Italian Stuffed Crepes (Vegan.com Top 10 Recipe, 2008)

Spinach Crepes

Recipe from Nonna’s Italian Kitchen, by Bryanna Clark Grogan.
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From Bryanna: Crepes, or crespelle, may not be the first thing that comes to mind when Italian food is mentioned, but they have been enjoyed for centuries in Italy, even by the Medicis, and you will find the Italian way with them ideal for simple family meals and for entertaining. Crepes have been made in Italy with many different types of flours. They are particularly popular in Tuscany. In Emilia Romagna and Piedmont, they are called cannelloni, or they are folded into triangles and called fazzoletti, after the folded black handerkerchiefs that older farm women still wear on their heads. In southern Italy they are often referred to as manicotti. Filled crepes that are cut into short lengths and baked are called bocconcini, which means “little mouthfuls”. Crespelle “cakes”, or timbali, are crepes stacked with filling in between and cut into wedges.

CRESPELLE RIPIENE VEGAN (VEGAN STUFFED ITALIAN CREPES)

Serves 6 (This recipe can be made soy-free)

INGREDIENTS:
1 recipe (12) Crespelle (Italian Crepes) (see recipe below)

1 recipe medium-thick Besciamella Sauce (see recipe below)

OR a Marinara Sauce (light italian tomato sauce) (your favorite)

( Variation: you can layer Besciamella Sauce over the Marinara Sauce, for a really special dish)

about ½ cup Galaxy Foods Vegan Soy Parmesan (or soy-free Parma!– http://eatintheraw.com/ )

SPINACH AND “CHEESE” FILLING:

INGREDIENTS:

This recipe can be made soy-free if you use the Almond Ricotta.

2 onions, minced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 lbs. fresh cleaned spinach (or other greens) OR 2 10 oz. pckgs. chopped frozen spinach (or other greens)

1½ cups Tofu-Cashew Ricotta OR Almond Ricotta (see recipes below)

4 to 6 tablespoons Galaxy Foods Vegan Soy Parmesan (or soy-free “Parma!”)

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste


DIRECTIONS:

Saute the onions in the olive oil in a non-stick skillet until they are soft and starting to brown (adding a tiny bit of water as needed, to keep from sticking).

Meanwhile, place the fresh spinach in boiling water until it is completely wilted, then drain, squeeze dry and chop it, OR, if using frozen spinach, thaw it thoroughly (you can quick-thaw it by placing the whole carton in the microwave for 5 minutes) and squeeze it as dry as possible.

Mix the spinach in a bowl with the cooked onions, ricotta, soy Parmesan, and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. (It should be strongly seasoned.)

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place a generous amount of filling down the center of each crepe and roll it up. Place the rolls in an oiled baking dish. (You can prepare the crepes up to this point several hours ahead of time.) Pour a little of the sauce you are using over the crepes, sprinkle with soy Parmesan or alternate, and bake 20 minutes. Serve with more sauce on the side. (Or, if you prefer, bake the crepes with a generous amount of sauce and do not serve with sauce on the side.)

(To make fazzoletti, spread 2 or 3 tablespoons filling over one half of the crepe, fold over the other half, then fold the whole thing in half to make a triangle. Stand the fazzoletti up in the oiled baking pan or casserole with their points sticking upwards. Dab a little margarine on the point of each fazzoletti. Bake about 20 minutes and serve the sauce on the side.)

STUFFED CREPE RECIPE COMPONENTS:


CRESPELLE VEGAN (VEGAN CREPES)

Makes 12

This recipe can be made soy-free.

Crespelle can be made ahead (even frozen), and they make an elegant dinner dish for company or special occasions, such as Easter dinner. These vegan crespelle are nice and tender, thin but not fragile, roll well, and have a delicate flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon powdered egg replacer (Ener-G and Orgran are the preferred brands)

¼ cup water

1 cup unbleached white flour or wholewheat pastry flour

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon water

½ cup nondairy milk

¼ cup chickpea flour or soy flour

2 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

a pinch EACH of white pepper and freshly-ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the water and egg replacer in a blender until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and beat for one minute. The batter should be like heavy cream. (This can be made ahead, but the batter does not require resting for 30 minutes, as many crepe batters do.)

Crespelle are made like ordinary crepes. Heat a nonstick 8″ skillet over medium-high heat and wipe it lightly with oil before making each crepe. Use 3 tablespoons of batter per crepe (stirring the batter before you make each crepe), rolling and tilting the pan until it evenly covers the bottom. Cook for a few seconds, or until the top looks dry. Carefully loosen the crepe with a spatula and flip it over. After a few seconds the other side should be dry. Fold into quarters or roll like a jelly roll and place on a plate (or leave them flat if you are going to stack them with filling). If you are going to use the crepes shortly, cover them with a clean tea towel.

Either fill the crepes and serve according to the specific recipe directions, or let them cool and place in a plastic bag or rigid container (with pieces of waxed paper in between each crepe) and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze them for future use (thaw thoroughly before filling).


