Hello my friends,
how are you? I hope you are safe in your homes right now, like most of us here in Italy. I also hope you can manage this very strange and unique situation in our lives.
First of all I want to express my gratitude to the many of you that have written and called in the last month to know if we are well and to exchange much needed words of consolation.
Also, I wanted to thank from the bottom of my heart all of you who have contributed to the fundraiser for my new cookbook. I have started to do cooking classes online as a reward for contributions and it has been fantastic to “visit” you in your kitchen <3 .
To those of you who are not on social media, this might come as a surprise which I was planning to announce with much cheer and fanfare. However, times have changed. This new undertaking has become a way to survive, hopefully, through these incredibly difficult times for tourism and especially for a small business like ours. Please read all about it here if you like.
As for us as a family, we are well and so all our relatives and friends. We are entering our 4th week of lockdown and we have become used to this strange new life. Tea has classes online, Ruurd is busy with the tractor, fixing things and his studies of physics. I cook of course, more than ever. Almost everyday I test a recipe for the book, we take photos, I write a chapter. I am as busy as ever! If you are home in lockdown and wish to help me test recipes, please drop me a note, I’d love your feedback.
Here in Umbria, we are quite lucky as it’s relatively easy to find most ingredients. If on the other hands you need suggestions about what to cook using what’s in your pantry, please let me know, I’ll be happy to help.
Above all please don’t loose hope. As long as you are healthy all this will pass. We need to stay positive, look ahead, keep making projects, keep dreaming of the good things of life we have shared so far. Food, friendship, beauty, art. They will still be there in a few months, we just need to be patient.
This is a recipe I have just finished to test yesterday: paper thin crêpes filled with roasted asparagus, prosciutto and ricotta. We also call them pancake cannelloni. I find this recipe a good dinner solution right now. It lends itself to many variations and dietary requirements.
Are you vegetarian? substitute the prosciutto with smoked cheese or a few minced sundried tomatoes in the filling.
Are you gluten free? you can make crêpes with most GF flour blends. Any blend which is good for pancakes should work with crêpes, just adjust the liquid to obtain a fairly thin batter like shown in the video.
Did you run out of canned tomatoes? douse the crêpes in Bechamel, sprinkle with Parmigiano or other grated cheese and they will be as delicious
Can’t find asparagus? use blanched spinach or Swiss chard, sauté zucchini or blanched peas. Just don’t forget to sauté your vegetables with a little garlic and olive oil before blending.
Don’t have prosciutto? use pancetta or ham.
for the crêpes:
- 250 ml (1 cup) milk
- 125 gr (3/4 cup) regular flour or gluten free equivalent ( I use my basic cake mix flour)
- 30 gr melted butter
- 2 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano
for the filling:
- 450 gr (1 lb) thin green asparagus
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 250 gr (1/2 lb) whole milk ricotta
- 120 gr (4 oz) diced prosciutto or pancetta
- 4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano
for the sauce:
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 400 g can of organic crushed tomato
- 3-4 basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano
Mise en place: this recipe is very easy but it will be effortless if you use Mise en place for your ingredients, meaning that you will have measured, cut, peeled, sliced everything before you start cooking. I also suggest to assemble the ingredients for the crepes, for the filling and for the sauce each on a different area of your worktop.
To make the crêpes, mix the eggs with flour, salt and Parmigiano. Add melted butter, then milk and whisk until smooth. I generally blend the ingredients in this order in a food processor. If you make them by hand, please take care to add milk a little bit at the time and incorporate well to avoid lumps.
Butter a 15 cm/6 inch, non-stick frying pan set over medium-low heat.
Pour a small ladleful of the batter (a scant 1/4 cup) in the pan and swirl to make the thinnest possible pancake. Cook for 1 minute each side then remove and set aside. Repeat, to make 14-16 pancakes. I only butter the pan once at the beginning.
To roast asparagus, preheat an oven to 220° C (425° F ). Rinse asparagus and break off the woody parts. Don’t peel. Lay spears in a baking dish that will hold them in one or two layers. Toss with extra virgin olive oil and place in the oven or under a grill.
Roast 10 to 15 minutes depending on size. The asparagus should cook quickly and don’t release any moisture. Test for doneness by piercing a spear with point of a sharp knife; it should slide in but meet a little resistance. Take out of the oven, add a finely minced clove of garlic then cover to infuse for at least 10 minutes. Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead. Keep at room temperature for up to a couple of hours.
To make the filling, chop the asparagus, then transfer in a food processor together with ricotta and two tablespoons of Parmigiano. Process briefly until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To make the tomato sauce, add a finely minced clove of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil to a saucepan, sauté over low heat until fragrant, 2-3 min. Stir in the crushed tomato, cover and cook for approx. 10 min until slightly thick. Add basil leaves, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
To assemble the dish, if the oven is still hot, turn down to 200˚C (350 °F). Lightly grease a 25x 30 cm (10×12 inch) baking dish with butter or olive oil.
Distribute the asparagus mixture in the centre of each pancake. Spread the filling all over the pancake with a spatula, sprinkle with prosciutto, then roll like cannelloni. Place in the baking dish. Spread crepes with tomato sauce and sprinkle with two more tablespoon of Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve hot.
Serves 3-4 as a main dish.