Tuesday, July 15, 2008

chocolate strawberry and banana crepes for two

You will need:

One (1) summer evening in a monsoon-humid desert
Two (2) kids in love
Seven (7) more days

One (1) cup of flour, organic because you care about the world
Two (2) eggs, free-range because you care about the chickens
One and a quarter (1.25) cups of milk, regular old earth-destroying cow-torturing industrial milk, because have you seen how much it would cost to care about the cows??

Pinch of salt
Tablespoon of sugar
Dash of cinnamon

Two (2) tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
One (1) tablespoon of butter, unmelted

Two (2) chocolate bars, milk or dark according to your preferences.
Six (6) beautiful strawberries
One (1) banana

Dump flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon into a bowl -- that's a cup, a tablespoon a pinch and a dash. Add the cup-and-a-quarter of milk and beat until smooth. Don't taste it right now. It tastes like flour and water, like a disaster waiting to happen, like a flavorless mess. Add another pinch of cinnamon.

Add the two eggs, and beat until smooth and very-slightly frothy. No, don't taste it yet. What's that? You say it still tastes like flour and water, but eggy now, boring, flat, and that you're scared your crepes will never turn out and nothing turns out how you want it to and that you'll never amount to anything in life, it's all just too hard? How can you do it? How can you do it if you can't even make crepes?

Didn't I tell you to be patient?

Everything will be okay. I promise.

Pour in the two tablespoons of butter and stir, and watch as the transformation happens. Don't see anything? Go ahead. Try some. It tastes sweet and rich and delicate, simple, spectacular, and all-around delicious. Didn't I tell you?

Butter is magical like that.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Let the batter think about its lot in life for a moment.

Pull out your beloved double boiler and melt the chocolate, or if your life is sorrowfully lacking in a beloved double boiler, melt the chocolate careful-slow in the microwave -- stir often. Or make ganache; chop the chocolate, heat an equal amount of heavy cream to just barely a boil, then pour the cream over the chocolate, step back, and meditate for five minutes. That means don't touch the chocolate, and that means you. It needs a moment to think about its lot in life.

Five minutes passed? Feeling any better? Take a deep breath and whisk until smooth.

You really just want to make your chocolate spreadable. You could use chocolate sauce from the store if you wanted to. But isn't life too short to pass up an opportunity to make ganache?

Wash and slice the strawberries. Peel and slice the bananas. Add a dash of lemon juice and cover in plastic wrap.

Heat your best, non-stick-iest skillet. Mark Bittman recommends medium, but he must have a very different stovetop than you. You want water droplets to dance, and here that means the high end of medium-high.

Dance, water droplets, dance!

Pull out the batter, and beat once again. By now it should have realized that the highest aim of its existence is to become many thin, delicious, delicate circles of crepey perfection.

When your skillet is hot, begin making the crepes: smear some butter on the skillet, spoon on a tablespoon-or-so of batter, tilt and turn with a twist of your wrist 'til the batter is spread out thin-as-can-be. Wait until the top turns solid, and then with a sneaky little spatula, grab it and flip. It doesn't rip as easily as it looks like it will, don't worry. Everything is going to be okay. I promise.

Keep going; one after another after another. I know it's 90 degrees outside (after sunset!) and you want to be as far away from a source of heat as possible, but keep going. Sometimes good things require work. It'll be worth it. Trust me.

Stack the crepes on a plate and cover with a towel until you're done. Add bananas and chocolate to a crepe; roll it up. Add strawberries and chocolate to a crepe; roll it up.

Do you have any walnuts or pecans? Roast those (I know, I know, the skillet is hot, but at least it's not the oven). Smear chocolate on a crepe, sprinkle on walnuts, roll up.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The leftover bits of strawberry and banana? Dip them in the leftover chocolate; pop in mouth. Think of it as a preview.

Arrange the crepes on a plate, then sprinkle powdered sugar on top through a sieve or cheesecloth. It'll be a lot of crepes. It'll be way too many crepes for two people.

But you know what? If you've had super-practical rice and beans for dinner, healthy and cheap and simple and fast and ordinary, don't hesitate at the thought of eating far more crepes than anybody ever ought to. Not just this once.

Clear off the table. Turn down the lights, so you can't see the pile of dishes, or laundry to be folded, or the lists of things-to-do-before-we-move.

Sit down. Eat crepes. Close eyes.



Saturday, July 5, 2008

food and color

I hate colorless food. I can't stand it. I have come to realize that perhaps this is not quite normal, as William looks at a monochromatic plate and sense no offense to his eyes, palate, or soul, but it drives me mad. I almost can't eat a non-colorful meal.

Exhibit A: A few weeks ago (dang, I haven't posted in a long time) I made fried rice that would have been perfectly passable -- everything cooked for the right amount of time, the sauce tasted reasonably good, nothing to write home about but a perfectly acceptable dinner in my book -- EXCEPT that there was neither green nor red in it. Not a single pea, not a scrap of red bell pepper, no cabbage or green onions, no red onions or chilies, no salad with greens or tomato or cucumber or ANYTHING. Needless to say, no purple eggplant or blueberries, either.

It had rice (brown), onions (white), corn (yellow), carrots (orange), egg (yellow), garlic (virtually invisible), AND THAT WAS IT. I looked at it and I wanted to cry. I apologized profusely to William for inflicting such damage to his eyes and he looked at me like I was a maniac.

But it was practically colorless! Everything on it came from the same palate of colors. Earth tones. It's not right.

I'm not crazy. A meal with more colors in it is more attractive, more interesting, AND it's better for you. So why waste your time eating white rice, boiled parsnips and plain tofu? That might be an excessively nauseating example, but the point still sounds. Brown, white, orange and yellow just isn't enough.

That meal gets a FAIL.

Side note: while looking for some scientific support for my anti-colorless-foods stance, I found this. Ain't the internet/science/human curiosity a wonderful thing?