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Thanksgiving – the big enchilada of all cooking and eating holidays is over, but the holiday season is not. In my household, there’s a lot more celebrating to come– and that means there’s a lot more shopping and cooking coming my way.
And so, here I am trying to map out a plan for creating all the holiday dinner and brunch food I will make over the coming month. I tend to focus on the main course dishes and the desserts, so unless I’m having a quickly thrown together cocktail party (the only kind I ever have), hors d’oeuvres typically get pushed to the side for the last minute; ie. their complexity will depend on how much time and energy I have left —after everything else. Which is a good thing, I think. My creativity is thrown into making savory meats that fill the house with a wonderful aroma while they cook, flavorful, head-turning vegetable dishes and incredible desserts that people will remember long after they leave. I don’t want people filling up on the hors d’oeuvres because in my house, the best is yet to come. But even with this less-is-more attitude – the hors d’oeuvres still have to be good.
This year, I’ll stock all my favorite reliable go-to fare to help with my last minute “a little something to hold you over” dashes for holiday dinner parties:
Smoked salmon that I’ll artfully arrange on Blue Diamond Nut-Thin Crackers .
Goat cheese that I’ll spread on rice crackers and top with fig and olive tapenade.
Fresh marinated olives.
Fresh roasted almonds and cashews.
Endive leaves stuffed with guacamole that I’ll top with tiny thin strips of roasted red pepper.
Good quality frozen shrimp that I’ll either serve with cocktail sauce or toss with olive oil and Old Bay Seasoning then sauté in a hot skillet or grill in a grill basket.
And, I’ll stock up on heartier fare for my inevitable impromptu cocktail parties:
The makings for artichoke dip that I’ll serve with Crunch Master Crackers.
An assortment of artisan sausages that I can grill and cut into bite size pieces (and some interesting mustards to go with them).
Several very thin homemade pizza crusts (stored in my freezer) to make a favorite pesto, brie and jalapeno pizza (from The Gluten-free Good Health Cookbook).
Boxes of good quality chopped frozen spinach, fresh feta cheese and ricotta to make a spanikopita-like filling for my mini crepe cups.
What’s a mini crepe cup? Funny you should ask.
In the old days, I enjoyed eating spanikopita whenever someone else made it. Remember my basic philosophy about all cooking: it should be simple and not consume us. Truth be told, I never liked to use filo dough to make anything because it’s finicky and time consuming to use. And to pile on here, it is kind of annoying to eat at a cocktail party because all those little bits of crisp filo dough fall on your clothes or get stuck on your face (you know it’s true). And the filo triangles most people make are usually too big to eat in one or two bites. Was filo really meant to be used as a finger food? I don’t’ so.
So even though I live in the New York metro area and could buy high quality ready-to-use filo dough, I rarely did. But I did make a spinach and feta cheese spanikopita-like filling and created tiny hors’ d’oeuvres in ready-made, wheat filled, store bought filo cups that I can no longer eat (not as good as home-made, but good for a quick fix). I liked the cup idea though: small, one or two tender bites, and perhaps -with the right formulation—-no pesky crumbs. My crepe cup was born.
I had been making “Spanikopita” Crepes for years for holiday brunches. They are easy and delicious and can be prepared ahead, not a small consideration when you are having guests walk in the door around 11:30 in the morning!
Using the same recipes, I down-sized the crepes, poked them into well greased mini muffin pans, filled them up and baked them in a hot oven. Quick. Easy. Fun. I also found it required a bit of finesse: the filling has to be chilled until it is very cold so that it doesn’t get too bubbly before the crepe cups brown.
So here are my recipes for the crepes and the spinach-feta cheese filling. You can follow the recipe as is and make big crepes for an entrée. Or improvise like I did and make the crepes silver dollar size and use them as an hors d’oeuvre (instruction below). But you could also use any other filling you want: spinach and sausage, mushroom and cheese, hot crab dip, artichoke dip, goat cheese with a touch of fig preserves, etc. You’ll have tender, hot, delicious bite-sized morsels to serve without a lot of fuss.
