The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes. -Julia Child

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweet Ricotta Blintzes with Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce

I love breakfast. Well, not that yogurt and muffin I eat at my desk while reading my email. Weekend breakfast. I'm not a morning person but when I wake up on a weekend morning with nothing to make me rush out of the house, well - that is one of my favorite moments. It has so much potential. I could do anything! I could eat anything! Sometimes I even think of what I want to make to eat the night before, I love it so much.

Usually I go for eggs, maybe pancakes, but this particular Saturday I decided to go in a different direction. Crepes, I thought...with ricotta (after inventorying my fridge). A few cookbooks later and I found my starter recipe in that standby book for home cooks - the Joy of Cooking. It is a blintz recipe. After a moderate amount of research trying to figure out the difference between a blintz and a crepe, I'm convinced it is pretty much the same thing, with crepes being of French origin and Blintzes hailing from eastern Europe. Some say it is about yeast, others about cooking one one side vs. two...If anyone cares to shed any more light on this, I'd welcome the info.

Modifications from the original: The ricotta, of course (the original calls for farmer's cheese or cottage cheese). I left out the orange zest and raisins optionally called for in the original - the former because I hated my zester and the latter because I didn't have any. I added a dash of orange extract instead and I think it worked. I now have a spiffy Microplane (love it!) so I'll try it with zest next time. I think raisins would be overkill at best and at worst out of place in this dish, so I vote for leaving them out.

And oh yes, the strawberry balsamic sauce. Why vinegar with strawberries, you might ask? Well, balsamic vinegar isn't your usual vinegar. It has complex flavors and sweetness of its own. And it really seems to bring out the strawberry's own flavors. I confess to not coming up with this combination on my own, but having some raspberry balsamic jam at an Italian market. It worked there, and I'd like to think it works here.

One final note - I'm sure this seems like a lot of work, but let me tell you that it really isn't so bad, especially since so much can be made in the blender/food processor. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to prepare the blintzes. Just keep that pan buttered and they'll come out perfect. Sure, this isn't as quick and easy as pancakes from a box, but with not too much work you can have a breakfast that tastes like something you'd happily pay good money for from a restaurant.

Sweet Ricotta Blintzes with Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce
Serves 2-4

Printable RecipePreparation notes: The below recipe is in three parts, the blintz itself, the cheese filling, and the strawberry sauce. The blintz batter needs to sit for 30 minutes and the strawberry sauce needs to simmer for a while, too, so I advise tackling all the tasks in this order: 1) prepare blintz batter through the resting stage, 2) prepare strawberry sauce and start it simmering as directed, 3) make the cheese filling, 4) cook the blintzes, 5) fill, fry, top, eat! You can also prepare the blintz batter, cheese filling, and strawberry sauce a day in advance and refrigerate it.

Sweet Blintzes
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Makes 8-10 blintzes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
When ready to prepare blintzes, coat an 8 or 10 inch skillet with butter. Heat pan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, remove skillet from heat and pour in about 3 tablespoons of the batter, enough to just coat the bottom of the pan. Return skillet to heat and cook until the bottom is golden and the top is dry. Place blintz on a piece of wax paper and prepare next, stacking the finished blintzes between sheets of wax paper.

Ricotta Filling
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed

Combine all ingredients except the butter and oil in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
Drop an equal amount of the filling in the center of the uncooked side of a prepared blintz.
Fold in the sides of the blintz to make a rectangular package in which the cheese mixture is completely encased.
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet until the butter is melted and any bubbles have subsided. Add the blintzes, seam side down. Cook until the bottom is golden and then flip and brown other side as well.
When the blintzes are done, set them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Transfer the blintzes to the serving plate and top with the strawberry sauce.

Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce
by Me
2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon butter (unsalted if you have it)
3 tablespoons sugar (use an extra tablespoon if your strawberries aren't very sweet)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a small saucepot over medium-high heat, stir together the strawberries, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture has nearly reached your desired consistency. Add 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar and let boil for one more minute. Reduce heat to low and and add remaining tablespoon of vinegar. Stir and let simmer until thickened, or until you're ready to eat!

Verdict? Yummmmm. Seriously. I'm getting hungry thinking about these now, and I just ate lunch. By the way, you can freeze the assembled blintzes (before pan frying them), so feel free to make a double batch and store some for later use. I have three of these babies in my freezer at home; can't wait to go eat them. Breakfast for dinner anyone?

By the way - if you want to attempt to reduce the fat used in this dish, you can probably get away with pan-frying the filled blintzes in your most non-stick skillet with less oil/butter or even cooking spray. For making the blintzes in the first place I'd advise trying to butter the skillet just every other blintz if trying to reduce the fat. That second one will be a bit tougher to get out of the pan, but it should still be fine. This dish will never be totally low fat but you can trim off a bit here and there. Enjoy!

By the way - sorry for the long delay between posts. Life got busy for a bit, but look for a new recipe tomorrow, one for you AZEats people. That one will be followed by more breakfast. Yummm.


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