Cookin' with the Kids
Simple Sides: Pixie Crêpes for Mom’s Day!
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
On Sunday, May 12th, many mothers with school-age children in the house will share a tradition that kicks off today’s Queen for a Day celebrations. Namely, patiently waiting in bed or any other room in the house except the kitchen, listening to the clanging of pots ‘n pans, as the kids prepare a special breakfast usually supervised by a Mr. Queen. Here’s a super delicious and easy recipe, perfect for the occasion and made even easier for the novice cook with the aid of Melissa’s ready-made crêpes. Though this convenient product does eliminate the delicate touch required in the making of this French staple, Melissa’s crêpes still give the beginner cook some experience in working with a very fragile component in constructing this dish. There are also plenty of culinary lessons to be learned in making a delicious and healthy fruit topping that exploits the unique flavor of the Pixie Tangerine to its fullest potential!
Melissa’s Crêpes really are a time saver! Sure, your young sous chef(s) should learn the art of crêpe making at some point, but Mother’s Day breakfast is not that time, as Mr. Queen or the supervising adult will no doubt concur. That is not to say that one can just toss out a package of crêpes and let the kids have at it. In fact, depending on the age of the kitchen helpers, it may take the nimble fingers of an adult to peel the crêpes from their wax paper sheets without tearing them. This tendency to tear is also the reason for warming the ricotta cheese before attempting to spread it on a crêpe; about 40 seconds in the microwave softens the cheese just enough to make it easily spreadable. I learned this after only two completely torn and mangled crêpes! So expect a few practice sacrificial crêpes to be a part of the learning curve for this process.
In this recipe both the fruit and the peel (zest) is used. I prefer the cheese grater side of an old fashioned box grater for a larger zest texture, especially for this recipe, since the peel is the only flavor additive in the cheese filling. It should be sprinkled generously on the ricotta. Again, folding the crêpes into quarters without a tear can be a challenging task; the supervising adult might want to fold and plate the crêpes (the less handling the better) and then let his kitchen assistant spoon over the topping and arrange the garnish of sliced strawberry.
The making of the scrumptious Pixie topping is very quick and simple, but does require stovetop cooking, constant focus and close supervision. The fun, interesting and educational part for your novice cook will be when it is time to mix up and add the arrowroot to this fluid topping and see how this turns the mixture into a syrupy, almost jelly-like, texture in seconds A culinary magic trick they will never forget!
By the way, one can certainly substitute another tangerine variety or even use Pixies not grown in Ojai, California, for that matter; however, be aware that the results will be considerably less flavorful. Ojai Pixie tangerines are truly something special--a unique, head-turning strain that cannot be replicated. In fact the most difficult part of this dish will be to get your sous chefs to stop taste-testing this syrup and serve it to mom!
Pixie Tangerine Crêpes
1 Pixie Tangerine, juiced – retain peel
1 Pixie Tangerine, peeled, cleaned, sliced into quarter rounds –retain peel
½ cup Melissa’s Blue Agave Syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 oz. water, divided
2 tsp. corn starch
1 cup ricotta cheese, slightly warmed
2 tangerine peels, zested
3 Melissa’s Crêpes
2 fresh strawberries, sliced (garnish)
Juice one of the tangerines, then slice a second one into rounds and then into quarters.
Using a box grater, zest all the peel from the two tangerines above, set aside.
Combine the agave, tangerine juice and quarters, lemon juice and 1 oz. of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low flame. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often; then mix corn starch with remaining water and add to the pan. Continue to cook and stir until mixture starts to thicken on the spatula.
Spread a crêpe evenly with 2-3 tablespoons warmed ricotta, being very careful not to tear the crêpe in the process. Sprinkle the ricotta generously with tangerine zest, then fold the crêpe into quarters forming a triangle. Repeat to make 3 folded crêpes.
Plating: Stack the crêpes overlapping each other on a plate, spoon on the pixie-agave sauce and garnish with slices of strawberries.