Friday, January 22, 2010

French Crepes

Sometimes as Lewis or I make breakfast on the weekends one of the boys will come in like the small tornadoes they are and upon seeing what we are doing run out to share the good news with the other tornado. Crepes always elicit the excited running to share their good fortune. I love standing in the kitchen with the French recipe, that even my weak language skills can translate, and hearing their excitement. "Julian, Julian, we're having crepes!" Part of my love for this ritual is the culinary knowledge they have unwittingly picked up. Really the batters for crepes, pancakes, waffles and popovers are very similar, and the 2 of them can unerringly tell which one is being prepared. Of course every time they are overjoyed at good food, it makes me happy, helping slightly to erase the times they whine over another dish.

This recipe was taught to us several years ago by a French woman who worked as an ESL teacher to the many refuges who are resettled her in Burlington. She had printed out the recipe from a French food site and on the back written a conversion from weight to volume. In the end she let Lewis and I keep that print out. We used her approximation for over a year before one Sunday morning I flipped over the paper and realized I was perfectly capable of translating the recipe. "3 ouefs" is 3 eggs, "250g de farine" is 250 grams of flour, "30 grams de beurre" is 30 grams of butter.

When made with the volume measurements written on the back the crepes were always good and we happily ate them for many breakfasts and a few dinners. However the crepes made following the french (metric) measurements were far better then the ones we had made before. No surprise really as most of the measurements were very different. The true french crepe we now make are thin, eggy, with a subtly that makes them irresistible. They must be good, or else Sebastian would not have had 9 at breakfast the other day.

Most of the time we spread strawberry freezer jam on each crepe, each of us has our prefered way to spread the jam, roll them up and eat it. They are more decadent with caramel chocolate sauce or chocolate ganache. You can always gild the lily by adding whipped cream. If you leave out the orange extract they can be served with savory fillings, brie and ham, leftover stew, sauteed mushrooms and leeks and a million more combinations. They are a great use for reinventing leftovers.

This is the single recipe, we have had to start doubling the recipe if Lewis and I wish to eat any of them.

French Crepes
Adapted from (Although they have since altered their recipe)

While I have given a version in volume it will be different for every type of flour, to be accurate it is best to use a scale that weighs in grams. Both ways will be delicious.

1/4 litre milk (a glass quart measuring cup should have this as a marking)(lait)
1/2 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour (62.5 grams de farine)
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (62.5 grams de farine)
3 large eggs (3 oeufs)
1/8 tsp kosher salt (1 pincee de sel)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp orange extract (Eau de fleur d'oranger)
2.2 Tbsp butter melted (30 grams de beurre)
2 Tbsp butter melted for the pan

Place all the ingredients except the butter in a large mixing bowl and blend with an immersion blender (alternatively you can use a large wire or place in a blender). Once the batter is well blended add the butter in a steady stream while continuing to whisk or blend. Most recipes suggest you allow the batter to rest for 1 hour and up to 1 day before using, if I ever allowed the time for this without people passing out from hunger I am sure it would be a great idea.

Heat a nonstick saute pan or crepe pan over medium high heat and brush with butter. Pour in a ladle or 1/4 cup of batter and tilt the pan to spread the batter around. I then fill in any uncovered areas with dollops of batter. Cook the first side until the edges are dry and curling a little and then flip over. Cook briefly on the second side. Place on a plate and continue to use the rest of the batter to make more crepes, layering them on the plate.

When all the batter is used serve the platter of crepes with the jam of your choice or caramel chocolate sauce or chocolate ganache, or whatever fillings you want.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sesame Glazed Baby Bok Choy

With 2 weeks before my next CSA pick up I ran out of produce. While I try to eat locally and in season I found myself incapable of putting root vegetables in my cart. Instead I came home with four beautiful little baby bok choy with no plans for how to prepare them. Most recently I used bok choy to make this dish. Sebastian loved it but I found it a little boring, and I refuse to be swayed by the fickle tastes of a 7 year old.

So now I had 4 baby bok choy in my kitchen and no plans. So how could I make bok choy sexy and exciting? I don't often have bok choy as my CSA does not grow any. I heard a rumor that the first season they were open the only crop that grew reliably was bok choy. Every week their members would show up for pick up to be faced once again by tables of bok choy. If that is the case, I suspect I will never have any from our farm, which is a real shame as the way I prepared it was easy and yet had a complex satisfying flavor. So now I have added bok choy to the plants I want to grow this summer. A list that is far larger then the space I have available.

Part of the beauty of this recipe is the contrast between the leaves and the stalk. The stalk becomes tender and supple while the leaves become concentrated and earthy. Of course the mix of asian seasonings also brings out and highlights the overall flavors (which for bok choy can honestly be bland without the right seasoning). The original recipe calls for fresh ginger, however I rarely have any in the house. I usually use dried ginger, using half the quantity called for. This does not make enough of a negative impact for me to care, or more to the point enough to make me run out the store with 2 boys. I also subbed extra virgin olive oil for the peanut oil. With so many children having a life threatening allergy to peanuts I feel safer not having peanut oil all over my kitchen from cooking and eating.

