For many years, I’ve always made a summer to-do list. I usually set to work on it right at the beginning of June when the days feel long and ripe with possibility. The list often involves things like learning to bake sourdough bread or making homemade ricotta, doing an epic hike I’d read about in a local magazine, training for a marathon, or reading specific novels. It is always a pretty aspirational list, and I generally don’t make much of a dent in it — resulting in the guilty feeling come late August that I’d wasted too many lazy afternoons when I could’ve been baking sourdough or making ricotta or doing memorable, epic hikes. But this summer is going to be a bit different: there will be no list. We wait so long in Seattle for long stretches of sunny days, and now that it stays late until 9:30 (or later?), I want to see more of our friends and find stretches of time to do not much of anything except catch up, tan our legs and eat farmers market berries. That’s my list.
Thankfully this crazy delicious recipe from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s beautiful new book, Yogurt Culture does not at all interfere with this summer’s non-list. It’s so simple we actually had these on a weekday, but I understand for those of you who have busier (read: bigger) households, you may want to reserve this one for the weekend. Either way, it’s summer breakfasting at its best (or desserting as these would be great in the evening, too).
I received a copy of Cheryl’s book right before we moved, so I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to cook or bake from it until we’d fully settled in. A few nights ago, it was a treat to sit on the couch as Sam was painting our window frames — trying to decide where to begin (and cheering Sam on). From sweet baking recipes to savory chicken or beef dishes, the breadth and variety of recipes in Yogurt Culture is inspiring as is Cheryl’s deep knowledge about yogurt in different cultures and applications. I find sometimes with single subject cookbooks, the star ingredient can sometimes seem forced in a particular dish, as if it doesn’t really fit but the author tries to make a case for it anyway. This is not the case with Cheryl’s book: yogurt truly takes center stage. And if you’re familiar with her witty, brilliantly written blog Five Second Rule, you know that Cheryl’s recipes always work.
If you’ve made traditional crepes in the past, you may remember pulling out your blender to ensure the batter is super smooth, and you likely recall the nice, short ingredient list. This recipe relies on yogurt instead of milk and you can use a whisk instead of your blender. It’s one of those ‘tough to mess up’ recipes as everything just goes in one bowl and you fry them up to order. I will say that much like most pancake or crepe recipes, the first one almost always turns out to be a dud, so consider that one a good taste-test candidate and don’t be discouraged right off the bat.
As for fillings or toppings, you don’t have to go the strawberry route here — we just have so many local, sweet berries in the markets right now I couldn’t help it. But really you can fill these crepes with anything you’d like — sweet or savory. Cheryl recommends ideas like bananas and nutella, fried eggs and ham, or butter and maple syrup. I think lemon curd and a little cream would be really nice, too. Or any sliced, fresh fruit (or, dare I say, ice cream for dessert!) I chose to make Cheryl’s yogurt whipped cream to go with the berries and I can already tell it’s going to be a staple around here. It has a nice tanginess that regular whipped cream doesn’t have (think cheesecake whipped cream, perhaps?) and thanks to the stability of the yogurt, you can whip it in advance and it lasts for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
If you live in the Seattle area: I’ll be leading a discussion and Q & A with Cheryl at Booklarder next Thursday, June 25 from 6:30-8. Come with all your yogurt questions, and expect a great talk covering a variety of ways to cook and bake with this increasingly trendy (!) ingredient. I hope to see you there.
I ended up using a bit of buckwheat flour in my crepes because I love the color and flavor, but if you’d rather use all all-purpose flour, go right ahead. The batter holds up beautifully in the fridge for a few days, so if you don’t want to cook them all off at one time, you can look forward to leftovers.
Only Slightly Adapted From: Yogurt Culture
For the Crepes:
For the Yogurt Whipped Cream
Make the whipped cream:
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the yogurt and vanilla, then continue to whip, slowly streaming 2 tablespoons sugar down the sides of the bowl. Continue whipping until the peaks hold when the whisk is lifted. Taste, whipping in up to 1 tablespoons more sugar, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Crepes:
In a large bowl, whisk the butter, flour, yogurt, eggs, whey or water, and salt until smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes. The batter should have some body but should drip easily from the whisk.
Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water on the skillet sizzle and evaporates. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of the skillet generous with melted butter. Tilt the skillet forward, then pour 1/3 cup batter close to the lip of the skillet. Quickly swirl so the batter coats the bottom. (If the batter is too thick to swirl and coat easily, whisk 1-2 tablespoons water into the remaining batter).
Cook until the underside of the crepe is lacy and nicely browned and the edges look dry, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Invert onto a plate. Brush a bit more butter onto the skillet and repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with more melted butter between batches. Stack the crepes on the plate.
To serve: top each crepe with a generous spoonful of berries and yogurt whipped cream. Enjoy immediately.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.