Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blackberries and Blueberries: Blintzes



When I arrived back in Nashville this August I met a friend for breakfast at Noshville, the closest thing in Nashville to a Jewish deli-restaurant (not deli as in place to buy all your cold cuts, salads, hard rolls, bialys, rye breads, pickles, and cheesecake, because that doesn’t exist, but deli-type restaurant à la the Carnegie or Stage in NYC). They have H&H bagels! I never order them—they can only have been frozen, I figure, or at best Fed-Exed, and I do like mine warm and fresh from the store when I’m in NYC—but laud them for going to the trouble. What I order, without fail, is the blintzes. Only once have they been off the menu, when farmer’s cheese was nowhere to be found. Noshville serves their blintzes with sour cream and a somewhat gloppy and sweet but pretty decent blueberry sauce. The blintzes themselves are homemade, and they are good.

So I don’t usually make blintzes at home. But this week, a confluence of events and ingredients just begged for me to make them. I had bought some blackberries at the farmers market—the season was brief, due to the heat and humidity in August—and then saw, to my surprise, some wild blueberries that the people selling them had no idea where they came from except that “a Mexican man” brought them to them. These blueberries were the best I’d ever had—and that is saying a lot considering where I come from. Sweet and spicy, with true blueberry flavor. I thought I’d make a pie.

But then, while making room in the freezer (I froze some of these amazing berries, of course), I found a jar of crepe batter. Hmm, I thought, I really should use this. And then I opened the refrigerator and saw the left-over homemade crema from a Mexican luncheon this week—basically, homemade sour cream, made from the good high-fat heavy cream and buttermilk I buy at the farmers market from a Kentucky dairy farmer who drives down on Saturdays. I also had some of his whole milk, and thought I could make some fresh curd cheese. It was a confluence of signs, all pointing to one thing: blintzes. Here they are. Make at your own risk, as you may not be able to go back.

Black and Blue Blintzes

You can make these over the course of a few days. In fact, both the blueberry sauce and crepes (or crepe batter) will freeze well, allowing you to have them on hand to make blintzes on short notice. Serves 6.


This is the batter I have been using since I was in college, and I’ve never found a reason to change it. It came out of Redbook Magazine in 1970, and this is it exactly except for changes in method. Makes about 14-16 7”crepes; freeze the extras.

1 cup sifted a-p flour
Dash salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
Butter for frying

Combine flour and salt in a 1-2 quart bowl. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk or electric mixer, then beat in the milk until well blended. Gradually add the egg-milk mixture to the dry ingredients, beating vigorously until smooth; it will have the consistency of heavy cream. Strain into another bowl or large measuring cup and chill 1-2 hrs.

To cook the crepes, lightly butter a crepe pan, preferably a well-seasoned iron one, and heat to medium high. Pour about 2 T of batter into the pan, tipping it to spread the batter evenly to coat, adding more batter if needed but keeping the crepe as thin as possible. Cook about 1 minute until the bottom is lightly speckled and the top looks somewhat plastic-y. Turn the crepe—I use an offset icing spatula to lift it from below the center and fold it gently over—and cook it for another 20 seconds or so. Crepes should be lightly browned.

The Filling

The filling is malleable—you can make it with farmer’s cheese, cottage cheese, store ricotta, cream cheese, your own fresh cheese, or a combination. Drain store-bought cottage cheese or ricotta well; some people add an egg yolk when using commercial cheeses, but it is not necessary if you use homemade cheese or farmer’s cheese. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

2 cups homemade fresh curd cheese or true farmer’s cheese (see below for how to make fresh cheese) Blintzes cheese
8 oz Philadelphia® cream cheese, softened
1 T good honey, preferably wildflower
1/8 tea pure vanilla extract

Add the fresh cheese, breaking it up loosely  with a fork, or farmer’s cheese to the cream cheese and blend well. Stir in the honey and vanilla—you want only a hint of sweetness.

To make fresh curd cheese: Heat 2 qts of minimally pasteurized whole milk in a bowl in the microwave for 5-7 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers about 160F. Stir in ¼ cup cider vinegar; it will immediately form curds. Place a strainer, lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, into a large bowl. Ladle the majority of the curds into the lined strainer to avoid splashing, then pour in the rest of the curdy liquid. Let it drain for perhaps 10-15 minutes, until quite firm. You can save the liquid (whey) for use as your liquid when making bread, or discard it. Makes 2 cups.

Black and Blueberry Sauce

1 heaping cup blackberriesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
1 cup blueberries
¾ sugar
¾ cup water
1 tea fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch salt
Few dashes cinnamon or mixed cinnamon/clove
2-3 tea cornstarch

Put the berries, lemon, spice, salt, and sugar over low heat, stirring gently, until the berries begin to exude their juice. Add the water and cook, allowing it to bubble but not boil hard, until the sugar is completely melted and the berries are sitting in a light syrup but are still whole. Mix 2 tea of cornstarch with a little cold water, add to the syrup, and stir gently, still on a soft bubble, until the mixture has a saucy consistency; if needed, add another teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with a little water and cook a bit longer. Remove from the heat and cool. May be frozen.

Crema (Homemade Sour Cream)Crema

1 qt high-fat, barely pasteurized heavy cream                 
¼ cup good-quality buttermilk or natural plain yogurt with active cultures

Stir the buttermilk or yogurt into the cream in a glass jar and set it, covered, in a warm spot (on a gas stove is ideal). Leave it overnight; it should have thickened, but if not, leave it another 8 hours or more, then refrigerate, where it will further thicken to the consistency of sour cream, but will be lighter and creamier. Makes 1 qt.

Assembling, Cooking, and Serving

Place a crepe on a board, speckled side down. Place 2 tablespoons of filling in a neat column in the center of the crepe. Working from the side closest to your waist (bottom), fold the crepe up over the filling to the center, and fold the top down to meet it; try to enclose the filling without a gap. Then fold over the edge from the left, and roll toward the right, tucking the ends in well, until you have a neat package. Repeat with the remaining filling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA              OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA              OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA             Blintzes cooking 

Lightly grease a griddle or heavy pan. Place the blintzes seam-side down and cook until lightly browned; turn and cook the other side, tipping the blintz up onto its sides to brown those as well if desired. Remove to a plate and garnish with the crema and black and blueberry sauce.


                                                    Blintzes served

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