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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.