, by not paying attention, we discover something unexpected. Also, I now can't help but think that maybe it really can be better to sometimes hold the milk.

A Cottage Cheese "Dutch Baby", or a Sweet Cheese Frittata*

Yields 6-8 pie-size servings

5 eggs
1 Tbsp. agave nectar 
1 cup flour
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar, for sprinkling on top
2 cups milk (optional)

-Preheat oven to 425 F.
-In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. 
-In a medium-sized bowl, add the cottage cheese, agave nectar, eggs and the 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
-Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, taking care not to over-mix. Mix only until just combined and you can see no loose bits of flour. 
-Melt 1/4 cup butter in a cast-iron skillet. 
-Once the butter is melted, move the pan around so that it coats the sides, as well as the bottom.
-Then, pour in the butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar. 
-Place in the oven and, if without milk, bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden on top. If you've added the milk, it should take 25-35 minutes or until puffy and golden. 
-Cut into pie-like slices and serve with fresh fruit and maple syrup, agave or honey.


*This recipe almost defies classification, although I promise that, regardless of what it technically is, it makes for a lovely breakfast.
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