The Shiksa Does Blintzes

The shiksa–that’s me. I call myself that because I am a goyim married to a Jewish fellow; however, I am told by all of Zak’s relatives that I most definately -am not- a shiksa.

You see, “shiksa” is a derogatory term for a non-Jewish woman or girl. I don’t take it as a derogatory when I refer to myself that way, though. I just like the way the word sounds. “Shiksa.” Rolls right off the tongue, with the soft “shhh” sound and the hard “ks.” It is one of those words you can draw out forever and give a thousand intonations to–like this: “Shiiiiiksaaa.” Or, it can be short and sweet, like it is spelled–”shiksa.” It just has an appealing sound to me for some unknown reason. (But then, I like the sound of a lot of Yiddish words, so who knows?”

So, while Zak’s family most certainly do -not- consider me a shiksa, I sstill call myself that for fun, just ‘cuz.

And every now and then, I have to haul off and try out a recipe from Zak’s Eastern European Jewish heritage, just because, well heck–a lot of that food is damned fine and tasty. (Although, strangely enough, a lot of the traditional fare, Zak hates, but I like. Like sweet and sour red cabbage, chopped chicken liver and gefilte fish. He won’t touch any of them, whereas I think they are splendid. Go figure. Who knows, maybe I really was someone’s bubbe in a past life or something.) I have already written about my take on matzoh ball soup, which I renamed “Shiksa Ball Soup” just because it sounds funny, and then I can say things like, “I bet you didn’t know shiksas had balls.”

Last night, I decided it was high time this shiksa took on the challenge of making blintzes from scratch.

What are blintzes, you goyim are probably wondering?

Well, they are like French crepes, but better. Let me tell you all about my first experience with cheese-filled blintzes way back in my college years around 1984 or so, back when there was a Jewish delicatessen in Huntington West Virginia named “Victors.” I think that little story will explain blintzes better than a clinical description could.

Back in the day, I was standing in line at Victors along with a group of friends who had all decided to go out for a corned beef sandwich and some matzoh ball soup. Mind you, we were all goyim. I wasn’t really in the mood for a corned beef on rye, so I was looking on the menu board, and I saw something called “cheese blintzes–served with your choice, sour cream or applesauce.” So, I said aloud, hoping one of my friends knew from blintzes, “What are blintzes? What kind of cheese is in them?”

A voice from behind me says, “Oy, listen to the little goy girl, wanting to know from blintzes.” I turned around and there was a stereotypical Jewish grandmother standing behind me, all round and smiling. “You want to know about blintzes?” she asked, and before I could answer, she continued, “They are only the best thing on this earth God never made.”

I raised an eyebrow. “So God didn’t invent the blintz?”

She smiled, eyes twinkling and winked. “Oh, no, honey, God didn’t invent them. A Jewish bubbe invented them, bless her for her foresight and ingenuity.”

I found myself smiling and said, “What are they?”

She patted my shoulder and said, “Oh, they are paper-thin pancakes, like crepes, only better than the French do, and filled with sweetened cottage cheese and fried in butter.”

“How can that be bad?” I said, and grinned as she nodded. “I’ll order them. Thank you.”

She smiled broadly and squeezed my shoulder again. “You’re too thin, honey, you need those blintzes–oh, and when they ask sour cream or applesauce, get both so you can figure out which you like better.”

Which is what I did.

And I was glad I did it, though I found I liked the sour cream slightly better, because, frankly, the bubbe was speaking truth–I was too thin. The blintzes would have been the first and only thing I ate that day, as I was an anorexic at the time.

So, those are blintzes–only the the best thing on this earth that God didn’t invent.

So, let’s bow our head and thank the bubbes who have been making blintzes forever and ever and start talking about making them.

The version of blintzes I decided I wanted to make is somewhat untraditional. I wanted to fill them with sweetened cheese, of course, but I also wanted to top them with a sauce made from the fresh sour cherries which were sitting in the fridge all lonely and sad. As I did a bit of research on the net and found out that blintzes probably originated somewhere in Poland where sometimes they are filled with sour cherries, I was happy to know that my instinct wasn’t that far off from tradition.

What recipe did I use? Well, I consulted with The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook, a venerable tome by radio, stage and television actress Gertrude Berg and cookbook writer Myra Waldo first published back in 1955 when the TV show “The Goldbergs” was popular. Normally, I don’t purchase cookbooks that are tied into a television or radio show, but when I bought it, it looked like a neat bit of history, and I was right.

