Sunday, October 26, 2014

WIP: Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crêpes

(WIP = Work in Progress), but in general these allergy friendly buckwheat crepes worked out pretty well. There is no dairy or wheat or nuts of any kind (since coconut or other tree nut-based ingredients are often part of dairy- and wheat-free foods) in the batter--but there is egg. The recipe is very simple, with just buckwheat flour, egg, water, and a pinch of salt. They're probably more brittle than if you include dairy in the batter, but otherwise they function as crepe skins and have a nice flavor to them. And really, I think you could probably do the same thing with other flours, or a mix a flours. You could probably even put in a pinch of xanthan gum or guar gum if you wanted it to be a little more flexible a crepe skin. Again, work in progress; I'll be playing with it from time to time.

Huh, look at that--turns out buckwheat crepes are a food with some history in France, generally savory and called "galettes". And looking a little further, it seems that actually, if you work the batter a lot, buckwheat will gelatinize. ...maybe I will get a stand mixer one day after all. There was a time, before I sussed out my dairy and wheat issues, that I wanted one in order to explore hand-pulled noodles and pastries. Of course, I shelved all that (and saved myself the money) when I figured out that they caused my system problems. Anyway, between this and the pistou discussed in my previous post, it seems that French cuisine has more to offer me than I knew--not that you ever really see these parts of it in the U.S. Though, there is a cafe serving galettes in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Pictured above, I made a savory crepe and a sweet crepe for breakfast this morning. For the savory one, I filled it with some of the scallop sautéed kale from the previous night, along with some pear/teardrop tomatoes. For the sweet, I filled it with bananas and local alfalfa honey. Both were really delicious! If I were just making sweet ones, then I'd think about incorporating cinnamon or other things like lemon zest into the batter possibly. And for the savory, maybe other spices, if I wanted to be elaborate. The simplicity and speed with which you can mix up the basic batter is really appealing to me, though.

What's that? My banana crepe looks funny to you? (It's okay, banana crepe, I thought you were delicious.) Well, yeah, the relative brittleness of the crepe meant that when I messed up my flipping technique, the crepe ended up breaking, so I had two half moons instead of a full moon.

[Technique note:] I think next time I'll just flip once and use the originally-top side (now bottom side after the flip) as the outside of the crepe; it's smoother and looks a little nicer than the wrinkled surface of the originally-bottom side--at least at the heat I was cooking at this time.

[UPDATE: added a note about the recipe proportions to adjust servings made and thickness of the crepes. Also edited the ingredients list and instructions slightly to incorporate what I learned in later attempts.]

Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crêpe
makes batter for 2 crepes

You can actually scale this recipe up to maybe four times its current proportion while sticking with the one egg. As it stands, the crepes cook up a little thick because of the egg and flour to water ratio. Increase the amount of water relative to the flour and egg for a thinner batter and thinner crepes. [UPDATE 2: it doesn't work! Keep the flour:water ratio unless you have a stand-mixer or a motor arm and want to go for the gelatinized buckwheat described in the linked page above.]
If the crepes are very thin it’ll be easier to flip and release from the pan if you have an actual flat crepe pan with its low edges. I don't have such a pan, so it's easier to work with if the crepes aren't so delicate. And because I'm usually cooking for one, it's easier for me just to use one egg and have thicker crepes rather than make too much batter.

50g (about 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
100g water
1 egg
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
vegetable oil

  1. Thoroughly whisk together ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup for ease of pouring.
  2. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes to bring the pan to cooking temperature. Use a paper towel folded over several times to wipe a thin layer of oil over the surface of the pan. Pour half the batter into the skillet and tilt the pan around to allow the batter to cover the surface in a thin layer. Cook until the crepe has set (about a minute). Slide a metal spatula underneath the crepe to release it and flip to briefly cook the other side.
  3. Add your filling, fold, and plate, or remove crepe from pan and fill afterward.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jammin': Pesto Seared Scallops and Kale

David Chang once said that it's easy to cook delicious food with high quality ingredients. What's challenging is to make delicious food with low quality ingredients.* And definitely, I find that the better your ingredients, the less you have to do to make things taste great. Here in Sacramento,** the produce is so much fresher than in D.C.,*** and I'm continually pleasantly surprised at how flavorful everything I make seems to come out, even with very simple preparation. Well, I'm sure I'll get used to it soon, and come to expect it, ha.

*Sorry, I can't find a link to the quote--it was several years ago.
**Wow, this is now my fourth cross-country move, not to mention a trans-Pacific move and back.
***Which stands for District of Columbia, and not David Chang, despite its being his hometown.

Pictured above is a seared scallop dish I made, with a simple parsley pesto* and sautéed kale. The scallops and produce came from one of the local farmers markets. I was particularly impressed with the savory flavor of the scallop deglazing, which went fantastically with the sautéed kale.

*I don't add nuts or cheese to my pestos due to reactions. But, interestingly enough, it looks like my nut- and cheese-less variations of pestos are like pistou from Provencal, France. Looks like I'm really going to have to write that blog post I said I would previously, about similar pastes in different culinary traditions.

This is still a work in progress (isn't everything?)--so, like posting a sketch. I haven't actually tried making seared scallops before (they're expensive), so there are more variations I'd want to try in terms of technique, like not cooking the seared scallops in the sauce in order to keep the surface crisp. But in case you're interested, I'm posting what I did below.

Pesto Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale
Serves 2

½ lb. large scallops, defrosted, patted dry
¼ cup white wine vinegar
parsley pesto (recipe below—makes more than is needed for this recipe, so you can save extra for other uses)

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 6 cups, loose)

vegetable oil

  1. Season scallops with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface of the pan. Add scallops to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Let them cook undisturbed until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 to 1.5 minutes. Flip scallops and cook on other side until similarly browned.
  3. While the scallops are searing on their second side, add small dollops of pesto to the tops of each scallop. Once the second side is done, turn down the heat to medium-low and flip the scallops again so that the pesto’ed side is down. Add white wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits and mix with the vinegar and pesto. Cook for another minute, spooning the sauce in the pan over the scallops. Remove scallops from pan and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  4. Turn heat back up to medium. Add chopped kale to the pan and toss until it wilts and is a vibrant green color. You may have to do this in two batches. With the second batch, add a little more pesto and white wine vinegar to the pan so that the kale is seasoned and has some steam to wilt it. Once wilted, toss all the kale together. Divide kale into individually portioned bowls or plates, top with scallops and serve immediately. If desired, serve with freshly steamed rice with scallop and kale cooking sauces spooned over the rice.

Simple Parsley Pesto

1 cup parsley (loose, not packed), chopped
8 cloves garlic
½ - 1 tsp salt (if 1 tsp, the pesto will be too salty to just eat spread directly on a filet of fish, but great to use as a seasoning paste while cooking a dish)
1 tsp Korean chili powder (if you use a different kind of chili powder, you may want to reduce the quantity since Korean chilies are mild, unless you want more heat)
extra virgin olive oil, enough to form a paste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in bursts, scraping down sides and adding olive oil as needed, until paste is formed.