Last week I visited my grandma in Coney Island. The weather was not quite freezing yet so Grandma and I decided to walk to the boardwalk. We went to Nathan’s of course, but because it was winter they were out of beer and fried fish. They told us if we wait for a few minutes they’d have some more fish, but the beer we should get next door. Why did I need a cold beer on a cold November day? Maybe it was the plastic palm tree still clinging hopefully to the sand. Or because sometimes when I’m in Coney Island I’m overcome by an almost unbearable nostalgia and at the same time I find myself aching for a future that hasn’t happened yet. It’s palpable and paralyzing. I spent so much of my childhood there, so much of my history is rooted in that sand, that ocean, the boards of the boardwalk. This is a place where only the strong survive. The restaurants on Coney Island stand as a testament to resilience and aspiration. The people look sturdy and weather-worn. Grandma has lived in Coney Island for the past 60 years. One of her first dates with Grandpa was on the Wonder Wheel that we were standing in front of.
“My mother used to make the best blini,” Grandma told me as we walked around the area known as Little Odessa in search of my beer (which Grandma only reluctantly allows me) and passed all of the wonderful Russian stores and restaurants. She was collecting ingredients for blintzes. “They’re not hard, you know.”
And the light bulb went on for me. I knew to honor the weekend, I would be making blinchiki! They are thin Russain crepes, usually referred to as blini, though blini were originally formed using yeast or another leavening agent. I’m not quite that good yet. Often blinchiki are stuffed, but I served these folded with some sweet warm plum jam (for recipe click here) that I made and had it for breakfast.
We finished the beer, fish and chips, and ambled slowly back to Grandma’s apartment before the biting wind off the ocean threatened to blow us away. When we got back, even though we had just eaten, Grandma already began to cook in the kitchen, heating the oil for the blintzes that brought me back to my earliest memories when everyone was together and there was only future tense. These are the moments I am grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all ate well and found gratitude in something sweet.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional but wonderful)
- 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- cooking spray/butter/oil for the pan
Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes.
Lightly grease a large frying pan with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup batter and swirl to completely cover bottom of pan. Cook until edges of crepe curl-up and underside of crepe is golden brown. About 2 or 3 minutes. Flip the crepe and continue to cook for 1 more minute. Remove crepe from skillet and repeat with remaining batter. Coat pan with cooking spray in between each crepe.