Swiss Chard & Pecorino Crespelle

Cooks in the Italian countryside often make simple crespelle (the Italian word for crepes) with flour and water only, no eggs or milk or fats added. The result is a slightly chewy, hearty wrapper that best encases sharp cheeses such as Pecorino, or a thin slice of salty Prosciutto, or, as below, a garlic-laced vegetable filling.

I serve these crespelle as a vegetarian main course when I am inspired by the greens at the market; broccoli raab, Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, or escarole all work well. You can even combine a few different greens to obtain a more complex flavor.

The crespelle can be made up to 12 hours ahead and kept covered with plastic wrap at room temperature until needed. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days in a tightly sealed plastic bag, but my guess is, there won’t be any leftovers once you try these!

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

For the crespelle:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, thoroughly washed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) freshly grated Pecorino Romano

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Make the crespelle: Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Whisking all the while, beat in enough warm water (about 1 cup) to make a smooth, fluid, fairly thin batter that flows like heavy cream. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl.

Heat an 8-inch round cast iron or nonstick skillet over high heat. Brush very lightly with some of the olive oil, and pour in about 1/4 cup or so of the batter (measure first, but use a ladle to spoon it into the pan for ease), tilting the pan immediately to spread it all the way to the edges. (If the batter does not spread easily, thin it out with additional water.) The batter should barely cover the base of the skillet, or else the crespelle will be too thick and therefore tough.

Cook 3 minutes, or until lightly crisp around the edges and spotted lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the other side for 1 minute, or until lightly speckled with brown spots. Remove to a plate; continue with the remaining batter, making (ideally) eight crespelle in all.

Make the filling: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and drop in the chard leaves. Cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain, cool under running water, and squeeze dry. Chop finely and place in a bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the garlic, chili, olive oil, and Pecorino. Stir well and taste for seasoning; adjust as needed.

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Arrange the crespelle in a single layer on a tray. Top evenly with some of the filling, fold into quarters, and enjoy.

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