The blintz recipe from the book also worked quite well, so I cannot complain that the recipes are not good, either. The thin pancakes came out just as Ms. Waldo and Ms. Berg promised they would, though I did add a pinch of cardamom and didn’t use butter to cook the pancakes themselves in, but instead used a tiny spritz of canola oil in my small Le Creuset frying pan just as if I was making crepes. (I still fried the filled blintzes in butter, so do not start scolding me–they turned out really well, in fact.)

The filling recipe was also accurate, though, of course, I did change it around a little. It called for two egg yolks, but considering how large my pastured eggs were and how rich the yolks are, I only used one. I also sweetened it primarily with honey and used the zest of one lemon in it, just to you, know, add my own little shiksa touch.

With the sour cherry sauce, I was on my own, so I improvised. It was simple, really, and the results were spectacular. I think you could use this sauce in place of any recipe that called for canned cherry pie filling, and the results would be far superior to the original version.

The next day, with four leftover crepes and some leftover filling, I made blueberry cheese blintzes by adding a few fresh blueberries to the filling, wrapping them up and frying them. Served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a scattering of blueberries, they looked lovely and tasted quite divine.

Cheese Blintzes with Sour Cherry Sauce

Ingredients for Pancakes

2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup milk
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch cardamom
canola oil spray for cooking

Method:

Beat the eggs until well combined. Beat in oil and milk until smoothly combined. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and cardamom, then whisk together until very smooth. Cover and chill for thirty minutes. The batter should come out the texture of heavy cream–if it is thicker, thin it out to the proper consistency with a bit of milk.

Spray a seven inch skillet (cast iron works great) with a tiny bit of canola oil. Heat it on medium heat and pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Lift pan and turn and tip it back and forth quickly to get the batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Set back on the heat and cook until lightly browned on the bottom and fully set on the top. (There should be no liquidy bits of batter.)

Using the tip of table knife, loosen pancake, then shake it back and forth and invert pan over a waiting plate. Smooth a stick of butter over the top of the pancake, to moisten it, and then repeat steps to cook the next pancake, and so on, and so on, until all of your batter is done. Stack them browned side up, buttering lightly between each pancake.

Method to Fill and Fry Blintzes:

When all pancakes are done, place 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese filling on each blintz, with the browned side down to the plate and the pale side up to the filling. Turn the two opposite sides of the pancake in a bit, then roll up from the bottom to make a little roll or pillow. They should stick together to hold the blintz closed.

When all are filled, heat about three tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and fry the blintzes until lightly browned on both sides, turning them gently with a spatula.

Place on serving plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional), and top with some sour cherry sauce. Serve sour cream on top or on the side.

Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

1/4 pound cream cheese, softened
1/4 pound cottage cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon

Method:

Beat together all ingredients until smooth. Use as directed in recipe above.

Sour Cherry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 quart fresh or frozen sour cherries
4 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon kirsh, cherry brandy or almond extract
1/4 cup cherry juice from concentrate, reconstituted as per directions
juice 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Method:

Rinse cherries well and pit. Place pitted cherries in a bowl, and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to sit and macerate in the sugar for an hour. Pour contents of bowl, kirsh, cherry brandy or almond extract (I used the extract) , cherry and lemon juices into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced by 2/3, and the cherries have begun to cook down and start to lose their shape.

Dissolve cornstach in water and pour into simmering cherries. Stir until juice thickens and remove immediately from heat. Keep warm.

Note:
I liked the cherry sauce version better, but Zak liked the version with the blueberries mixed in the cheese filling and sprinkled on top better. You should try both and see which one -you like better and let me know whether Zak or I are right!

21 Comments

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  1. Mother of Pearl, that is about the most lovely looking plate of food I can imagine! When the hubby gets back from Athens where he is designing lights for “Peter Pan,” i think I know what I’ll make to welcome him back!

    Comment by Tammy — July 8, 2006 #

  2. My grandma makes the world’s best blintzes. Cheese is the only proper filling IMO, with fruit only on top…Mmmmmmmm…..

    This is my first food memory – as a six year old helping grandma make blintzes. Standing on a stepstool so I could see up to the counter to help roll them.

    Comment by Diane — July 9, 2006 #

  3. Fantastic site! I am so hungry now and can tell you that the crepes we get off the vendors here in Paris look nothing like that!

