Posts tagged fruit
Monday, August 23, 2010

peach shortcake

peach shortcake

And the kitchen counter was covered in flour. As was the kitchen floor. And my face. And my hair. And shhhhhh, parts of my camera! Oh recipe development, you are a mess-maker! Not that I didn’t know that. But I think the chaos created in my kitchen was of an unprecedented level. And I can’t wait for more.

fragrant summer peaches

That’s a peach shortcake above that you see. I figured that because I like shortcake (and I’m not alone in this, am I) I shouldn’t be limited to just strawberry shortcake. We’ve got but a short window when strawberries are in season and after that, it’s just not the same, though with a little sugar and balsamic, there are miracles to be had. But, still, the season is woefully short, especially if you love strawberries as much as I do. Or shortcake for that matter. And last time I checked, there wasn’t a soul in the world who was going to (willingly) refuse shortcake: all that butter and whipped cream? Yes, please. Thus, I decided to extend the shortcake idea well into the summer months, when stone fruit, such as peaches, comes in full swing at my local farmer’s market.

shortcake mise

By now you probably know that I have this unabashed love of rustic dessert. If you ask me to choose between a chocolate tart and a chocolate bread pudding, inevitably, the bread pudding will win almost every time. Crumbles, buckles, brown bettys, slumps, spoon cake, pudding cake, buttermilk everyday cake – hold my attention more than their fancier cousins. The dessert, I’d want to eat in my pajamas, on my couch on a quiet evening; kind that looks better messy than perfectly composed.

Shortcake biscuits benefit from fruit that has been allowed to steep in its juices, usually facilitated by the addition of sugar. On its own, the biscuit is dry and crumbly, but ladle some fruit with some sugary juices in the middle of a halved biscuit, and a few minutes later, the fruit begins to penetrate the crumbly surface. Peaches, especially right now, tend to run on the sweet side, so I add a tiny bit of lemon juice to up the tartness just a bit. Mixed with a few spoons of sugar and left alone, the peaches transform into a lovely uncooked compote of sorts.

crumbly and mixed circles

I originally wrote up this recipe, upon Jennie’s invitation, for the Cuisinart blog as a guest post. I’m not sure when the post is going up, but I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. I tested the biscuit recipe and came up with something that can either yield a more rustic and chewy biscuit, or a more traditional crumbly one, depending on what you want to do. So I’m offering you a whole wheat and an all purpose versions here. With this exercise alone, I have found new respect for coming up with new baking recipes – testing batches, adjusting your ingredients, is nothing to scoff at. Not that I ever did. But the process can be laborious, intense, at times frustrating – but in the end, if you are patient and persistent, immensely rewarding.

shortcake
blanched! nekkid peach

This upcoming Sunday, I’m embarking on testing chocolate cake recipe for cupcakes I’m making for a friend’s wedding in October. I’m going to enlist Andrew and a part-time photographer to capture the messes and the hands-on details. Operation “Wedding Cupcakes” is about to commence. I see flour everywhere. Brace yourselves.

chillin'

Continue reading peach shortcake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

apricot blueberry thyme jam

apricot blueberry thyme jam

I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite. I’ve encouraged you to go to your kitchens unafraid and undeterred, while I have been harboring a few fears of my own. I suppose it’s only natural to be intimidated by something unfamiliar, to be so wholly overwhelmed you don’t even know where to begin. So while you want to try, you never quite get around to it. Fear wins – you lose. It’s a bit silly, if you ask me.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

But what is it we’re really afraid of? What is the worst possible thing that could happen? Your creation is a fail. An epic, larger-than-life, inedible fail. Well, for those moments, when you have burned your dinner, or under-baked a cake, or overworked you pie crust, or produced the saddest, most deflated meringues the world has ever seen – it’s always good to have the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; some heavy cream, a whisk, a chilled bowl and berries; some frozen puff pasty on hand, and a box of your favorite cookies, to remedy the situation. But failure in the kitchen also lends itself to an opportunity to laugh heartily at what went wrong. Last summer, I served the book club ladies the most vile clafoutis known to man. I, thankfully, had another dessert on hand, but it was quite funny – the clafoutis – it looked liked vomit. Another time, I tried to feed them barely edible bread pudding (again, I had another dessert on hand). That second time, I just showed them the finished product and promptly dumped the whole thing in the garbage.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

