Sunday, February 08, 2009

80 Plates: Ukraine Delight

Note: I have changed this dish to being Ukrainian after some additional research and comments about the history of the blintz. However, I'm leaving the rest of it be, as I am lazy and don't feel like editing out information about Israel. Sue me.

Today, we wanted to get two countries in, because we've been slacking off a little and don't have a clear goal for February! The General had picked our next country, Israel, which I thought might be a little complicated, but I also thought it could be fun. I do have a cookbook that my friend Joe gave me. He works for BBYO, Bnai-Brith Youth Organization (or as I seriously mistakenly speculated it stood for, Bring Back Yiddish Opera). However, as I was reading through Red, White and Blueberry: Kosher Cooking in Our Nation's Capitol, it became apparent that there was no real food in it from Israel. Unless suddenly Israel is known for its beef asian pasta salad.

So, I was forced to go back on line and do some research, which suggested that there is no such thing as native Israeli cuisine. It's more that there's Jewish food. So, we read through a pile of recipes and we decided to go with blintzes, which was satisfactory in two regards:

1. It is a Jewish food and thus probably quite popular in Israel
2. I have been dying to learn how to make crepes for a while, which is basically what a blintz is.

I found a couple of recipes, but ultimately combined one from the Recipe Hound with one from The Yeshua Connection. You can find the one from the Yeshua Connection HERE, and I only took one step from the Recipe Hound, which I will explain towards the end. (And yes, I realize I didn't 'face' the butter box properly. Get over it. :-D)

Now, I was slightly nervous about preparing the filling, which is step one on your way to making blintzes. We were having cheese blintzes, which is a cream cheese mixture and rather sweet. However, the recipe called for one thing that I absolutely have no desire to eat, despite never having eaten it before: cottage cheese.

Just looking at cottage cheese makes me break out in a sweat. I don't like that curdy texture of it, and I really can't imagine it going into my mouth. It makes my blood freeze in my veins. I know plenty of dieters who swear by it, but it is most definitely not for me. On the other hand, the General has been extremely daring during this entire experiment. He has tried a lot of new foods and frankly, I find that to be inspiring from a guy I couldn't pay to eat Chinese food when we first started dating (we've been laughing about this all week). So I decided to go for it. However, cottage cheese and I were going to have to come to an understanding. So I put it in my food processor and processed the hell out of it until all the lumps were gone and a nice, creamy mass remained.

Bye bye, Lumps!

That taken care of, I decided to just blend everything together in the food processor today. Consequently, I added neufchatel (in place of regular cream cheese), sugar, vanilla, and an egg yolk. I put the food processor on and let it ride. What emerged was a delightfully snowy looking concoction that I absolutely refused to taste on the off-chance that the cottage cheese had somehow contaminated the other ingredients and would cloud my judgment against the entire dish. But, it smelled really good and it looked good, so I was guardedly optimistic that it'd be something I'd like. I put it in the refrigerator and got to work on the pancake part of the blintzes.

I realized after writing my last post about using my grandmother's kitchen tools that I actually have a good bit of her stuff still in my kitchen. I find this kind of funny, as I don't remember her being an exceptional cook or even really enjoying cooking. Yet I find myself with (among other things) her strainer, her wooden spoon and slotted spoon, her crock pot, and--most useful for today's recipe--her blender. They don't make blenders like this any more. As you can see from the picture, this dinosaur of a blender, this old man of the kitchen was built to last. In avocado green, with a heavy duty glass pitcher, this thing was made before plugs had two different sized prongs. It has survived my dad's orange fizzy drinks, it has survived 5 or 6 moves, and I'm willing to bet it could survive a nuclear holocaust. But when you turn it on, it purrs like a kitten. It's really not that loud at all--which was important this morning, because a certain resident of our household decided to sleep in. I love this blender.

And so I decided to use it to make the blintzes, which were actually quite easy. Step one was to beat together eggs, oil, and milk.

I let it whir around happily and then added some flour and a bit of salt. I turned it back on and let it whir like crazy. And then I bravely took the lid off while the blender was blending and shot this really cool picture of my blender in action.