RICOTTA DI SOYA (TOFU RICOTTA) makes 3½ cups

This mixture is very similar to the creamy full-fat ricotta used in Italy, which bears little resemblance to the watery, grainy ricotta available to most North Americans. It’s so creamy that you can use it as a spread on bread, or a filling for crespelle (crepes), or even in desserts.

INGREDIENTS:

2 (12.3 oz.) boxes extra-firm SILKEN tofu, crumbled

½ cup + 2 tablespoons raw cashew pieces, ground very fine in a coffee/spice mill or mini-chopper

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, mix about 3 cups of the crumbled tofu, the ground cashews, the lemon juice and salt until they are VERY smooth. Then crumble in the remaining tofu and process again. The resulting mixture should be mostly smooth, but with a little graininess– it doesn’t have to be like cream cheese.

Scoop the “ricotta” into a plastic container and refrigerate. It firms up when chilled.

ALMOND “RICOTTA”

Makes about 2½ cups
Soy-Free.

This is a tasty vegan “ricotta”– the almond milk has a clean, mild taste.

1 cup hot water

½ cup whole blanched almonds

1 cup cold water

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons cornstarch (if you’re allergic to corn, you can use wheat starch, or use 6 tablespoons white rice flour)

1 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon salt


DIRECTIONS:

Place the hot water and almonds in the blender and blend until a very smooth “cream” results– be patient! It cannot be grainy. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend again well.

Pour the mixture into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over medium-high heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cokk 1 minute more, stirring.

MICROWAVE OPTION: Pour the mixture into a large microwave-safe bowl or beaker. Microwave 2 minutes on HIGH. Whisk. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more, or until thickened.

Scrape the mixture into a container and let it come to room temperature. Beat it with a whisk or electric mixer. Cover and chill. When it is chilled and firm, mash and stir it with a fork, until it has some texture. Refrigerate.


DAIRY-FREE BECHAMEL OR WHITE SAUCE

makes 2 cups

This sauce can be made soy-free– see the end of the recipe.

This rich-tasting sauce is actually quite low in fat. It can be used as an all-purpose white sauce in all of your cooking, and as a topping for Greek dishes, such as vegetarian moussaka, and even as a substitute for melted cheese in many casseroles. In Italy, this type of sauce is used on lasagna rather than the heavy melted cheeses in American-style lasagne.

I think this formula is a great improvement upon vegan white sauces made completely with soymilk, which I find too sweet. The tofu (or cashews) and broth cube add richness without much fat.


INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine or extra-virgin olive oil

1½ to 3 tablespoons unbleached flour (depending on thickness desired)

BLENDED MIXTURE:

1 cup soy, almond, or rice milk

½ cup extra-firm SILKEN tofu or regular medium-firm tofu, crumbled

½ cup water

1 “chicken-style” vegetarian broth cube (or enough for 1 cup of liquid), crumbled

½ teaspoon salt

a large pinch EACH of freshly-grated nutmeg and white pepper


DIRECTIONS:

Place all of the Blended Mixture ingredients, EXCEPT the nutmeg and pepper, in the blender and blend until VERY smooth. Set aside.

Melt the margarine in a medium, heavy saucepan and whisk in the flour. Whisk it over medium-high heat for a few minutes, but remove from heat before it starts to change color (you want a white “roux”). Scrape this into the Blended Mixture and blend for a few seconds, then pour the mixture back into the pot. Stir over medium-high heat until it thickens and boils; turn down and simmer on low for a few minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg and pepper.

MICROWAVE OPTION: Melt the margarine in a large microwave-safe bowl or 1 qt. Pyrex measuring beaker on HiGH for 45 seconds. Whisk in the flour and microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Scrape this into the Blended Mixture and blend briefly, then pour it back into the bowl or beaker, or pour in the Blended mixture and mix with a hand immersion blender until smooth. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Whisk. Microwave for 2 more minutes. Whisk. Microwave for 2 minutes more. Whisk in the nutmeg and pepper. IF DOUBLING THE RECIPE, use a larger bowl and increase the cooking time to 3 minutes each time.

To make this sauce very low-fat: leave out the margarine and simply cook the flour in a dry pan or microwave until it just starts to change color. You can use reduced fat tofu and soymilk, too, if you like.

To make this sauce soy-free: omit the tofu; use ¼ cup more rice or almond milk (1¼ in total) and use ¼ cup raw cashews instead of the tofu. Since the cashews have a thickening effect, use less flour. Use only 2 teaspoons soy-free and dairy-free margarine, or use olive oil.

To make this sauce wheat-free: add the melted margarine or olive oil directly to the blended mixture, along with 1 to 4 tablespoons white rice flour (or mochiko flour, also known as sweet/glutinous rice flour) in stead of the wheat flour (so you omit the first cooking step). 4 tablespoons makes a very thick sauce.

NOTE: Sauces made with mochiko flour (also called sweet or glutinous white rice flour—though it contains no gluten!) (see under Wheat-Free above) are excellent for freezing (for instance, if you freeze a prepared but not baked lasagne), because the sauce will not separate when thawed.

Nonna's Italian Kitchen

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Recipe and Photo © 2008, featured by Vegan.com with permission of the author and publisher.