Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Attack of the Crepes!

Luscious Strawberries and Cashew Creme Crepes
Back when H came to visit, around the end of May, I started experimenting with crepes. It turns out that they are incredibly easy if you have the right tools! Luckily, in this case, "the right tools" all happen to be pretty inexpensive (excuse me while I momentarily geek out over gadgets, most of which have been in my kitchen for a while): a mesh sieve, colander, strainer or flour sifter; a well seasoned cast iron skillet, crepe pan, comal or flat griddle; a silicone brush; a crepe spreader (although an offset spatula may work, too); and a flexible stainless steel spatula.

The mesh sieve is for sifting your flour to make sure your crepes are light and lump-free. Mesh sieves are very useful in the kitchen as they can ensure your sauces, soups, sorbets, coulis, etc. are smooth and silky. You can also use it for rinsing dry grains or bean, or draining soaked nuts.

The skillet is where you'll cook the crepes, and cast iron is my favorite cooking medium: it conducts heat well so that food can cook evenly, it's durable as long as you treat it well, it takes on the best flavors and imparts them back into your food, it's naturally non-stick if it's well-seasoned, without being toxic (unlike Teflon....), and can be really inexpensive if it's a bare bones style. Of course, there are also the high-end enameled pieces of cast iron like Le Creuset which are pricey, but definitely worth it....they're just not for everything. While Le Creuset makes a crepe pan, I think it's unnecessary if you have a small kitchen or a tight budget.

The silicone brush enables you to keep your hot crepe pan well lubricated without having to worry about melting the bristles. I'll admit I was skeptical when I first saw the thick, rubbery bristles of a silicone brush. I though, "How in the world is that thing supposed to hold any oil, or agave nectar, or heaven forbid, a lighter liquid like soymilk?" And then I tried one. Immediately, I was hooked. Silicone pastry brushes are, in my opinion, the only way to go. Have you ever made baklava? If you use a plastic bristle pastry brush, the firm bristles catch and tear the delicate filo, and if you try using a soft natural bristle brush, you'll inevitably end up losing bristles in your baklava, which sure is appetizing! And the best reason to use silicone brushes is that they don't melt when you're working with heat, as silicone brushes have high melting point, usually around 500° F.

I'm sure the benefits of a crepe spreader are obvious, so there's really nothing for me to add.

Finally, there's the super thin and flexible stainless steel spatula. These are amazing tools. Perfect for flipping pancakes or crepes, moving hot cookies from cookie sheet to cooling rack, flipping burgers, tempeh or tofu in a cast iron skillet, or even for moving a cake from a square cake pan to a cooking rack. I certainly don't advise you to use any non-stick coated pans, but if you do, you'll want to avoid the stainless steel spatula, and instead opt for one of the nylon versions.

So, now that you know what the utensils do, I suppose you'll want a recipe and some pictures.

Simple Crepes
Christina Terriquez

1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour, or more if needed
1/8 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, SI brand recommended
organic safflower oil
3/4 cup organic unsweetened soy milk or rice milk

Sift flour and salt into a small bowl.

Mix 1 teaspoon of safflower oil and soy milk together, then whisk into dry ingredients. Batter should be about the consistency of melted ice cream, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time if needed. Set batter aside.

Lightly brush safflower oil onto a griddle or cast iron skillet and heat to medium–high heat. Pour 2--4 tablespoons of batter onto hot skillet and quickly spread batter into thin round. Gently flip crepe in a quick, fluid motion and cook just until crepe is set. Crepes should be beige and flexible, not golden brown or crispy. Remove crepe from pan and repeat until all batter has been used. Brush more oil onto pan if needed.

-Fill crepes with fresh fruit and cashew créme for a simple but elegant brunch.

-Fill crepes with cooked tempeh, steamed asparagus or sautéed mushrooms for a savory meal.

The crepe recipe is pretty easy and straight forward, so I'm showing you some of my favorite ways to enjoy crepes. I think my favorite of all were the Crepes with Wild Asparagus and Shiitake Béchamel and the Luscious Strawberries and Cashew Créme Crepes: both of these dishes were gorgeous and delicious, but they also had very complex flavors and textures while being clean and simple. The Luscious Strawberries and Cashew Créme Crepes are something I would never order at a restaurant, but oh. my. god. were they amazing!