    Comment by Eric at Paris Daily Photo — July 9, 2006 #

  4. i guess i am like your husband. gefilte fish creeps me out…but i am a sucker for matzah balls. (even though i am not a shiksa, can i make shiksa balls?) some jewish comfort foods are spot on. this looks excellent and i’ll have to give it a whirl next time i visit everyone back home. thanks!
    rai
    -uglifruit.blogspot.com

    Comment by rai — July 9, 2006 #

  5. Thanks for more ideas for sour cherries. I remember your post last year; I was thinking of your love for sour cherries as I picked some Friday around the corner from my house. (Mine were sauteed with onions and chicken breast, which was then diced and put in green salad with lots of kinds of lettuce, arugula, scallions, bits of almond, and hearts of palm, with extra liquid from the cherries making part of the dressing.)

    One grammar nit: no one can be “a goyim”, ’cause “goy” is singular, and “goyim” is plural.

    Comment by debby — July 9, 2006 #

  6. These look a lot like the very thin crepe-ish pancakes my half Slovak mother used to make–called palachinki (I have no idea how it’s spelled). I don’t have a recipe for hers, so maybe I’ll try these and see how they compare. We used to have them for breakfast, filled with jam and rolled up, then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

    Comment by lucette — July 9, 2006 #

  7. Hey, Tammy–a couple of Morganna’s friends were in “Inherit the Wind”–did your husband work on that one, too?

    Zak, who is trying to lose a little weight told me I wasn’t allowed to make blintzes again for a long while. He has a weakness for them….

    Diane–thanks for sharing your first food memory. I wish my Grandma had made blintzes–and I bet that if she had run across the recipe, she would have! (She made Hungarian goulash, without being Hungarian, after all–because she learned it from a Hungarian neighbor. Were that she had a Jewish neighbor, too.)

    Rai–anyone can make shiksa balls. I called them that, so I say so. You have my permission to make as many shiksa balls as you want. ;-) Since I am set to make chicken stock this week (in a large quantity), I will probably be making some good shiksa ball soup while I am at it…..

    Eric, thank you! Give the recipe a try–very tasty!

    Debby–I am glad that you remembered my post on sour cherries from last year. I still have a couple of quarts of them. I suppose I could put them in the freezer, but I might have to come up with another method of using them before that eventuality plays out….

    As for goyim–I meant it to be plural. That “you goyim” was a plural for all the readers who were goy, reading along. That is the problem with English–no way to show that our “you” is singular or plural but context, and that is always slippery. Sucks. Maybe I should have mixed dialects and used my southern “y’all” as in “y’all goyim,” and thus avoided that issue! (There is a sign I want to get for near my front door that says, “Shalom, y’all.” Zak laughs every time he thinks about it, so I want to get it so everytime he sees it he can have a chuckle.

    Lucette–I bet that the recipe is almost the same if not the same. Blintzes are probably Polish, but they have spread into being made by most of the Ashkenazek Jews–who settled all over Eastern Europe, which means, they are made all over. And the dish may not have had Jewish roots, and from what I have read, probably crossed back and forth between Jews and gentiles back and in the day.

    Filled with jam and rolled up sounds delicious. But, do try them filled with cheese and rolled up and fried, too. They are -really- good that way, but as Zak says, they will sabotage an attempt to lose weight really fast, too.

    Comment by Barbara — July 9, 2006 #

  8. Yup, the hubby designed “Inherit the Wind,” too! I saw the show last week, I thought it was really good! Tell Morganna’s friends congratulations when you see them! (OVST is always the centerpoint to our summer, even from Cincinnati).

    Man, I may not be able to wait till next week to make those blintzes. Dan may be on his own…

    Comment by Tammy — July 9, 2006 #

  9. Victor’s!!! Oh, Victor’s!!!

    Didn’t I find that place for us all? That was my favourite place in the world to buy food. And there was a lingerie shop across from it where I bought all my fancy underwear!

    Oh I miss it so, and that is very silly of me, because we have places just as nice here, but I remember it so well.

    Comment by Azalais Malfoy — July 9, 2006 #

  10. I loathe gefilte fish out of a jar, but home-made gefilte fish can be nice.

    Comment by Azalais Malfoy — July 9, 2006 #

  11. Mmmmm…

    Blintzes are lovely. I generally only eat them once a year, on shavuot, aka pentecost, the festival to celebrate the giving of the torah on mount sinai. My personal name for it is the festival of cheesecake, because it is traditional to celebrate by eating dairy products which in jews of eastern european descent is generally interpreted as cheesecake and blintzes.

