Buckwheat Crêpes w/Berries

by Maja Lukic


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I was hoping to post these in time for Pancake Day on Tuesday but it didn't happen. And that may be fine because, to be candid, I didn't grow up eating pancakes but I ate a lot of crêpes. (In Serbian/Croatian, they're called palacinke). Spread with plum or rosehip jam (or even Nutella), rolled up into pretty spirals, and -- this next part is a little tacky and very European -- dusted with powdered sugar, crêpes could stand in for breakfast, dessert, or an evening snack. 

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I mean, I don't even like powdered sugar. But the soft texture of the sweet crêpe, the light layer of jam or chocolate, and a fine dusting of delicate sugar are such fundamental elements of the thing I ate as a kid that, to me, powdered sugar is de rigueur when serving crêpes. Plus, the effect of a crêpe's lacy edge under a coating of white powder is achingly pretty. I think. 

I tried to split the difference here by picking up an organic/less-processed powdered sugar but, in the end, the texture was odd and it melted right away. (Which made for some quick photography work in between powdered sugar applications and futile attempts to keep blueberry preserves and sugar off my camera equipment. Do yourself a favor and use the real thing.). 

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The crêpes of my childhood were white milk/white flour/white sugar situations -- delicious but no longer acceptable, I think. And, so, I substituted almond milk for cow's milk and used buckwheat flour. Accordingly, these beauties are dairy-free and gluten-free. Of course, if you'd like to use dairy and all-purpose flour, you can still use this recipe. (See the notes below for modification tips). 

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The actual making of a crêpe requires a little practice but once you master it, the skill never leaves you. Expect to lose the first two, as well as the last one -- it happens to everyone. A perfect crêpe requires the right consistency of batter, the right oil, the right temperature, and the right skillet. This is what I've learned over the years: the batter needs to be slightly thicker than cream; annoyingly, nonstick skillets are best but if you have a dedicated crêpe pan, use that; the temperature should be just below medium, somewhere in the medium-low area, but you'll have to make adjustments as you work (I have a gas burner and I find myself drifting from low to medium and back as the crêpes cook); and I get the best results with avocado oil but any other flavorless oil will work. I won't lie, it's a little fussy, but once you get into a good groove, you can pretty much flip a whole bunch of crêpes in about ten minutes.

And, by the way, the secret for flavorful crêpes? I probably stole this from my mom but add a pinch of citrus zest to the batter. It makes a real difference. 

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Buckwheat Crêpes w/Berries (gf)

Makes approx. 10 crêpes

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk), plus extra to thin the batter

1/2 cup water

2 eggs

2 tbsp sugar, any variety

3 tbsp avocado oil (or other flavorless oil), plus extra for cooking

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1/2 orange

sea salt

toppings/fillings: fruit jam, fresh berries, powdered sugar 

Whisk the milk, eggs, water, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the buckwheat flour and whisk until no clumps remain. Whisk in avocado oil, a pinch of sea salt, and orange zest. 

Cover with plastic wrap and allow the batter to rest in the fridge for at least an hour but preferably overnight. 

When ready to cook, stir the batter again and add more almond milk to thin the batter to the consistency of heavy cream. You will need to thin it out again as you're cooking the crêpes. In general, I end up adding another cup of milk as I'm cooking. 

Heat a nonstick skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat. Add a few drops of avocado oil to lightly coat the bottom (go easy on the oil).

With a soup ladle, ladle in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter (depending on the size of your skillet). The trick is to move the skillet off the heat, ladle the batter into the center of the pan, and then gently tilt the pan in the air, allowing the batter to swirl and coat the bottom evenly in a thin coating.

Cook on the first side for about 30 seconds to a minute or until small bubbles appear and a lacy edge forms around the edge of the crêpe. With a heat-proof spatula, gently pry the edges loose and flip the crêpes over with your fingers. (Don't worry -- it's not that hot. If you're concerned, a fish spatula works well.). 

Cook on the second side for about 20 seconds or so. Slide onto a plate and cover with foil while you cook the remaining crêpes. Maintain the temperature at medium-low and add a few drops of oil in between each crêpe. 

To serve, spread with jam (or Nutella!), roll up into a spiral, and top with powdered sugar and fresh berries.

