In 2006, President George W. Bush set a law that Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) was to be annually recognized, each May, to celebrate the 350-year history of Jewish contributions to the American culture. Elie Wiesel, Jerry Seinfeld, Alan Greenspan, Noam Chomsky, Gloria Stienem - the list of American Jews that have contributed to the betterment of our society, through activism, intelligence and laughter, could go on for days. But don’t discount the Jewish contribution to the betterment of our bellies. What a dark, incomplete world it would be without bagels, challah bread, latkes, macaroons, matzah ball soup and of course, blintzes.
The history of blintzes dates back to pre-Christian times when early Slavic peoples used them in rituals to honor the sun. The tradition was adopted by the Russian Orthodox Church and then borrowed by many cultures, including the French who used crepes in place of yeasted batter. Thankfully for today’s blintz-loving society, Jewish immigrants popularized this magnificent treat by including them as part of their traditional cuisine as well as important holidays.
So, what is a blintz? A blintz, in and of itself, is really a thin pancake that can be made with a multitude of different types of flours, wheat being, by far, the most popular. Russian blinis are made with yeasted batter, but our more commonly used blintz is the crepe. Now, blintzes may be eaten just as they are, but if you ask The Three Kitcheneers, an empty blintz is just a sad circle waiting to fulfill its ultimate destiny by wrapping its little pancake body around cheese or fruit then being lightly fried or baked until warm and gooey and perfect.
The blintz has become a food for all occasions. It can take on many forms and accommodate many tastes. Sweet or savory, there is just plain, good ol’ fashioned magic behind these Jewish delicacies. Are you in a savory mood? That’s great! So is the blintz. Fill that baby up with potatoes and onions, roll it into a tube, fry it and enjoy with sour cream. Throw in some fresh herbs if you feel so inclined. What’s that? You’re in a sweet mood? Well, great! So is the blintz. Forego the potatoes and fill that anxiously awaiting crepe with sweet cheese and sugar, roll it up, fry it and enjoy with our seriously addicting blueberry compote.
Folks, this is not diet food. However, if you know anything about Jewish guilt, then you know there’s nothing better than a guilty pleasure. In fact, if you aren’t Jewish, we encourage you to find a wonderful Jewish mother who will insist that you are far too skinny and suggest that you should eat the whole batch. Accept her invitation to join her family for dinner, for there is always room for a guest, then take part in telling funny stories and engaging in amazing conversation. Take it from two of The Three Kitcheneers, Megan Greenberg and Charlotte Abrams (Greenberg and Abrams - oy vey!), nothing beats the ultimate Jewish contributions to our society: food, laughter and making memories. And what better way to make memories than laughing with friends and family over an unbelievably delicious plate of blintzes.
Blintzes Two Ways:
Sweet Cheese with Blueberry Compote and Potato-Onion with Sour Cream
makes 12 crepes
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for frying
Blend the milk, flour, eggs, salt, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Add the butter and blend just to combine. Let rest in fridge for at least one hour while preparing fillings. Heat a pat of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low to low heat, once sizzling, pour in about 2 tablespoons batter and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook until set and golden, about 1 to 2 minutes, adding slivers of butter to pan as needed between crepes. Do not flip. Release crepes from pan by gently sliding a flexible spatula along the edges, then shaking the pan to release. Stack crepes as they are cooked and keep warm.
Fill each crepe with a heaping tablespoon of filling and fold like a burrito. If desired, fry in skillet with more butter until golden and crisp on each side. Serve cheese blintzes with blueberry compote and potato blintzes with sour cream.
makes enough to fill 12 crepes
1 cup Farmer's cheese or fresh, dry ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
makes enough to fill 12 crepes
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions until soft, sweet, and golden brown; about 10 minutes. Add to mashed potatoes, stir in cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
makes 1 cup
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat mashing on blueberries to extract juices. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Keep warm.