The recipe comes from This vegetable cookbook. It is a handy basic reference for folks beginning with a CSA and/or trying to cook more seasonally. All the vegetables are presented in alphabetical order with information on storage and preparation and a modest number of recipes. The recipes are all straight forward and easy to follow. Although I did promise Sebastian I would never make the boiled carrots with North African Spices again.

Sesame - Glazed Baby Bok Choy
adapted slightly from Jack Bishops Vegetables Every Day

1 1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
4 baby bok choy (each approximately 3 - 4 ounces, total weight around 1 Lb) halved lengthwise through the bulb
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried powdered ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger)
2 medium scallions, chopped small

In a small bowl mix the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Set aside until needed.

In a large nonstick skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat until golden and fragrant. About 3 minutes, when done transfer to a small bowl.

Turn the heat under the non stick skillet to high and add 1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO or grapeseed oil. Briefly heat the oil until shimmering and then add the bok choy, cut side down, in a single crowded layer. Sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. turn the bok choy over and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the bok choy to a serving dish.

Heat the last 1/2 Tbsp oil in the skillet and add the garlic, ginger and scallions and sauté until they are fragrant (30 to 60 seconds). Add the vinegar/soy sauce mixture and simmer until the mixture is thickened (30 to 60 seconds). Add the bok choy back to the pan, cut side down, and cook until coated with the glaze, 15 to 30 seconds. Turn the peices over and cook for 15 to 30 seconds more. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Homemade Play dough

Last week we had a stretch of days so cold that my chickens never ventured outside. No fears though, they still gave us eggs every day. When the cold snap ended I went outside and found the temperature so balmy that a hat and gloves was enough to keep me warm. On a whim I checked the weather to find out what I now considered too warm for a coat. It's almost short season with the temperature at 27° Fahrenheit (-3° Celsius). It is amazing how your internal temperature gauge can be reset so quickly. The last 2 days we have had a snow storm that dumped over 33 inches of snow, a record breaking total for a single snow storm.

At a solstice party this year a neighbor told me how nice it is to watch my boys play outside together. She described them as "old fashioned boys". By that she meant they will happily play together for hours with just a shovel and a pile of snow, a pile of rocks and containers, a scooter and a tricycle, a wading pool and a hose or anything else they can lay claim to. Last winter Julian managed to shred one kids snow shovel and totally deform and mangle a kids hoe, chopping up ice. This year we gave them each a tempered aluminum avalanche shovel for Christmas. So far they have shoveled the driveway, made a jump at the sledding hill, used them as toboggans on an icy hill and generally already gotten my moneys worth.

However when they want to warm up inside I can guarantee a peaceful, although not quiet, couple of hours by making a batch or 2 of play dough. Really I am not sure why anybody would buy Play-Doh. For pennies I can make a large enough batch that they can share without fighting. In addition the boys love the process of making it, it is a little like magic. Sometimes we add scented oil to the batch and they each get to choose a food coloring and add it. I know some people like to add instant Kool Aid mix to both color and scent the dough, personally that just sounds gross and sticky to me. If I won't feed it to my family I am not going to mix it in to their toys either.

The play group Julian and I go to uses way less salt when they make play dough and the texture is smoother. However the high salt content acts as a preservative so if you reduce it the playdough will need to be refrigerated when not being played with and thrown away more frequently. I still remember the time we took some of theirs home wrapped in plastic wrap. I found it a week later and had a moment of horror trying to remember what food item I had left to become completely covered in white, green and black mold. Slowly I remembered the piece of green play dough we had brought home.

Homemade Play dough

1 cup cold water
food coloring of your choice
1 cup white flour (I think this is the first recipe I have posted with only white flour)
1/2 cup table salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp cooking oil (I often use Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it is all I have in the house)
scented oil or extract (optional, just for scent)

Combine the ingredients in a heavy saucepan (I use a 3QT pan) and stir to mix and review the color. The color will deepen when the playdough is cooked. I usually let the boys add the ingredients and judge the color. The measuring does not have to be precise and I am much better at not micro managing them when we are not eating the finished product. To get really good purples and colors like black I bought gel food coloring.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the play dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. About 3 to 5 minutes, or until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes or well, play dough (I like it to be a ball already).

Remove from the heat, normal people should allow it to cool for 1 minute before kneading the dough. I however have asbestos hands from all the cooking I do and knead it right away.

Store, after cooling, in a plastic container or resealable plastic bags. If stored in an air tight container or bag it can be kept for months or years (although we always let ours dry out by accident and have to start over after a few weeks).