Quinoa, Teff and Corn Timbal with Appled Beets, Zucchini, Carrot, Candy Cap and Sugar Snap Pea Sauté, and Tempeh Crepes with Chives and Béchamel

For tempeh: simmer tempeh in water, shoyu and oil for 20 minutes, or alternately, steam tempeh for 20 minutes, then marinate in shoyu and pan fry until crispy.

For b
échamel: heat olive oil in a skillet and mix in flour to make a white roux. When flour is well incorporated into oil, add unsweetened soy milk and whisk until sauce/gravy texture is achieved. Season with sea salt and/or shoyu and herbs or pepper if desired.

Tempeh Crepes with Chives and Béchamel: wrap 2-4 pieces of tempeh up in each crepe. Covered with béchamel and garnish with chives.

Asparagus in Crepes with Wild Mushroom Béchamel
For Wild Mushroom Béchamel: reconstitute dried wild mushrooms and slice, or wash and slice a mix of fresh wild mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms in olive oil with a bit of shoyu or tamari. Remove cooked mushrooms from pan, add more olive oil and mix in flour to make a white roux. When flour is well incorporated into oil, add unsweetened soy milk and whisk until sauce/gravy texture is achieved. Add mushrooms back into sauce and season with sea salt and/or shoyu and herbs or pepper if desired.

For Asparagus in Crepes with Wild Mushroom Béchamel: blanch or lightly steam asparagus. Fill crepes with cooked asparagus and roll crepes. Pour hot béchamel over crepes.

Crepes with Wild Asparagus and Shiitake Béchamel

For Crepes with Wild Asparagus and Shiitake Béchamel: Blanch or lightly steam wild asparagus. Stuff asparagus into crepes, cover with shiitake béchamel and garnish with fresh, ripe tomatoes and scallions or chives.

Fresh Fruit and Cashew Créme in Crepes
Cashew Créme: soak approximately 1 cup of cashews in filtered water overnight. Drain water, purée with a pinch of sea salt, sweetener or your choice (I use agave nectar) and a small amount of water if needed. You can season with vanilla beans, vanilla extract, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon or any combination thereof.

To prepare
Fresh Fruit and Cashew Créme in Crepes: slice or dice fresh seasonal fruit or your choice you can use one variety or many (I used blackberries, pineapple, and mango). Fill crepes with about 1 tablespoon of cashew créme, 3 tablespoons fruit, and roll closed. Garnish with fresh mint, fresh fruit and/or cashew créme.

Luscious Strawberries and Cashew Créme Crepes

Luscious Strawberries: Slice berries and macerate in fresh squeezed orange juice, liquid sweetener of your choice (like agave or maple syrup), or for super luscious berries, a little maraska and/or amaretto liqueur and a bit of raspberry jam. In this case I opted for the super luscious variation, which was divine!

To prepare Luscious Strawberries and Cashew Créme Crepes, fill crepes with about 1 tablespoon cashew créme, add some berries, roll closed, top with more berries, a generous amount of berry liquid, and an extra dollop of cashew créme.

Blackberry Crepes

Blackberry Crepes: Fill the crepes with fresh blackberries and a touch of blackberry or raspberry jam (I was lucky enough to have some homemade blackberry jam from JD's mom), roll up crepe, top with a few more berries, and dust with powdered sugar, brown rice syrup powder, or drizzle with maple syrup or agave nectar.


aTxVegn said...

An excellent tutorial, Christina! And the recipes, wow! The sweet and the savory look equally delicious.

I'll plan on eating at Casa the 2nd Sunday in September.

JD said...

Yay blackberries! Yay blackberry jam! Yay mommy! (for making blackberry jam)
Yay C! (for bringing the deliciosity together)

bazu said...

What a beautiful post! I love your plating techniques- the quinoa/teff timbale looks so good, as do the asparagus crepes!

healthnut said...

Hey Christina, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving some good info. It's nice to find another vegan who lives in the same city I live in :)

healthnut said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that you've been tagged by me to post a meme :)

aTxVegn said...

Hey, Christina, just stopping by to check on you. I haven't been to Casa in a while and I'm starting to get cravings.

The Little Vegan said...

Wow all of those crepes look fabulous!

urban vegan said...

I love crepes, botht sweet & savory.

There's holiday in France (ode to some Saint--I can't remember which one), in whcih all you eat all day are crepes. My kind of holiday.