    I didn’t make any blintzes this year though, (although there was chocolate cheesecake) because it was just myself and my lactose-intolerant housemate.

    You’ve made me want to make some now in recompense…

    My grandmother always made them with raisins in the cheese mixture, though I requested mine without because i’m not a fan of dried fruit.

    Comment by Ladylark — July 9, 2006 #

  12. Your story of Victor’s brings back memories of my grandmother’s kitchen and her wonderful blintzes with sour cream topping. Applesauce? Fruit? Never in grandma’s kitchen! But the lemon in your recipe is such a nice touch. Thanks.

    Comment by Lydia — July 9, 2006 #

  13. Being a Slovak Jew (Christian now) from Ohio and Barboursville WVA, this post is making me homesick and hungry….great site.

    Comment by Cat — July 9, 2006 #

  14. Fabulous! So was the shiksa ball soup recipe and post. I have to confess. I was raised Mormon which I think is about as far away from Jewish as you can get but I’m curious about culinary cultures so I picked up a box of Manichewitz matzo ball soup one day and loved it. The next time I made it Id id what you did and doctored the crap out of it just for fun. Loved it more. Now it’s kind of a tradition around my house and extended family except none of the southern baptists have a clue what it is. They think it’s some kind of fancy new chicken and dumpling soup. Whatever works. Great food is great food.

    Comment by Glenna — July 9, 2006 #

  15. I am, like your baby to be, the daughter of a wasp and an eastern european jew. (Interestingly-to me at least, my daughter, a product of my combo and her Irish dad, has actually married someone of almost the exact same ethnic mix as herself-not so likely, I feel)
    I am fond of all of the dishes you mention, and have a melting pot dish of my own- we call it “Jewish Wedding Soup.”
    It is like Italian Wedding soup-except that it has tiny mazoh balls, instead of meatballs, and farfel, instead of pastina. I made it because of empty pantry issues, and it was a success.It’s pretty good.

    Comment by lindy — July 11, 2006 #

  16. Blintzes really are one of the most tasty foods I can think of. I tend to alternate though, one time with sour cream, then one time with apple sauce. Sometimes I just alternate between the blintzes themselves!

    Comment by risingsunofnihon — July 11, 2006 #

  17. Yes, Azalais–you introduced us all to Victor’s! I remember going out to eat there with you a few times.

    Of course, it closed years ago, with the lingerie shop closing years before that….which is so sad.

    And I don’t like jarred gefelte fish–only homemade.

    Ladylark–I am glad to bring back memories–even if you didn’t like the raisins!

    Thank you, Lydia. The lemon was a momentary inspiration. It turned out really, really well, though.

    Cat–thank you! Glad to meet you. Hope you keep coming back!

    Glenna–that is so funny. I haven’t made shiksa balls for my parents yet. I should. They would probably like them. Then, we could have some blintzes for dessert. Not kosher, but then, neither is a shiksa.

    Oooh, lindy–that Jewish wedding soup sounds fabulous! I may have to make that sometime! Whee! Interesting about your daughter finding someone of a similar ethnic mixture….really neat.

    Risingsun–Yeah, they are really, really good. Though I am not allowed to make them again for a while, as I mentioned before. I think that in the fall, instead of having applesauce with them, I will make my Applachian hillbilly fried apples to go with the blintzes, and see how that grabs Zak….

    Comment by Barbara — July 11, 2006 #

  18. I was wishfully dreaming of cherries after reading this post (well more like reading your post last summer about the your cherry trees, which by the way I loved) and then afternoon the sales man at our office recieved a box of cherries as a gift and he shared them. Oh such sweetness (and a little bit of sour)

    Thanks for giving so much Barbara with your writing! I love your blog, best of luck with the baby and the warm summer months.

    Comment by KCatGU — July 13, 2006 #

  19. In many Indian languages, “Shiksha” means a Student or disciple of a Guru from whom they master an art or a science. How interesting. Great blog. Keep the good work going.

    Comment by anon in Bay Area — July 14, 2006 #

  20. K–thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me.

    Anon–thanks for telling me that–what a neat coincidence!

    Comment by Barbara — July 17, 2006 #

  21. I never thought of shiksa as being derogatory. (I’m a little Jew boy myself. .. ) After all, it is usually qualified by an adjective such as: hot, dumb, brilliant, Diane Keaton-like, blond.

    By the way, you know what a shaygetz is? It’s a man who thinks a shiksa is a small electric razor! (Ka-boom.)

    Comment by Gregor Samsa — August 30, 2008 #

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