The versatile crepe can help turn the simplest of ingredients into a special brunch, main course, or dessert. You can fill them with an wide variety of combinations: creamy chicken and mushroom, curried seafood, spinach and Gruyere, scrambled eggs with ham and cheddar, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, peaches and vanilla custard, or that famous classic, Crepes Suzette. These light, flavorful crepes take a lot less time to make than crepes made with wheat because you don’t have to let the batter rest for two hours. They will be a welcome addition to your gluten-free repertoire.
Makes 8-10 savory crepes
1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix*
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Additional butter for pan
- Preheat a 7 inch skillet/crepe pan over medium heat.
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well.
- Brush skillet with additional butter. Pour batter (about 3 tablespoons) onto heated skillet with one hand; with the other hand, tilt the skillet so the batter completely coats the bottom (pour any extra batter back into the blender so the crepes are not too thick). Cook about 1 minute, until the underside is very light golden brown. Loosen the edges of the crepe with a spatula and turn it over in the skillet. Cook the other side about 30 seconds, until it is a spotty light golden brown. Slide crepe onto a plate and cover with foil.
- Repeat Step 3 with remaining batter (be sure to brush skillet with more butter before you make each crepe).
To make Sweet Crepes: Add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon rum, cognac or liqueur, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in Step 2 before blending. Makes 12-14 Sweet Crepes.
Crepes can be held tightly covered with foil at room temperature for up to three hours.
They can be made one day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use; wrap in plastic wrap and then foil so they don’t dry out. Crepes can be frozen for up to one week, although they will not be as flavorful; wrap in plastic wrap and then foil.
*Find my Brown Rice Flour Mix in the Guide to Flour Mix section of this blog.
I like these are best when freshly baked and the crepes are a bit firm and crisp, but you can leave them softer as well.
2 cups of filling
Yields 8 stuffed crepes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese (about 6 oz.)
1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 prepared Savory Crepes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Position rack in center of oven. Spray a medium sized (approx. 8 x 11 inches), heavy baking dish with cooking spray.
- Heat oil in a heavy, medium fry pan over medium heat. Lightly sauté onion until soft (about 5 minutes). If preparing spinach filling ahead of when you will bake crepes, allow onions to cool to room temperature before proceeding.
- Combine spinach, Feta cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in onions and mix well.
- Place one crepe on a plate and put 3 – 4 tablespoons of spinach filling across the diameter (amount depends on size of crepe). Roll crepe around the filling jelly-roll fashion and place in baking dish with seam side down. (Crepes should be in a single layer). Repeat with remaining nine crepes. Spanikopita Crepes may be prepared up to this point one day in advance; keep tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
- Brush crepes with melted butter and place uncovered in center of oven. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until crepes are hot and slightly crisp. Serve warm. Best when eaten fresh because crepes are a bit crisp. Leftovers can be stored in tightly sealed container in refrigerator. Rewarm in microwave.
To make mini Crepe Cups
- Make Spanikopita Filling (makes enough to fill about 30 small mini crepe cups) and chill until very cold (the filling has to be chilled until it is very cold so that it won’t get too bubbly before the crepe cups brown). Other fillings of choice can also be used.
- Follow directions to make crepes, but make small 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 inch crepes (makes 36 to 40 very small crepes).
- Brush mini muffin pan with melted butter and poke in crepes to fit snuggly along sides and bottom.
- Fill crepe cup to the top with Spanikopita filling or other filling of choice and bake in preheated 400ºF oven for about 12-15 minutes until sides are golden brown and filling is hot and bubbly.
To make Mini Crepe Cups in advance: Crepes can be prepared and baked slightly less time in advance (bake only 10 minutes) and then rewarmed when ready to serve. Store prebaked cups in refrigerator if not using within 2 hours. Bring to room temperature and them bake in preheated 400ºF oven until filling is hot (about 6-10 minutes). Depending on your filling and desire for a firm versus a soft crust, you can also rewarm them in the microwave.