Strawberry crepes are in season now
All I had on my shopping list were milk and lettuce - until I saw the green cardboard containers filled with fresh local strawberries. They were too beautiful and fragrant to resist. Unlike the mass-produced berries packaged in plastic clamshells, each one of these had a different shape and hue. Some still had slender stems attached to their leafy caps, beckoning me to select them.
As I started unpacking at home, it was clear these berries were so perfectly ripe they would last barely a day - we had to eat them sooner rather than later. I arranged them on a sheet of paper towel so they wouldn’t touch each other and tossed out the two badly bruised ones stuck in the corner. The conventional wisdom is that you don’t want to wash strawberries until just before you use them; they would wait on the counter as we decided their fate.
For dinner, I recreated a restaurant dish of spinach salad tossed with strawberry dressing. The crisp spinach, mild mushroom, hard-boiled egg and crunchy bacon were a lovely mixture to combine with the almost sweet strawberry and Balsamic vinaigrette. Our version did not disappoint, and the first handful of berries were well-suited for their starring role.
The rest were lightly draped with plastic wrap and left overnight on the counter. In the morning, we had a change of pace for breakfast: strawberry crepes. There are a number of recipes for this dish that call for sweetened cream cheese or sour cream dotted with sliced strawberries for the filling. That seemed too rich for my taste so early in the day, so we simply sautéed the sliced berries in a pat of butter and a splash of lemon juice until they began to thicken.
Because the berries were already quite sweet, I omitted sugar from the standard crepe recipe and added flavor interest with almond extract. Another change to the crepe recipe was to replace the liquid with buttermilk (for no reason except I forgot to buy milk when I was at the grocery and had my head turned by the berries).
One thing to mention is that crepes are not made the same way as pancakes. Pancake batter is whisked together quickly and needs leavening in the form of baking soda or baking powder. It has a thick consistency and is poured in the pan by the quarter-cupful. Cooked properly, they’ll have a fluffy texture with a lightly browned exterior covering the delicate sponge inside.
Crepes do not use any leavening, and the batter will be best if it’s prepared the day before. This way, there’s time for the flour to completely absorb the liquid, which softens the gluten in the wheat. To cook crepes, you can buy a specially designed crepe pan or use the eight-inch nonstick skillet you already own. Each crepe takes about two tablespoons of batter: you pour it into the heated pan with one hand while your other hand rotates the skillet from side to side, spreading the batter to cover the entire surface.
These cook very quickly, unlike pancakes, which take longer for the heat to reach their thicker center. After a few moments, the crepe is flipped (usually by hand to avoid tearing things up with a turner) and the other side cooks in less than a minute. You’re ready to add filling.
For the presentation in the photo, the finished crepes were stuffed with sautéed strawberries and dusted with confectioners sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, whipped cream or maple syrup could be other choices. The remaining berries that started their decline too swiftly to slice into another dish were simmered into compote - perfect for an ice cream topping or to swirl into yogurt. Now I have to go and buy another box of berries.
1 C strawberries
1 T Balsamic vinegar
1 t lemon juice
1 t sugar (optional)
1/4 t salt
2 T olive oil
In a small bowl, combine strawberries, Balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and sugar (if using). Allow to macerate for about 1 hour. Transfer berry mixture to a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add salt and olive oil; process until emulsified. Refrigerate any unused portion. Yield: 1/2 C.
1/4 C flour
1/3 C buttermilk
1 T melted butter
1/2 t almond extract
1 T sugar (optional)
Begin the night before. Place all the ingredients in a blender or the bowl of a food processor; combine until smooth. Transfer the batter to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium high. For each crepe, pour 2 T batter into the skillet and rotate until batter has covered the bottom. Return pan to the heat and cook until the top is set. Turn gently and cook until the other side is lightly browned. Remove to a plate or sheet of wax paper until ready to use. Repeat with the remaining batter. Yield: 6 crepes.
Strawberry Crepe Filling
2 t unsalted butter
2 C sliced strawberries
1/2 t lemon juice
1/4 t cinnamon
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium low. Add strawberries, lemon juice and cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, until strawberries begin to break down and sauce thickens. Yield: 1 C
2 1/2 C strawberries
1 T lemon juice
1 T water
2 t arrowroot
Add the strawberries and lemon juice to a saucepan; place over medium heat. Dissolve the arrowroot in the water and stir into the strawberries. When the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 45 minutes. The compote is ready when you drag a wooden spoon through the center of the pan and the space stays open briefly. Remove pan from the heat and bring to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container. Yield: 1 C.