Winter blasts may get in another couple of icy blows the next few weeks. But have faith! Spring is upon us! Just check out the bluebonnets and other wild flowers down south. Take a gander at the lovely pale green emerging in the cottonwood groves. Wild mustard and other weeds are growing like crazy, thanks to all the snow and rain. If you are feeling adventurous, harvest some for a quick saute or salad. Foraging is all the rage these days, and you might feel quite lucky to have organic greens growing care-free in your backyard.
The cool temperatures and moisture that help our weeds grow are also quite helpful for the organic gardeners. Arugula, chard, lettuces, radishes, spinach, turnips and cilantro are growing strong this month. If you are an early riser, or subscribe to a local farmer’s produce offerings, you can find plenty of good stuff at the farmer’s markets this month. The longer hours of daylight make for happy hens. Finally! After long, dark winter, we are back in eggs. Springtime is the season for quiche, omelets, frittatas and crepes. With a fresh tossed salad on the side, what more do we need?
Don’t forget, there are many other offerings at the several markets available in our region. Cheeses crafted from happy cows and goats, specialty baked goods, a variety of locally grown organic seedlings to encourage you in your gardening, jams, soaps, candles, greeting cards, jewelry, pottery, and many other cool things. Plus the added benefit of visiting with your neighbors! People who shop locally and support local businesses are really awesome folks. You will enjoy getting to know your community.
My kids have been clamoring for crepes, so I have a feeling we will be having spelt or buckwheat crepes at our house for supper. You might think of crepes as a sweet treat, covered in fake red strawberry-like syrup and fluffy white stuff. Try to imagine a paper thin pancake, made with savory, organic buckwheat flour, redolent with aroma of fields, baking in the sun, of forests and nuts. The crepe folded around a mixture of barely sautéed spring greens, with some mushrooms thrown in for good measure, a spoonful of locally crafted chevre, and I could be feeling quite transcendent! Mmmm. They taste quite fancy, but aren’t so difficult to make. Be adventurous! The French version of the enchilada. Give them a try. I hope you enjoy. I prefer the savory taste of buckwheat, but spelt flour is a great option, still nutty tasting, but a bit sweeter. I mill both grains in my bakery and am happy to sell you a pound or two of stone-ground flour.
1/3 c melted butter
1 ½ c freshly milled buckwheat flour ( or other type of whole grain flour, keeping in mind that each grain absorbs moisture differently, so you may have to adjust amount to achieve best results)
1 ¾ c milk, I prefer whole milk from Z-Bar ranch over in Marathon.
3 farm fresh eggs
½ tsp Redmond’s Real Salt
Place ingredients in blender and mix until flour is fully incorporated into batter. Let batter rest for at least two hours. If you wish to have crepes for supper, blend the ingredients before you head to work in the morning and stash the blender in the fridge. This allows the flour to absorb moisture. Take it out an hour or so before you plan on cooking to allow the batter come to room temp.
Preheat a 6-8in stainless steel skillet or omelet pan over medium high heat. Turn on soothing music. Breathe deeply. Say a couple of positive affirmations, like, “I am adventurous.” Or “I enjoy stretching my horizons, trying new things!” Listen to a Brene Brown TED talk on shame so you don’t become emotionally crippled when the first couple of crepes don’t turn out as you wish.
Place a bit of butter into the hot pan and let it melt. Right when the butter begins to smoke, lift up the pan with your right hand, if you are a righty. With your left hand pour approximately ¼ cup of the batter into the middle of the pan. Quickly tilt the pan around so the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. This is kind of tricky, but after a couple of tries, you will be delighted to find the crepe making process going a bit more easily. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Any thicker and you will have pancakes. If the batter seems a bit thick, just add a bit of milk or water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is the right consistency.
It shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds to spread the batter, then place the pan back onto the stove. In a minute or a minute and a half, the crepe should be ready to turn. Using a spatula, loosen the edge of the crepe and carefully grasp it with your fingers, if you have tough fingers, and toss the crepe upside down. If tender-fingered, use the spatula, very carefully as to not tear the crepe. Brown for another half a minute, then set the crepe onto a rack. Keep in mind that most everyone messes up the first couple of crepes. Just keep those positive affirmations flowing. Let the crepe cool a bit while you make the next one, then you can stack the cooled crepes onto a plate or a piece of parchment paper. You might wish to wrap the crepes in a clean dishcloth or large piece of parchment paper, and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.
Depending on the size of pan you use, this recipe should make close to two dozen crepes. Once well cooled, you can wrap them up in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.
Now that you have your crepes ready to go, it is time to think about fillings! Sometimes we like to stack the crepes, with filling in between each layer, cover the whole thing with a sauce and bake in the oven. This is called a “gateau de crepes.” About half an hour before serving, place the gateau into a 350 oven and heat thoroughly, until the creamy, cheesy top is beginning to brown. Serve by cutting into pie shaped wedges. We also like to roll the crepes around the filling, sauce and then pop the whole thing into the oven just long enough to heat it up. You can see what a wonderful meal to prepare partially in advance, ready to be warmed up for your quick supper. A crusty loaf of bread, a giant leafy salad with a vinaigrette and all is well with the world.
Spinach with Mornay Sauce
Several handfuls of washed and coarsely chopped spinach. Any nice green will work here. In fact, the hearty flavor of the buckwheat would be nicely paired with arugula, chard, kale or beet greens.
2 TBSP olive oil or butter
1 TBSP minced green onion
1 clove minced garlic
¼ tsp salt
Cook the green onion in a small saute pan for a moment, then add the garlic. In a few seconds, add the spinach and salt and stir over medium high heat for a couple of minutes as the greens wilt and release some of their moisture. Place greens on crepe, add a tablespoon or so of chevre, or cheese of your choice, roll or stack, then top with mornay sauce, recipe to follow.
Fried Egg Crepe
Spread a bit of goat cheese, try a garlicky herb variety, on a crepe. Fry an egg, sunny side up, and slide that warm, barely done egg, lightly salted and peppered, onto the crepe. Top with minced chives and radishes. Fold the crepe into a square, letting the egg yolk peek out!
5 tbsp whole grain flour
4 tbsp butter
2 ¼ c milk, warmed
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
¼ c cream
1 c grated cheese, gruyere is classic, but any hard cheese that will melt will do
Cook the flour and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Beat in the milk and seasonings, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute. Lower the heat and stir in the cream, bit by bit. The sauce should have thickened by now, able to coat a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and taste for seasoning. Add the cheese to the sauce and stir well. If you wish to have a latino flair, skip the nutmeg, add ½ tsp cumin, a few drops of tabasco sauce, and use Monterey jack cheese or a cheddar, and try serving over crepes filled with grilled poblano peppers or slices of avocado.
Use your imagination, depending on what you happen to find in your garden or at the local farmer’s markets. Roasted butternut squash and fresh sage? A medley of sautéed mushrooms, stirred into cottage cheese with fresh rosemary? Don’t forget to treat your inner child with a couple of crepes filled with FRESH berries and whipped cream, the real kind! Or how about spread some Nutella and top with sliced strawberries? Yum.
Here is a bit of trivia! Buckwheat is related to garden sorrel or rhubarb. It is loaded with nutrition, filled with magnesium and fiber. Studies indicate that products made with whole buckwheat as opposed to white flour, are helpful in lowering blood sugar! And it is naturally gluten-free for those who are trying to avoid consuming grains. It is in the fruit seed family, not a grain!