And aside from the pie crust fear (a fear I successfully conquered) nothing else has given me anxiety like canning and pickling. And now, I can tell you, this bête noire has, largely, been put to rest. I don’t know what it is about canning that used to (used to! see, past tense!) make me so nervous. Maybe it was just the steps: the hot water (painful burns!); the cans themselves (where to get canning jars?); the receptacle that allows you to easily (and safely!) place and remove the jars from the boiling water; the “do-i-boil-the-tops-of-jars” dilemma (yes!); how much space on top do I need to leave before sealing (about a quarter inch!); is pectin necessary (no, just cook to 220 degrees F); and so on and so forth. For some reason, preserving was my boogey man.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

When I mentioned my preserving anxieties to my friend Jennie, she wasted no time and put me in touch with the lovely folks at Ball jars, who promptly sent me a canning “Discovery” kit. The kit came with 3 jars, a basket in which you place your jars, for easier manipulation, and a recipe booklet. And since I now had all the necessary tools to make jam, all I needed to do was actually just make it. I picked up some blueberries at the farmer’s market and found apricots at my local grocer. I hadn’t intended to put them together, but when I laid out my produce on the counter and was putting everything away, the combination struck me as somewhat curious. What I wanted here was something slightly unusual, surprising even. Thyme seemed like a good addition that would highlight the fragrant fruit and offer an herbal note to a nose full of fruit.

cooking the fruit

Jam-making does not require crazy measuring, and it’s pretty difficult to mess up. You chop up your fruit, sampling here and there along the way. You place everything in a nice heavy bottomed pot. You want your pot to be as wide as possible because larger surface area allows your jam to become more jammy faster. The greater the surface area – the more moisture evaporation taking place. Simple physics, really.

sterilizing...

Once the fruit is in, you add your sugar. Personally, I don’t like to overdo it with sugar. You are, after all, making jam – not candy. At the same time – skimp on the sugar and your jam might not set properly. Add your herbs, or vanilla, or whatever that extra element you want. If you just want fruit and sugar, no problem! If you want to add a little lemon juice, that tends to make the fruit sing – go for it! And then, and this is important here, you want to add a pinch or two of salt (depending on how much fruit you’re working with). Once you’ve done all that, turn on the burner, bring the whole mess to a simmer, skim the foamy parts, and let the fruit cook slowly, stirring on occasion. I prefer to bring my fruit to 220 degrees F and not add the pectin.

kitchen set up while jamming

Some fruit, such as the cranberry, has a lot of natural pectin – which explains why your cranberries becomes jelly-like so quickly when you cook them down. Other fruit, like stone fruit, does not have a lot of pectin, so you either cook it to a proper temperature without pectin, or you add pectin, which comes in powder and liquid form. Either way, you are looking for that point in time when you drip a little jam onto a plate and instead of it spreading out in a messy puddle, the drip holds together a bit, bound by that viscosity that forms when you cook fruit and liquid for some time.

my jars!! aren't they pretty?

When that done, you sterilize your jars, making sure they are dry. You sterilize the tops of the jars and the rings too, in case you’re wondering. Then you fill up your jars with the jam, leaving a quarter inch of room on top, place the lids on the jars, and screw on the rings, but not too tight, just enough. After awhile, you should hear a click or a pop, that’s your jars sealing themselves. No sound? Top of the lid still pointing upwards? Press the lid downward gently. If it collapses and doesn’t come up – voila! You have sealed with success. If it pops right back up, you might want to re-sterilize and start the process anew.

someone needs a wide-mouth funnel

So this is what happens when you get so fed up with your fear, you mutter to yourself, to hell with it and just go for it. You wind up with two jars of delicious jam, sitting in your fridge, awaiting their fate. And quite frankly, what would I have done had my jars not sealed themselves properly? I would have gone into my kitchen, taken out the biggest spoon I own, and ate my jam in one sitting just like that – au naturel. If only every kitchen failure tasted as good.

testing for donness

Continue reading apricot blueberry thyme jam.

