Yield: 8 pancakes

Hooray–strawberry season in Eastern Virginia is here! A few of the ingredients in these farm stand-fresh pancakes may sound a little odd, but you’ll just have to trust me: the end result is spectacular. These are not IHOP’s strawberry pancakes. Not even close. Instead, they are healthy, beautiful and sophisticated, but not bizarre.

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk (plain or vanilla soy milk would also be good–regular or lite)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup self-rising flour
4 tablespoons self-rising cornmeal (or cornmeal mix)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
pinch garlic powder (you don’t necessarily want to be able to identify the garlic flavor, but rather lend a certain savoriness to the batter)
1 cup finely diced fresh strawberries
approximately 4 fresh mint leaves, stacked, tightly rolled, and thinly sliced to make chiffonade
Vegan butter and/or vegetable oil for frying
Balsamic-Maple Syrup (recipe follows)
Optional Garnishes: sprigs of fresh mint and whole fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to warm. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together soymilk and balsamic vinegar. set aside to curdle, which will happen almost immediately. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, place next 7 dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in soymilk mixture. Whisk together until well combined. Then stir in diced strawberries with a spoon or fork. In a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan butter, oil or a combination. (I like a combination: the oil reduces chances of burning while the butter contributes flavor.) Using a 1/4 cup measure, make pancakes, two at a time. Cook a couple of minutes on the first side until you get a nice rise, a few bubbles appear, and the edges appear set. Gently flip and cook another couple of minutes on the reverse. Add butter and/or oil to keep skillet greased as needed. If pancakes are cooking too quickly, lower heat to medium, especially for second side. When cooked through, remove pancakes to plates or a serving platter, keep warm, and repeat with remaining butter and pancake batter. Serve warm with Vegan Balsamic-Maple Syrup, a sprig of fresh mint leaves and a perfect whole strawberry if desired.

Vegan Balsamic-Maple Syrup:
1/2 cup finely diced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
approximately 4 fresh mint leaves, stacked, tightly rolled and thinly sliced to make chiffonade
a few grounds of fresh black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together and heat gently in a saucepan on top of the stove or in the microwave. Two intervals of about 30 seconds in the microwave will do the trick.

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