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With all the luscious, brilliant berries at the market, springtime calls for a strawberry celebration. Vanilla yogurt, sour cream and whipped cream are great with the ruby-red berries, but sometimes you might want a dairy-free strawberry sweet.
Fruit salad with strawberries is delicious but to some it's not sufficient as a dessert. Although it's nice to be able to use flour again now that Pessah is over, after all the holiday cakes, you might want a rest from baking. Strawberry-filled crepes can fit the bill.
The thin pancakes make for a dessert that feels light but is more substantial than fruit alone. For lower-fat crepes, you can make the batter with egg whites instead of all whole eggs. In addition, you can follow the example of my friend Patricia Greenberg, author of The Whole Soy Cookbook (Three Rivers Press, 1998), who makes her crepes with whole-wheat flour and soy milk. The result is tasty, healthy and parve.
The flavor of strawberries is more vivid when they are raw. For a simple filling, you could mix sliced berries with a little sugar, fold te mixture inside the crepes and serve them at room temperature. This might be welcome on a hot summer day, but it would feel like fruit salad inside a crepe.
A thicker, cooked filling is more satisfying. However, when strawberries are cooked, their high water content turns them into a sauce that's too thin to serve as a filling. And if you thicken the cooked berries with cornstarch or flour, the filling would be heavy and sticky.
One solution is to mix the berries with a cooked fruit. Apples are a good choice, as they cook to a thick compote that gives the filling a denser texture but doesn't overwhelm the taste of the berries, the way prunes would, for example. Penny Wantuck Eisenberg, the author of Light Jewish Holiday Desserts (Morrow, 1999), uses a technique like this for her summer fruit cobbler (a fruit pie with a crust only on top). She mixes diced apples with the berries because she says the apples do wonders for the texture of the filling.
Stirring a little strawberry jam or preserves into the filling of the crepes further boosts their berry flavor. Serve the crepes with a liberal amount of fresh strawberry sauce made of sliced and pureed raw berries, and the dessert will be bright and fragrant, like strawberry fields in springtime.
PAREVE STRAWBERRY CREPES
If you wish to make the crepes ahead of time and fill them as you need them, pile them on a plate as they are done. You can keep the crepes, covered tightly, for 3 days in the refrigerator; or you can freeze them.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour or additional all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
2 large eggs, or 1 egg and 1 egg white
3/4 to 1 cup soy milk or water
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus a few tsp. for pan
450 gr. tender apples, such as Golden Delicious, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbsp. strawberry jam or preserves
1/2 cup halved sliced strawberries
Sliced strawberries in strawberry sauce (see next recipe)
Sift together both types of flour, salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. In a blender combine eggs, 3/4 cup soy milk and flour mixture. Blend on high speed about 1 minute or until batter is smooth. Strain batter if it is lumpy. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Stir batter well. Gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons oil. Batter should have consistency of whipping cream. If it is too thick, gradually whisk in water, about 1 teaspoon at a time.
Heat a crepe pan or skillet with a 15-cm. base, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with few drops of water; when pan is hot enough, water should sizzle immediately. Brush pan lightly with oil. Remove pan from heat and quickly add 2 tablespoons batter to one edge, tilting and swirling pan until base is covered with a thin layer of batter. Immediately pour any excess batter back into bowl.
Return pan to medium-high heat. Loosen edges of crepe with a metal spatula, discarding any pieces clinging to sides of pan. Cook until bottom browns lightly. Slide spatula under crepe and turn carefully. Cook until second side browns lightly in spots.
Slide crepe onto a plate. Reheat pan a few seconds. Continue making crepes, stirring batter occasionally. If first crepes are too thick, whisk a teaspoon of water into batter.
Adjust heat and add more oil to pan if necessary.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add apples and saute over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Add 3 tablespoons sugar and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in strawberry jam and sliced strawberries and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Taste, and add more sugar if needed.
Gently spread 1 tablespoon filling on each crepe and roll it up lightly or fold it in four. If you like, put the filled crepes in an oiled baking dish and keep them warm, loosely covered, in a low oven (about 150C). Serve with sliced strawberries in strawberry sauce.
Makes about 4 servings.
SLICED STRAWBERRIES IN STRAWBERRY SAUCE
If you like, add a spoonful of strawberry preserves or jam to sweeten this sauce and deepen its color.
2 cups quartered strawberries
1 to 3 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1 to 2 Tbsp. strawberry jam or preserves (optional)
1 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste
2 cups sliced strawberries
In a food processor, puree quartered strawberries with 1 tablespoon sugar until smooth.
Add jam if desired, and more sugar and lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. At serving time, mix with sliced strawberries.
Makes about 4 servings.
Faye Levy is the author of Feast from the Mideast (HarperCollins) and 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Wiley).
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