Crêpes Suzanne – French Pancakes

These savory french crêpes are a traditional breakfast in Pierre’s home in France. Whenever his mother, Suzanne, makes these for him, Pierre’s eyes light up like it’s Christmas Day. So, it’s no wonder that these crêpes are also the most-requested breakfast in our own home. I love the pretty green color, which is a result of blending spinach with the crêpe batter. The filling is simple, just grated gruyère. These are delicious on their own but are even better served with a sunny-side egg on top.

 

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Pierre’s mother often uses frozen lettuce rather than spinach for the batter. In fact, she does this following a tip from her mother, who, like many in her generation, had suffered during WWII with German troops occupying her own home. The troops took what food and drink they wanted without any consideration for the home owners. Left without any food, she would gather any scraps she could find, such as potato and carrot peels and boil them down to make a soup. That soup and this frozen lettuce are examples of some of the resourceful and prudent measures this woman took to provide food for her family in those times.

Her method is easy: Keep a plastic bag or container in the freezer where you deposit any leftover lettuce – lettuce that has wilted past eating fresh but hasn’t gone bad. When you’ve got at least a cup’s worth, you can make these crêpes and relish in your impressive frugality!

 

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I already used up my frozen leftover lettuce so I made these with frozen spinach. I found that my potato ricer is also a great tool to press and squeeze out the liquid of the cooked spinach. I must confess, I purchased it right after watching Martha Stewart demonstrate it’s incredible powers to make mashed potatoes that are fluffy, airy and down-right ethereal. Unfortunately, shortly after purchasing it, I began my failed and meaningless attempt at eating “low carb.” So, this little tool sat in my drawer, neglected and unloved for some time. That is no longer, as I use it all the time now to make these crêpes as well as my beloved, high carb mashed potatoes.

CRÊPES SUZANNE

INGREDIENTS: (10 large crêpes or 15 small crêpes)

  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter
  • gruyère, for the filling

STEPS:

  • With a microwave or steamer, completely defrost the frozen spinach or lettuce.
  • With your hands or a potato ricer, press and squeeze out all the excess liquid. Set aside.
  • In a blender, add the flour, eggs, milk, salt, butter and spinach.
  • With the pulse button, blend the ingredients a bit at a time.
  • After a few seconds of pulsing it, you can blend away for about 30 seconds or until the batter is completely mixed. Scrape down the sides in between blending to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Let the batter rest for at least 1/2 hour*.
  • In a non-stick skillet or crêpe pan on medium heat, rub a little butter on the entire surface.
  • Pour about 1/2 cup – up to 2/3 cup of batter (depending on the size of your pan) and quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter evenly in a thin layer.
  • Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom side is light golden.
  • With a thin spatula or your amazing fingers, flip the crêpe over and cook until that side is golden (about 2 min).
  • When the 2nd side is golden, flip the crêpe AGAIN (so that the prettier side will show) and quickly scatter 2 Tbl. of gruyère over the entire crêpe. Fold it in half and then, fold in half again. Transfer to a platter.
  • Repeat until all the batter is used.

*You can make the batter up to one day ahead and keep it overnight in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

Bon Appétit!

Canh Khổ Qua – Bitter Melon Soup

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I’m through spewing angst on the floor and keyboard for now. With the intent to bring levity here, I’m sharing my mom’s recipe for Canh Khổ Qua – Bitter Melon Soup. As the name suggests, this soup has a very bitter, strong taste. Eating this was something my sisters and I scoffed at when we were younger but now, as adults, we can appreciate it’s interesting flavor as well as its purported health benefits. My mom insists that it is mát, something that cools or settles your stomach.

In my home, we tend not to make another meat dish to go along with this as there is plenty enough meat in the stuffing. We enjoy it with a steamy bowl of rice.

INGREDIENTS: (4 servings as part of a meal)

  • 3 pieces of black (wood ear) mushroom, re-hydrated in warm water, and finely chopped
  • (edit): 1/2 lb. 2/3 lb. ground pork
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 med/large bitter melon, cut into 1 1/2 – 2 inch segments, removing spongy center and seeds
  • 1 quart quality chicken stock
  • 1 Tbl. fish sauce
  • 1 small rock sugar cube or 1 tsp. raw sugar

STEPS:

  • Thoroughly combine the first 7 ingredients (black mushroom, pork, shallot, garlic, egg, S+P) in a bowl.
  • Equally divide and stuff the mixture among the bitter melon segments.
  • Bring chicken stock to a rolling boil and add the stuffed bitter melon.
  • Add the fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  • Then, turn down the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • At this point, the stuffing should be cooked through, the bitter melon should be tender and its color has changed from jade green to olive green.
  • Taste the soup and add more fish sauce if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

Bon appétit!

