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.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)