I grew up with blintzes. I have always loved the funny little things. My grandmother, originally from Chicago, made huge batches of them for our family dinners when we visited. She learned how to make blintzes from my great grandmother. She also passed down family recipes for borscht and all kinds of other Russian/Ukrainian classics.
From them, my mother learned the art of blintzes. She, too, often made them for special occasions. It was a common request for birthday dinners among my brothers and I. Some of my earliest kitchen memories are of my grandmother and mother at the stove cooking up tall stacks of blintz pancakes in a special crepe pan. I remember being just a bit taller than the kitchen counter, looking at eye-level into a big bowl of cottage cheese and mashed crackers. I’d watch the blintzes being filled, rolled, fried in vegetable shortening, piled up on plates, and put on the dining table with bowls of sour cream and jars of cherry preserves.
When kids at school asked me what my favorite food was, I’d usually tell them: BLINTZES! All too often I had to explain what they were. That seemed pretty weird to me. Didn’t everyone’s mother and grandmother know how to make awesome cheese-stuffed crepes?
The first time I adapted the family recipe and experimented with vegan variations was in the mid-1990s. Crumbled tofu is an obvious substitute for cottage cheese. Is vegan cottage cheese available? Maybe in the U.S., but I’ve never seen it here in Berlin. The crepes themselves may take a few attempts, as it often is with pancake things. (Indian dosas can be equally tricky!) The consistency needs to be right, and the temperature and preparation of the frying surface are important. Learning how to properly season and prep a cast-iron skillet is crucial. However, I’m sure you can get reasonable results with a non-stick pan.
In case you’re wondering: In my travels I’ve looked for blintzes. I spent a few days in Russia years ago, but couldn’t find them in the few restaurants I saw. There are probably lots of mums and grannies in home kitchens still making them, but I suspect public eateries are now focusing on other stuff. I’ve seen them on menus in the Czech Republic and in Latvia. In Poland, I saw variations of blintzes (and pierogi!) quite often, especially in the freezer section of the grocery store. They go by different names (like Blini) in different regions.
Despite all the blintz-spotting during travels, I don’t think I’ve ever had blintzes in a restaurant. They’re a nostalgic, home-cooked kind of thing for me.
Blintzes – Russian/Ukrainian crepes
makes 6-8 / serves 2 / time 45+ min
Blintzes / crepe batter:
- 1 cup / 240 ml soy milk or rice milk
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
- 1/2 cup / 60 g flour
- 1/4 cup / 30 g chickpea flour
- 2 Tbsn cornstarch or soy flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Mix flour, chickpea flour, cornstarch, salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix soy milk and water in another bowl.
- Gradually add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well until smooth. Let batter sit for 1 hour.
- Heat a frying pan, preferably a well-seasoned cast iron pan on medium to medium high heat.
- Put a few drops of oil on the pan and rub it around with a paper towel. Cooking spray can also be used. Do this before each blintz.
- When a drop of water sizzles and dances on the surface, the pan is ready.
- Pour enough batter onto hot pan for one crepe. Cook 3-4 min, flip carefully with spatula and cook 1-2 min on other side. Transfer to a plate, continue for all crepes.
- 7 oz / 200 g tofu crumbled
- 1 cup / 50 g crackers crumbled, or ground w/ food processor
- 1 Tbsn nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsn lemon juice
- Combine tofu, crackers, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice in a bowl.
- Spoon 2-3 large spoonfuls of filling into the middle of a crepe, fold over sides and roll bottom and top of the blintz over to close, like a burrito.
- Place assembled blintzes on a pan on low-medium heat with a cover and heat for 5-6 min, turning carefully every 2-3 min.
- Serve with soy sour cream or soy yogurt and cherry or blueberry jam!
Nuttier: Substitute ground sunflower seeds or other nuts for crackers in filling. Other fillings: Experiment with cooked apples, fried potatoes, sauteed vegetables, etc. Herbs: Add thyme, Herbes de Provence, or other seasonings to tofu filling if desired. No nutritional yeast: Easily omitted.