Friday, June 11, 2010

mango sorbet

mango sorbet

You would think that it being summertime and all, I’d have an easy time tell you about mango sorbet. That’s clearly not happening. Instead of writing about mango sorbet, what I really want to do is just extend spoonfuls of it to all of you and say, “Just try this and then tell me it’s not the most amazing thing on a hot summer day!” But being that the interwebs haven’t quite figured out how to teleport frozen dessert to each of your homes (or any kind of food, really), I am left with mere words. And words, my friends, is what isn’t enough here.

mango sorbet mise

What’s probably fair to say, however, is that there are summer days, such as what we had in New York last weekend, when sorbet is the way to go, when it trumps ice cream. Stay with me here. I can hear the gasps of horror across the information superhighway – to suggest ice cream to play second fiddle! Well, I’ll be!

I promise you, I’m not one to ever dismiss ice cream. Ice cream is very sacred in my book – I’m the kind of girl who’ll be getting ready for bed, get a massive ice cream craving and change back to go outside and meet a friend for a scoop. But there are days when all I want is something cold and refreshing that happens to be not creamy. Sometimes, dairy is just a bit too much and I reach for sorbet.

mango sorbet

When I first picked up a copy of The Perfect Scoop, this mango sorbet was the first thing I book-marked. But I quickly got distracted by watermelon sorbet and frozen yogurt (Pinkberry who???) and then of course marrying vanilla with black pepper. A couple of weeks ago when I was devising a menu for one of my Sunday suppers, I saw a clear mango theme emerge and that’s when I remembered the recipe that started it all. I don’t need to tell you that David’s recipes are tried and true and are absolutely amazing – if you don’t have this book of his and you’ve been curious about making ice cream, this is a must-have.

mango sorbet

Look, this time I don’t have a fancy story for you – no ancient memory from my childhood. In Russia, we didn’t have mangos. In fact, we didn’t even have sorbet. Sherbert – yes, but sorbet is a beast unto itself. And so, because I spent the first eleven years of my life deprived of mangos and sorbet, I would think that I have to make up for a lot of lost time. Ice cream maker – get ready, we’re going to make beautiful music sorbet together!

mango sorbet

In fact, as I was writing this last night, I kept running over to the kitchen and sneaking little spoons of sorbet as a snack, hoping, in vain, that having a few spoonfuls will inspire me to write something poetic, something that will galvanize you at once to run over to your local grocer, get two ripe mangoes, and charge forth into your kitchens intent on making sorbet. Or else. I am, however, left with just mere words. Words that aren’t nearly as delicious as this frozen goodness here. You could, of course, try to lick the screen. Let me know how that works out for ya.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

haroset

haroset

All right folks, this will be short and sweet here. Work’s been crazy and I am actually writing this to you on my lunch break – the nerve. I keep trying to sit down and put my thoughts together, but there’s just so much to do during the day and after work, that by the time I get home, I’m a bit spent. I also need to apologize for these hideous photos. The night I took these – my photo mojo was seriously off. I tried so many different angles, lighting options, camera settings, and in the end, it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept the fact that on some nights, your photos will look disgusting. Like these.

However, what’s exciting is that Passover is right around the corner. I like to think of Passover as sort of a Jewish Thanksgiving of sorts. Done right – you have amazing food, memorable meals with family and friends and an opportunity to get a little creative in the kitchen with all the holiday dietary restrictions. It’s a challenge to get so creative that you wind up not missing chametz, or the “forbidden” foods. And with all the cooking to be done for the holiday week, this dish should be the least of your worries. It practically makes itself and it’s also incredibly delicious. Make lots because everyone will want to spoon some on the side of the plate and kids will be eating double that. Allowed to sit overnight, the flavor meld better and develop. Ideally, you’d make this ahead.

