Thursday, December 31, 2015

You, You, Uuuu

Ugli (or Uniq) Fruit as seen in your local market.
Uu, Uuu.  Uuuuu.  I can’t write the letter Uu without thinking about that exchange between Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in the movie Analyze This.  So funny.  If any of you were standing in front of me right now, I too would likely be saying “you, you, youuu,” smiling with an expression of knowing, as I simultaneously moved my pointed finger back and forth. 
It is because of you I write this Blog.  I so appreciate all the comments, questions and input I have received from so many of you.  My school chums Andrea and David L. who I can always count on to add a note of interest and enthusiasm to my Blogs.  And David, you, Sandra (of Sandi’s Cobbler Cups) and her husband Vince with your penchants for gardening only serve to further motivate me in seeking out unique and wonderful produce from Catus Leaves to Fiddleheads.  You, Mary M. who expressed gratitude on my timely Rutabaga Blog, as you sought out recipes for a rather special Thanksgiving side dish.  Megan, Cheryl, Lenore and Mr. Williams, you, my DWSS comrades, can’t know how much your chiming in brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.  Love being part of your newsletter Mr. Williams!  My Golden Girls, it is you I can consistently count on to write notes of support and encouragement as you did in response to “Bringing Them Home,” and “Qq Is For Quince.”  Certainly a shout out goes to my family members.  My niece Megan, my sister Janice and my Aunt Rose who acknowledged “A Date With Nana,” and “Another Lap Around The Sun.”  Can’t do this kind of thing without family in my corner.  And of course my Friends Amid Food, remembrances of our supper club gatherings, dishes we prepared and ate together, you all serve as mire poix foundations for me as I write this bi-weekly Blog.  Which I have to be honest, has not always been published on a bi-weekly basis.  And explains why, here it is the last day of 2015 and I am only on letter Uu. 

Now, I’m betting you’re wondering just what seasonal food I would be able to Blog about that is one; currently in season and two; begins with the letter Uu.  Well wonder no more, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while now and lucky for me this is the early part of the season for Ugli Fruit.  Also known as Uniq Fruit
You may have only briefly seen these gnarly looking tropical orbs, which are native to Jamaica, in your local grocery store as they are in season for about five short months, December to April.  Though so unattractive as citrus, you probably kept on walking by without even inquiring about it to your produce guy.  The Ugli Fruit is a naturally hybridized combination of an orange and grapefruit, likely with some input from the pomelo (the original grapefruit).  A thick, pock-marked, greenish-yellowish-orange rind fits loosely, like the wrinkly skin on the knees and ankles of elephants, encasing a pale orange-yellow pulp.  A bit sweeter than grapefruit and dripping with juice Ugli Fruit is consistent with its other citrus relatives in that it is high in vitamin C and has a fair amount of fiber.  Another plus, there are hardly, if any, seeds inside.
When choosing Ugli Fruit look for those that feel heavy for their size and are somewhat soft but not mushy.  The smaller ones are sweetest.  They keep for up to five days in your fruit basket or two weeks in the fridge.  I eat Ugli Fruit  the same way I eat an orange, however I do take the time to supreme the sections.  Not supreme but supreme.  This is the process of removing all the white membrane, which is edible but gives that bitter after-taste to oranges and other citrus.  Use a sharp paring or small slicing knife so you can easily cut between each segment of the fruit. 
I'm using a combination of Ugli Fruit, Grapefruit and Oranges today.

To supreme simply:
1 Trim top and bottom off the fruit and discard. Remove the peel by slicing lengthwise between flesh and peel, following fruit's contour and toss peel into trash.
2 Hold the fruit in the palm of one hand over a bowl to catch juices. Slice lengthwise between 1 segment and the membrane until you reach the center of the fruit.
3 Make a similar slice on the other side of the same segment. Use the knife blade to remove segment. Repeat this process for each segment until you have a nice little arrangement of wedges on your cutting board.
4 Once all segments are removed, squeeze any remaining juices from membrane into the bowl. You will end up with the skeleton of the citrus fruit membrane.  Discard membrane and reserve the juice for another use.
Easy Sneezy 

I squeezed the juice from the Ugli with my hand here.

For the grapefruit and orange I used my old hand juicer.

Once you’ve separated your sections of the Ugli Fruit you can indulge and eat it as it, or add the wedges to your salad in place of mandarin oranges.  Lamb lettuce or grilled endive that has been sliced and mixed with arugula or radicchio a few sliced strawberries or blueberries and slivered almonds all drizzled with a light vinaigrette will make for an enticing and different tasty salad.
 But I’m still too cold to munch on salads these days, instead I’m using my Ugli Fruit to prepare a warmed concoction of dark rum (my homage to Jamaica) simple syrup and freshly squeezed Ugli Fruit juice. 

Warm it up - It is afterall a hot tottie
4 ounces freshly squeezed Ugli Fruit juice,  4 ounces simple syrup, 2 ounces water, 2 ounces dark rum.

Add all ingredients to a saucepot and warm over medium heat to desired temperature.  Pour into two glasses or mugs and garnish with a wedge of Ugli Fruit or Orange and a cinnamon stick.

                                Serves 2

I'd add a cinnamon stick - but ran out over the holidays

For the purest in the group

As we bring 2015 to a close, I just want to thank all of Uu for your comments, suggestions and questions.  Keep them coming.  As for the remains of today I’m going to ring in the New Year with my Ugli-Rum hot tottie while these black-eyed peas finish soaking. 
Gotta start the New Year out right!  
                                        Happy New Year to all my family and friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tt is For Turnips

I don’t want to offend any of our seasonal root vegetables, but it is my feeling Turnips are rather boring.  Unless of course you’re a bunny.  Speaking of which, those little rascally rabbits have really been nibbling away at my herbs!  But unlike Mr. McGregor, I haven’t set any traps to catch them.  Although I have openly threatened to cook them up in a stew if I see one more bunny munching on my herbs.
If I were smart, I’d put out some carrots, cabbage or . . . turnips!  Rabbits love turnips, as do horses, goats and other livestock.  Of course livestock eat the larger versions of this bulbous root.  We humans consume the smaller more tender productions.  And please don’t confuse turnips with rutabagas.  Remember I explained the difference between the two a few weeks back.

Amid their many fairy tales the brothers Grimm wrote a short, strange little story about a turnip, called The Turnip.  It tells the story of two brothers, both soldiers, one was rich the other poor.  The poor brother was forced to become a farmer in order to feed himself and his family.  On his small farm he grew the only crop affordable, turnips.  One season while out in his garden he discovered he had grown one of the biggest turnips ever out among his crop.  He decided to take it to the King as a gift (actually if I’m remembering my history correctly, I’m thinking as a Serf he was required by law to give a portion of his harvest to the King).  The King expressed his gratitude by lavishing gifts upon the poor brother.  When the rich brother heard about this, he then gave multiply gifts to the King.  Alas, he was repaid by the King with that same ginormous turnip harvested by his own brother.  Of course the rich brother felt anger mixed with his jealousy.  In retaliation he hired some men to capture and murder his brother.  Just when the thugs captured the poor brother while he was out innocently riding his horse through the woods, they heard someone singing.  Instead of killing the brother, they hurriedly stuffed him into a large sack and hung the sack from the branch of a tree with the intention of returning to kill him later.  Not long afterward a passer-by happens upon the poor brother just as he emerges from a hole he had cut into the sack.  In order to avoid his own demise the poor brother explains to the passer-by that the sack is magical and when inside one will be bestowed with knowledge and wisdom.  The passer-by willingly climbs into the sack as the poor brother secures it closed, telling the passer-by, “see you are already learning a great lesson.”  All this because of a turnip.  The brothers Grimm often enlightened us with morals in their dark stories.

There is yet another children’s story about a turnip, this one entitled The Enormous Turnip.  In this story we are told about how one of the turnips from a collection of seeds sown in an elderly couple’s garden grows to such huge dimensions they can’t  pull it from the ground.  They call upon their young, strong son to help, but still the turnip can’t be pulled.  Finally, with the assistance of the son and their daughter, the dog, the cat and a neighbor they are able to uproot the stubborn turnip.  Everyone is overjoyed and celebrate by using the super-sized turnip to prepare a wonderful feast.  This story teaches children how when we work together we all succeed and benefit.  A nice and less gruesome story about turnips. 

I have purchased turnips, perhaps only three or four more times than I have rutabagas.  When I do purchase turnips from the market, I make sure I buy those with the leaves still attached.  I use the leaves, only the smaller ones, as the bigger the leaves tend to be bitter, in much the same way I use mustard greens.   They’re great in soups and stocks. 

I suppose I should also mention turnips themselves are high in vitamin C, while the leaves offer generous amounts of vitamin C, A and K, as well as some folate and calcium.  And if I am to be really fair, I should point out, as indicated by the two children’s stories I shared, turnips have a long history as a source of food for humans.  As a matter of fact, in ancient Greek civilization the turnip was consumed regularly by Kings and rural peasants. 

So in keeping with Medieval times I’m thinking a turnip soup recipe is in order.   Perfect for this weather we’re having. 


2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot - minced
3 Tbsp each fresh, chives, chervil leaves and sorrel leaves
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon
NOTE: (if you are unable to locate these herbs as fresh used dried- but use only 1 Tbsp each. If you cannot locate these as fresh or dried then substitute a commercial blend of “fines herbs”)
1-2 cups fresh turnips - diced
1 cup fresh, chopped celery
1 cup fresh chopped leeks
1 quart vegetable stock
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

Begin by melting butter in a large stockpot.  Add minced shallot and saute until fragrant.  Add diced turnips, celery & leeks and cook until softened.  Pour in stock and all remaining seasonings, ingredients and herbs.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Garnish w/large croutons or a warmed, sliced baguette

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Arghhh, Whew, Whirrrrr

Okay, so Sharon thinks it's funny . . . 

Arghhhh - The sound I made when I first woke up this morning and realized I omitted something very important in yesterday's recipe for Salsify Soup.

Whew - The second sound I made when I thought thank goodness, Blogs can be easily amended, edited or corrected.

Whirrrrr - The sound your immersion blender or Vitamix (or whatever you decide to use) will make when you puree your Salsify Soup to make it  creamy.

To remind you, in yesterday's Blog entry I commented that boiling Salsify makes it mushy and I advised you not to overcook your soup in order to avoid this.  However, while we don't want Salsify Mush, we do want to break down the soup somewhat to create that smooth, richness we associate with cream soups.

So, when you have finished cooking your soup and have seasoned it just right, you will need to either; A) use your immersion blender and whip up the soup a little to break down some of the cubes of cooked Salsify.
 You can leave a few pieces whole, which is what I do.  This allows your soup to maintain some chunky integrity.  Or B) spoon a few ladles of the soup mixture into your blender or Vitamix to puree the soup.  Using these devices will completely puree the soup, especially if you ladle the entire contents of your soup pot.  It's your decision on how creamy or chunky you like your Soup.

* Good thing Blogs are open to additional input!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Can You Be Satisfied With Salsify?

Actually it’s pronounced, SAL-sih-fee.  This time of year we all pretty much know Spinach is in season, as are Sweet Potatoes and Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) but those items, though they begin with the letter Ss, are rather commonplace.  So I decided to go with Salsify.  What is it Salsify exactly?  Well you may have walked right past it thinking it was some over-ripe parsnip or a bunch of too old white carrots.  While Salsify is another root vegetable (it is winter after all and root vegetables are all the rage) it’s in a league all its own.  Salsify may be labeled as Oyster Plant or Goatsbeard (though these are two different plants.  I’ll get to that in a minute).  Long used in Europe since the 16th century, this specialty root is becoming more easily found in our U.S. ethnic/multicultural local grocery stores or farmers markets.  Their shape is similar to that of the parsnip but perhaps a bit more gnarly looking.  Salsify can grow up to 12 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  Unlike parsnips, their skin is more grayish in color while the flesh inside is white.  The ones I’ve seen have more of a pale yellowish skin.  Some are black, these look more like branches or sticks you’d find around the trunk of an old tree.  If you happen upon black Salsify they may be labeled as scorzonera

Now some of you may be saying to yourselves, what is she talking about?  It’s called Purple Salsify and it’s an ornamental flower with edible roots.  Yes! ~ that’s what I’m talking about.  Purple Salsify is a biennial plant, meaning it doesn’t produce seed until its second year.   I’m talking about harvesting the root for the purpose of cooking and eating, which can be done within one year.  So in reality it can be considered an annual.  Now, that Goatsbeard I referred to earlier bears yellow flowers instead of purple and the roots are NOT edible.  Our Purple Salsify roots aren’t so great eaten raw, but cooked you can discern a slight oyster flavor, hence the term Oyster Plant. 

You don’t have to eat them right away.  Salsify, with the tops removed, can be stored in your fridge for about 2 weeks.  Make sure you clean them well, remove the roots and peel away the skin.  That 2 weeks gives you plenty of time to find just the right recipe in which to use them.  And armed with the knowledge Salsify is high in carbs and are loaded with fiber helps.  I also want to point out they provide ample amounts of B vitamins and potassium. 

Some suggested methods of culinary use include adding Salsify to your soups or stews, as you would carrots or parsnips.  Lately I’m into roasting my vegetables.  I’d suggest cleaning them up, then cutting them into rounds and spreading them evenly on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet.  A moderate dose of good olive oil and, since Salsify have that slight oyster undertone, I’d add garlic (always good with oysters), with a bit of unsalted butter dotted here and there.  Season with kosher salt and pepper and roast away, until the edges are slightly dark and crispy.  Then garnish with freshly chopped parsley.  Or, rough chop the stalks into bite-sized pieces and steam them.  Then drizzle the now softened morsels with a garlicky vinaigrette.  Yum!  Better yet, stay true to the season and prepare a soup that actually stars Salsify in the leading role.  A warm creamy, yet light soup with a tease of oyster flavor, served with a warm boule (you’ll have to look that one up yourself) is just what one might need during this season of salted caramel, peppermint chocolate bark and turkey, ham, more turkey more ham and all those adult beverages.  Here’s my recipe for Satisfying Salsify Soup:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter                                                 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
I large shallot – minced                                                           2 cloves fresh garlic – minced
2-3 cups medium-diced fresh Salsify, cleaned and peeled       1-2 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)
1 cup whole milk                                                                   1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste                                                         chopped parsley, thyme or chives for garnish
Freshly made croutons, also for garnish (Megan, I taught you how to prepare these)

In a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, combine olive oil and butter until butter is melted.
Whisk in flour (this is your roux) and cook until mixture comes together like a kind of paste.  About 5 minutes. 
Add minced shallot and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Stir in minced garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Add diced Salsify. 
Whisk in milk and cream, lowering heat so you don’t boil the milks.  Continue cooking for about 5-7 minutes.  Add broth and allow mixture to simmer until root vegetable is slightly tender.  Careful not to overcook, Salsify can get mushy when boiled too long.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve in individual bowls each garnished with chopped parsley a few croutons. 

