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Fear-free crepes

Crepes have long had an, um, bad wrap: They're often thought of as a culinary feat -- created only by professional chefs and the very kitchen savvy. Truth is, however, crepes are simple to make.

At Rue des Crepes in New York City, chef Michael Kalajian serves up countless crepe variations with unique fillings: Moroccan sausage with white beans; flank steak with caramelized onions; creamy brie with walnuts and grapes. Best of all, his three crepe recipes here are low-fat and nutritious. (Buckwheat crepes are rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and rutin, a bioflavonoid that helps strengthen capillaries and blood vessels, reduce blood pressure and increase circulation to the hands and feet.) You can use the two basic batters below for any kind of crepe. (The batter can be stored for two days: Simply cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.)

Note to the crepe-wary: If you don't want to bother with the batter, use whole-wheat tortillas instead. They roll up easily after the savory fillings are piled on top -- and, voila!, you've created a great-tasting faux crepe.

The 1-2-3s of crepe making
Fear of making crepes does have some basis in reality. You can ruin them (pretty easily) with two common mistakes. The first is pan temperature: You need to preheat your pan to medium-high heat, so that a drop of water bounces on the surface. If the pan is too hot, the water will quickly evaporate, and the crepe will burn. If the pan isn't hot enough, the water will lie flat, and the crepe will not cook properly. The second common mistake is batter quantity: Add just enough to coat the surface of the pan so it's almost see-through. Too much just makes a pancake. Chef Michael Kalajian offers these tips:

1. Always use a shallow nonstick skillet (or a crepe pan). Set it over medium-high heat and let it get hot before coating with nonstick spray.

2. Use just 3-4 tablespoons of batter for each crepe and pour it from a small pitcher or glass measuring cup; then tilt pan to coat the bottom evenly.

3. Cook 1-2 minutes on the first side, until bottom sets and starts to bubble. Then run a thin knife or spatula under edges, lift crepe and flip over. Cook 30 seconds, until bottom is speckled with golden dots.

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