Make ahead: The crêpes can be prepared 3 days ahead. Store covered in the fridge. To reheat, warm each crêpe in a dry skillet over medium heat, a few seconds per side. 

Note: For savory crêpes, omit vanilla and sugar. If using regular all-purpose flour, reduce the milk to 3/4 cup. Cover the prepared crêpes so that they stay moist as they cool. Store buckwheat flour in the freezer.  


Gin Gimlet w/ Homemade Raw Lime Cordial

by Maja Lukic


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Perfectly ripe strawberries and blackberries from farmers market, bright homemade raw lime syrup (no Rose's, please), and my old standby, Hendrick's, form a perfect fusion of summer flavors. For anyone who has ever wondered about the lack of gin on the blog to date, this post is for you.

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The idea for this post came about a few weeks ago when I saw a gin gimlet on a cocktail menu. For a long time, I was convinced that the gimlet was my favorite cocktail. In the last few years, I've discovered other cocktails and my tastes have changed (gin & Yellow Chartreuse is a current obsession).

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A gimlet has two components: gin and lime cordial. There are vodka gimlets out there but I do not drink them. For such a simple little cocktail, a gimlet can be a difficult thing to order. Allegedly, the classic recipe calls for equal parts Rose's lime juice and gin. Rose's lime juice essentially consists of water, high fructose corn syrup, sodium metabisulfite, lime juice concentrate, and Blue No. 1. Accordingly, it makes cocktails taste like sour lime candy dissolved in rubbing alcohol.

For this reason, some mixologists prepare gimlets with fresh lime juice and simple syrup instead of Rose's. (Always insist on lime juice and sugar/simple.). But this provokes criticism from purists who argue that without Rose's, it's technically not a true gimlet. It's some other beast.

I'll let the mixology geeks work that out. In the meantime, we can respect our ingredients and come up with something a little bit more flavorful. Enter: homemade lime cordial. Using a recipe from The New York Times as a base, I set about making my own purer version of a classic gin gimlet.

What I love about the Times recipe is that the cordial is raw. There is no need to cook the syrup for 20 minutes as most recipes suggest. As a result, the end product is bright and bursting with fresh lime flavor.

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A gimlet recipe is and always will be a mere suggestion. The cordial is truly the only part that requires some precision but you have some freedom to experiment there as well (note that the Times recipe suggests the addition of ginger - delicious). To make your gimlet, you can stick to the classic  proportions (equal parts gin and lime) but I recommend adjusting the sweetness to suit your tastes. In fact, I generally prefer a 2:1 ratio of gin to lime.

Gin Gimlet w/ Homemade Raw Lime Cordial

Adapted from The New York Times 

Makes 1 cocktail

Gimlet:

2 to 3 oz. gin

1 to 1 3/4 oz. Raw Lime Cordial (see below) lemon wedge

lime twist

Raw Lime Cordial:

6 limes

3/4 cup organic brown sugar (or other sugar)

To prepare the lime cordial: Zest and juice all six limes. In the end, depending on how juicy your limes are, you should have approximately 3/4 cups of juice or roughly equal parts lime juice and sugar. Add the sugar to the juice and stir until fully dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the zest. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain the cordial and return to the fridge for another 24 hours, after which it will be ready to use. You can store the cordial in the fridge.

To prepare the gimlet: There are two methods. You can either stir the gin and lime cordial together with ice and strain into a martini glass or you can simply stir them together over plenty of ice in an old-fashioned glass. Either way is fine. Adjust the sweetness to your liking. Squeeze a lemon wedge into the cocktail and serve with a fancy lime twist. 

Once I mastered the basic gin gimlet, I decided to elevate the whole thing and depart from tradition with some ripe summer berries. The sweetness of the fresh berries mellows out the tart taste of the cordial in a lovely, pleasing way, and the colors are stunning. You can use any berries here. I happened to have blackberries and strawberries on hand but blueberries and raspberries would work well, too.

To prepare a berry-flavored gimlet, simply muddle 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh berries in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, gin, and lime cordial, as described above, stir well, and strain into a martini glass. If using blackberries, you may want to shake and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

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I definitely prefer the strawberry.

Drinking gin always makes me feel like listening to either something old and jazzy or The National. Or both: