Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crepe with ricotta and fall fruit compote

Crepe can be tricky and tedious to make.  They are especially tedious if you are making them for a hungry family of 5 good eaters.  The woman patient enough to do it would be our mom. She made the most delicious crepe that were so lacy and practically see-through you coule could wear one as a scarf.  It was by far our favorite breakfast. It took at least an hour.   During that hour, my siblings and I stalked around the kitchen, peering into the skillet, and even "stealing" the imperfect crepe, which did not please mom at all.  She would send us away, threatening to never make crepe again if we didn't leave her alone, and then call us back once she needed someone to apply melted butter to the edges to keep them soft. Then we would dig in, slathering the already rich crepe with sour cream and honey, rolling them up and dipping in sugar, tearing them into pieces and eating plain. It was quite possibly the least nutritious breakfast we were allowed and we loved every carb-loaded bite.

Every time I make crepe, I travel back to our childhood kitchen.  Except now, I want balance in my breakfast, so I fill them with fresh ricotta cheese and top them with sauteed apples and pears sweetened with local honey.  Considering that I'm not cooking for a family of 5, I eat leftover crepe throughout the week, often drizzled with honey and a squeeze of lemon or smeared with Justin's chocolate and hazelnut butter.

The point is, although a little demanding, crepe will make you and the people you care about very very happy.   Crepe are best made at home in a non-stick skillet that you easily pick up and turn to evenly distribute the batter.

Crepe with ricotta and fall fruit compote

1. Make the crepe (adapted from
1 1/3 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs, whisked
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided to add 3 tablespoons to the batter and using 1 to brush the skillet
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the ingredients together in a blender  or whisk in a medium bowl until smooth and let rest for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Warm your favorite non-stick skillet (anywhere between 7 and 10 inches should work) over medium-low heat.  Brush the skillet with a bit of melted butter, pour in 1/8 - 1/4 cups (depending on your skillet size) of batter in the middle of the skillet and quickly swirl it around the skillet.  In about 1 minute, the crepe will be lightly browned and set on the underside.  Flip the crepe with a wide spatula and cook for another 30 - 45 seconds.  Remove to a plate.  Crepe can be stacked and they won't stick.

2. Make the fruit compote
1 large apple, cored and sliced into 8 wedges
1 large pear, cored and sliced into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Couple dashes of ground cinnamon

Warm the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and add the apple slices first.  Saute, turning occasionally for 2 - 3 minutes until the apples start to soften. Add the pear slices, give it a good stir, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the maple syrup, the lemon juice, and the cinnamon and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes until the apples are soft and the pears start to break down.  Turn off the heat and serve warm.  This compote is also lovely on pancakes or even plain yogurt. 
3. Make the ricotta filling and fill the crepe. 
1 cup fresh ricotta, store-bought or homemade
Zest of 1 lemon
2 - 4 tablespoons of good flavorful honey
2 tablespoons of butter

Mix the ingredient together.  Place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the middle of the crepe and fold the edges over like a pouch.  Repeat until you run out of filling.  Warm 1 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat and brown the crepe pouches on both sides. Repeat with more butter until all the crepe pouches are browned.  

Serve with fruit compote and honey and lemon for the extra crepe.  Mom pouring milky tea is optional. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Turkish stuffed eggplant (Imam Bayildi)

Summer has definitely come to an end in New York, as evidenced by apples at the farmers' markets, rainy runs among the changing leaves in Prospect Park, and my cat jumping into bed in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, some remnants of summer are still around, like small eggplants and field-grown tomatoes, and I intend to enjoy them for as long as I can before it is all brassicas and squash (oh, and those wonderful New York apples).  

Imam Bayildi is a Turkish dish that combines the lovely small eggplants with tomatoes, caramelized onions, and plenty of rich olive oil.  It is usually served at room temperature as a meze (an appetizer), but I think it also tastes great hot as a side to some fish or lamb or just on top of bulgur wheat with yogurt.  As much as I love olive oil, Imam Bayildi can be a little heavy, so the recipe here cuts down on the oil and lets the natural flavors of eggplant and tomato show.  Stewy and soft, I think this dish makes the perfect bridge between shorts and corduroys, light cardigans and cashmere sweaters.  
Imam Bayildi 
Adapted from Clifford A Wright

2 small eggplants
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced across 
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 - 3 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup of chopped parsley, divided
3 - 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves pulled off
1/4 teaspoon dried mint
4 tablespoons of good olive oil, divided
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut off the stem portion of each eggplant, cut it in half lengthwise, slice off a little bit of skin from the side of the eggplant to make sure it sits well in the skillet, and cut a deep slit down the flesh, without cutting all the way through.  Generously salt the eggplant and let it sit on a paper towel, flesh side up, for 15 minutes, then flesh side down for another 15 minutes.  
Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet. When the oil is almost smoking, pat the eggplant dry and sear, flesh side down, in the skillet.  Once the eggplant is well-browned, sear the other side, and remove to a plate.

Warm another tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet and saute the onion and the garlic over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to help onions turn golden and make sure you don't burn the garlic.  Combine the caramelized onions, the diced tomatoes, most of the parsley (reserve the rest for garnish), the thyme leaves, the dried mint in a small bowl and season well with salt and pepper.  Pour the last tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet, put in the eggplant, flesh side up, and sprinkle the eggplant with the lemon juice.  Fill with the eggplant with the onion and tomato mixture and pour the remaining filling into the skillet. Add the water, bring the boil and simmer on low heat for 45 - 50 minutes until the eggplant is soft.  Check the skillet occasionally and add more water if it seems dry.  Serve hot or let cool. As with most stewy dishes, this one also tastes great in a day or so.