Su Su Xào – Chayote Stir-Fry

Trái Su Su (aka Chayote) is one of those vegetables that remind me what a small world this is. I grew up eating this and figured it was an Asian vegetable but later found that it is actually native to Latin America, where it is a predominant vegetable in many parts, particularly Mexico and Costa Rica. I remember my mom making this dish for the Latino men who worked for my Dad. They happily ate it and thought it was so curious that this little Asian lady knew how to cook their chayote.

Interestingly, it is called chou-chou on the French Island of Reúnion*, which makes me wonder if that has anything to do with why it’s called Su Su in Viet Nam, a former French colony. If you grow them, you know how adorable they look, like jade green pears that hang from a vine.

Su Su’s mild flavor makes it easy to combine with other savory ingredients like pork, chicken or shiitake mushrooms. In this stir-fry, its delicate and somewhat bland taste is a nice balance to the brininess of the dried shrimp. Once grated or cut, it’s incredibly quick to cook. I hope you enjoy it con mucho gusto.

Su Su Xào

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INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings, as part of a meal)

  • 1/2 cup dried shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 medium-sized Su Su (approx. 3/4 lb), cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • oil

STEPS:

  • Reconstitute the dried shrimp by placing them in a small bowl and barely cover with water. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  • Cut the su su in half and discard the pit. Prepare using a knife or mandoline. (No need to peel).
  • Mince the garlic.
  • Drain the dried shrimp.
  • Add about 1 Tbl. of oil to a med-hot pan and toss in the garlic along with the shrimp. Cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add the su su and fish sauce. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, constantly stirring. The su su should be cooked but still have a little crunch to them.
  • Check seasoning and add more fish sauce if needed.

¡Buen Provecho!

*source

You like Kabocha, dontcha?

 

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I think a lot of people like to press the Shuffle button on their MP3 player to mix things up and hear a variety of songs. Not me. If I like a song, I’ll put in on Replay for-ev-er. Sometimes, I’ll listen to the same dang song like, 100 times before I move on to another.

Am I obsessive? Compulsive? My answer to that fluctuates. What is constant is my attachment to a good thing once I find it. This is how I am now with Kabocha pumpkin. Kabocha muffins for breakfast. Kabocha soup for lunch. Kabocha-stuffed pasta for dinner. How ’bout Kabocha pumpkin pie, anyone?

It was the same with Butternut squash a while back. And there was that winter-long fling with Meyer lemons – which, late at night, I still think of. Oh, and let’s not forget my fixation with pomelos.

Nowadays, my fancy turns to Kabocha. Can you blame me? Kabocha, with its deep, emerald skin flushed against this intense, orange flesh is like Butternut’s sexier, curvier, non-surgically altered and intellectually superior cousin. And, it doesn’t need a ton of makeup to look good, either. I mean, who would you rather go home with???

That’s what I thought. So next time you’re at the market, look out for Kabocha. Cook responsibly.

 

Soupe au Potiron – Kabocha pumpkin bisque

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INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1 medium-sized Kabocha pumpkin (approx 3-4lbs)
  • 1 Tbl. of canola oil + more for coating pumpkin
  • 3 medium shallots, finely diced
  • chubby piece of ginger (approx 1 inch length), peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground star anise + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground cassia cinnamon + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1 quart of homemade or quality store-bought chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup half & half or whole cream
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

STEPS:

  • Cut the Kabocha pumpkin in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Rub the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with a tiny pinch of the star anise and cinnamon. Place the pumpkin, cut-side down on a foil/parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • In an oven preheated to 350F, roast the pumpkin for about 35 minutes (or until a knife can be inserted with little resistance).
  • Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Then scoop out the flesh.
  • Meanwhile, set a large saucepan to med heat, add the oil.
  • Next, add the shallot and ginger. Cook (sweat) the shallots and ginger until the shallots are softened and translucent, being careful not to add too much color.
  • Add the cooked pumpkin and spices and cook for another minute.
  • Add the chicken stock and stir to combine and heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée the soup until smooth.*
  • Stir the cream into the soup.
  • Check seasoning again and add more S+P if necessary. Serve warm.

*If you use a regular blender, please use extreme caution as the hot liquid will explode everywhere if you try to blend too much at a time. Fill only up to 1/3 of the blender at a time. Bon appétit!

 

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