haroset

The traditional Ashkenazi haroset is little more than apples, walnuts and honey with a few other ingredients, all mixed together. Apples and honey are nothing new in the Jewish tradition – it’s the thing to eat on Rosh Hashana – for a sweet and prosperous New Year. As for the haroset preparation, there’s really nothing to it – you simply toast some walnuts for a few minutes until they’re fragrant and crunchy, and chop them up finely. You then peel a couple of apples, core them and chop those as well. Some folks prefer their haroset minced, but I like mine on a chunkier side. That way you can really taste the apple texture. And while a lot of versions like to add a few glugs of Manishewitz, or a fortified kosher wine, I prefer to add pomegranate molasses, which gives my otherwise Ashkenazi haroset a Middle Eastern twist. A pinch or two of cinnamon and your haroset is done – provided, of course, you let it sit in your fridge overnight.

haroset

And with that, I shall return to my spreadsheets and Power Point slides. I know what you’re thinking – lucky duck! Don’t be jealous now – sometimes life just isn’t fair.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

citrus salad with cilantro and mint

citrus salad

Ok, there’s no way of getting around this. This post. Well, it’s just sitting down, looking me squarely in the face and refusing to budge. It’s taunting me, taking its time, making me carefully search for each word. I hate writing like this: arduous, painful, unnatural. There are days when these posts practically write themselves; my excitement is usually so hard to contain. But today, I’m just out of my element. Which is quite opposite of how I feel about this salad. I think my ardor for this salad is inversely proportional to my ability to convey it.

the suspect line-up

This salad is officially my cure for winter doldrums. Gray skies and snow banks, you’ve got nothing on me as long as I’m armed with this little burst of sunshine on my plate. It brings a smile to my face even as I type this because this salad is so delightfully happy, you can’t possibly be in a bad mood once you bring a forkful of it to your mouth. The fragrance alone is sparkling, giddy and invigorating. And to say I’ve become obsessed, would be a slight understatement. Minutes after I served this at book club, it was gone, second helpings and all. And pretty looks aside, this salad’s got looks and “brains” so to speak. It delivers on flavor even more than it delivers on looks. And just look at it – isn’t it a stunner?

citrus salad

I should also confess that had I not fallen for this salad hook, line and sinker, I would still have been forced to make it given that I’ve about twenty pounds or citrus sitting at home, on the account of getting a wee bit overzealous in ordering citrus for my grocery delivery. I sort of lost track being so excited to have some in-season fruit, and when grocery boxes arrived and half of them were oranges, lemons, grapefruit and clementines, I initially thought of starting my own juice bar. Vitamin C and I are such BFFs right now – we’re tight like you wouldn’t believe.

My zeal for all things citrus can be easily explained – what other fruit, besides bananas, looks good right now? None! The apples and pears are looking sad and taste uninspiring. Our local grocery store is carrying cherries at a price that made me gasp and price aside, they weren’t looking so great either. Berries are bland, as are melons and stone fruit. This leaves citrus looking quite attractive. And pretty too. My dining room table looks so much brighter with these orange and yellow orbs sitting pretty in a bowl. If nothing else, they cheer me up visually. But as these citrus guys are at their peak right now, they taste amazing as well.

citrus salad

All this salad needs is a little shallot, some slivered mint and cilantro, and a light vinaigrette sweetened with maple syrup to highlight the sweetness of the citrus. What you get is bright, clean, uplifting flavors full of sunshine. I eat this salad and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear; it makes me downright giddy and inspired. Much unlike this post.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

pear compote poached in vanilla bean and star anise

poached pear compote in vanilla bean & star anise

Oh mid-December with your mercurial weather–I cannot figure you out! Are you freezing cold with temperatures nearing zero or are you the kind of December that lingers in the forties, rainy and damp, like this morning? Do I warm up some soup and curl up with a book dressed head to toe in fleece, or do I just go into deep nesting mode and emerge outside when asparagus arrives to the greenmarket? Either way, I want to stay indoors and make lovely things in the kitchen and then eat them. Not terribly ambitious, am I? You see, inside my head, I am cooking all kinds of things for the holidays: cookies, and cupcakes, and brittles, and toffees. But in actuality, I can’t even bring myself to put the book down and wash my dirty pot from last night. I promise, I’ll do it as soon as I post this. Or after I eat some pear compote I just made.

Continue reading pear compote poached in vanilla bean and star anise.