One of the earlier French culinary imports to make a dent in America was the crepe.
I remember the black steel crepe pan my folks bought, a token of their desire to make crepes at home. This admirable ambition faced two stumbling blocks.
First, if the pan wasn't well-seasoned (which required using it a lot), the crepes stuck to it. And that meant we usually destroyed the crepes when the moment came to dig them out of the pan.
Second, conventional wisdom had it that each crepe in a stack of cooked crepes needed to be separated using individual sheets of waxed paper; otherwise, they'd stick together. Who had the patience for that kind of fussiness?
Happily, I have solved both problems. Though I'm not generally a fan of non-stick pans, they do work. I prefer stick-resistant skillets, which are coated with a safe enamel that works well with crepes. I've also discovered that you can stack crepes. They don't stick to each other!
Still, why bother? Because if you have some crepes in the freezer and some leftovers in the fridge, you can put an elegant dinner on the table in no time. And if you make the crepes without sugar, they can be used in sweet or savory dishes. You can stuff them with everything from leftover cooked pork chops to broccoli and cheddar cheese to fresh berries and vanilla yogurt.
The crepes in this recipe are made not with white flour, but with stone-ground cornmeal and whole-wheat flour. This gives them not only better nutrition, but heartier taste and texture. As you cook them, be sure to re-stir the batter each time you reach into the bowl. That way the cornmeal will be distributed evenly.
Here in the heart of summer, it's natural to take advantage of the abundance of summer stone fruit. Any variety will shine in this recipe and in any stage of ripeness. We are poaching them, after all, which allows us to transform even an unripe and tasteless piece of fruit into something tender and deeply flavorful.
The magic ingredient in this process is wine, which - thanks to its taste and acidity - boosts the flavor of any dish. If you can't use wine, just swap in your favorite fruit juice, keeping in mind that you likely will have to adjust the sugar before you're done.
Finally, I realize that the fresh vanilla bean called for here can be pricey. It's worth the splurge. Vanilla beans perfume a dish in a way that vanilla extract can't.
CORN CREPES STUFFED WITH SUMMER FRUITS
Yield: 4 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup 1 percent milk 2 large eggs 1/4 cup cornmeal, preferably stone ground 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour Pinch table salt 3/4 cup dry white wine 1/3 cup sugar 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract) 6 cups, pitted and cubed fresh summer fruit, such as nectarines, plums, peaches 3/4 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
In a small skillet over low heat, cook the butter until it starts to turn brown and smell nutty. Transfer the butter to a blender, then add the milk, eggs, cornmeal, flour and salt. Blend just until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.
While batter is resting, in a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the wine, sugar and vanilla bean. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. (If using vanilla extract, add it to the fruit after the fruit has cooked for 20 minutes in the next step.) Add the fruit, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
While the fruit is poaching, make the crepes. Mist a 10-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat.
Stir the crepe batter and quickly pour 1/4 cup of it into the skillet, tilting the batter in the pan to make sure that the bottom is completely covered. Cook the crepe until it is lightly browned on the bottom, about 1 minute. Flip, cook for another 30 seconds, then transfer it to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter to produce 8 crepes. Once cooled, the crepes can be stacked. Set them aside.
After the fruit has poached for 20 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a bowl, making sure to leave most of the cooking liquid in the saucepan. Scrape the seeds inside the vanilla bean out with the tip of a paring knife and add them to the fruit.
Bring the cooking liquid remaining in the saucepan to a boil and cook it until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Transfer the liquid to a small pitcher and return the fruit to the pan. Heat over medium until hot.
To assemble the crepes: Mound a bit of the fruit filling down the middle of each of the crepes, then roll up. Arrange the filled crepes, seam side down, on dessert plates, then drizzle them with the reduced sauce and top with 2 tablespoons of the yogurt.