Can you feel the power?

Ok, so then it was time for the batter to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Just enough time for me to finish reading the book I picked up yesterday at B&N: Passive-Aggressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings by Kerry Miller. Apparently there is a website full of these things. The book made me laugh till I cried. And then I did 10 minutes of Wii Fit step aerobics.

By then, it was time to steel my courage to the sticking place and learn to make a crepe/blintz. Yesterday, I had picked up a small, non-stick frying pan. My pans are all quite large and my smallest one was not non-stick. I didn't want to invest a lot of money in this pan for one recipe--although who knows, I may need it for other things--so I got it cheap at WalMart and am happy with it. It's a nice little pan.

So, I put it on the stove over medium heat and put in a small pat of butter. I let the butter melt, and then I measured out 2 teaspoons of batter, although the recipe said 1 1/2 was as much as I'd need. Well, as you can see, it turned into a hot mess. Either there was too much butter or not enough batter. Or both. In any event, this did not bode well. The whole thing was a sticky, greasy mess. I scraped it into the sink, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time I used less butter and more batter, and in the pan, the results looked much better. Rather than a mess of batter floating in a pool of better, the proportions came out just perfectly.

I liked the feel of rotating the pan to get the batter to go all the way around. It worked like a charm. And since I only had to cook one side of the blintz, I could just flip the pan over and the blintz would fall onto the wax paper I had laid on the countertop. Voila! A perfect blintz. I would say this second one remained a little tricky in just making sure that it got cooked properly. You want to cook it until it's golden brown on the bottom, but it stays kind of moist on top. I just waited until it pulled away from the sides of the pan and then lifted one edge to test its doneness. That worked very well.

In short order, I had 10 of those little babies cooked up right. The next step was to take the filling and fill them. The recipe called for 1-2 tablespoons of filling per wrapper, and I would guess I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons. I didn't measure, instead using a soup spoon from our kitchen cutlery. I spooned the filling onto the cooked side of the wrapper, folded in the ends, and rolled them up nicely. I soon had a beautiful pan of ten ready to go into the oven. As you can see, I inadvertantly wrapped one inside out. But it didn't matter, it was totally fine in the end.

The oven heated to 375, the phone rang. It was my dad. He and I chatted while I waited for sleepy head to wake up and then I figured I would have about 20 minutes to bake the blintzes, which was how long they needed. And would you know, I was spot on!? I put them in as soon as I heard the General head out of the bedroom into the bathroom, and as he came downstairs all dressed nice, he was greeted by the smell of fresh blintzes hot from the oven. This is the one step I took from Recipe Hound--the outside of the blintzes looked so uncooked that I just felt like they needed to be cooked up a little bit more.

I guess visually they don't look all that different pre and post oven.

I didn't take any pictures of us eating these. We're not really at our best in the mornings. Well, I'm not anyway. The General pretty much looks good any time, day or night. He absolutely loved these little honeys. He had 4 of them for breakfast, exclaiming all the while how great they were.

I thought they were fine. I'm not generally a fan of big globs of cream cheesy things unless it's actual cheesecake. I ate one of them, and it took me as long to eat that one as it took him to eat 4--and I should point out that he is a very slow eater, and in general, I am a very quick eater. I think I would have liked them better with some fruit or something on or in them, and I notice among the variations of blintzes that are suggested, apple blintzes is a recommendation. That might be pretty good. I liked them well enough, I just didn't love them. It was too much white stuff. Still, I did try a food that was far outside my comfort zone and I felt great about that.

However, SUCCESS at making a crepe! It boosted my confidence in the kitchen a good bit, conquering that hurdle, something I've often thought about cooking but never had. So a great morning! For dinner, we traveled to England, which I will post shortly. If anyone is disappointed in this choice and has a recipe they consider more authentically Israeli, feel free to drop me a line with a recipe!

1 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Lauren said...

Actually, Israeli food is "mediterranean" food...cucumber/tomato salad, falafal, shawarma.

Blintzes are more of a European/Slavik Jew thing, I think.

But they sounded wonderful!