                                                                                       Makes 6-8, 4-ounce servings

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rr is for Rutabaga

You say Potato, I say Potawtoe - You say Parsnip, I say Parsnip - You say Turnip, I say Rutabaga 

     Actually, you may be saying “waxed turnip,” but no matter what you say, when the word rutabaga is uttered out loud you can’t help sounding as if you're from Boston, or is it Jersey?  I’m fairly certain those two accents are not the same, but for some reason I can’t tell them apart in my head at the moment.  However, I am pretty sure those few times when you do say rutabaga you’re not really sure what the difference is between turnips and rutabagas.  So I will enlighten you.
     Turnips are an easy to grow and popular European root vegetable.   Rutabagas are also an easy to grow, wildly popular European root vegetable.   The Swedes and the Finns are especially fond of rutabagas.  Both these Cinderella-like veggies can be boiled and mashed (like potatoes and parsnips and cauliflower, alone in a combination of), sliced or diced and roasted in olive oil and a good pinch of pink Himalayan salt, cubed or grated then fried with some butter and fresh herbs (like latkes) or simply julienned and eaten raw in salads.   Rutabagas often commonly referred to as “Swedes”  (“Neeps” in Scotland) or yellow or waxed turnips until the late ‘60’s but the term waxed or yellow was confusing for the average store clerk and consumer so rutabaga is now the label seen in your produce section of the market.  They are larger in size than turnips, have flesh that is more yellow in coloring, with a swipe of purple, carry a bit more starch than turnips and have a longer shelf-life.  Both these cool weather relatives of the cabbage family are available year round, with peak season for turnips from October to about February and rutabagas peaking from July through April . . . wait, what?  According to several other resources detailing what’s in season now, this is the season for rutabagas.  As a matter of fact harvesting is going on as I write this Blog in Washington State, Maine, Canada and Siberia.  Makes sense with its frost hardy propensities and love of long cold seasons and moist soils.  Whew! that was close – so I will continue with rutabaga as my seasonal Rr food of the month. 
  When asked about the similarities or differences in taste between rutabagas and turnips, I encourage those inquiring to sample them side by side, taking a bite of one then the other.  The rutabaga you will find is a bit sweeter, especially when roasted.  Higher in starch content, of course that would make them sweeter and they are easier to peel than turnips.  Both turnips and rutabagas are strong in potassium (rutabagas more so), vitamins A and C as well as carrying a bit of fiber.  And rutabagas have almost half as much natural sodium in them than turnips. 
     So what do we do with these bi-colour, bulbous things you ask?  Think in terms of a substitute for potatoes, parsnips and cauliflower.  Since my eldest son is a smashed potato connoisseur, I decided to test his taste buds by adding rutabaga to his favourite smashed potato recipe.  For myself some ruta-fries.

 Ruta-fries Recipe

1 russet potato - washed and peeled
2 rutabagas - washed and peeled
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Slice peeled potato and rutabagas into thin rectangles.  Spread slices onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Evenly drizzle olive oil all over potato and rutabaga slices then sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Using your hands, move seasoned potato and rutabaga slices all around, mixing olive oil and seasonings onto both sides of the slices.   Bake in 400 degree, preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.
These are absolutely delicious and they're baked which makes them even better for you!

 Recipe for Potato-Rutabaga Smash

1 russet potato - washed, peeled and cut into medium cubes
2 rutabagas - washed, peeled and cut into medium cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk               1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder   1/4 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

Place cubed potato and rutabagas in large saucepot and fill with water to about 2 inches above vegetables.  Bring water to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until vegetables are soft but not mushy.  Drain ALL the water from saucepot and using your potato masher or potato ricer, begin smashing.  Add milk and mash some more.  Add sour cream and mash a little more.  Finally add all the seasonings and give the mixture a final mashing until it is the consistency you prefer.  I like a few lumps in my smashings, something to bite into.  My son loves the smooth, creamy version.
The yellowish cubes are the rutabagas, the whiter ones are the russet
Rutabaga Smash topped with gravy and garnished with dill 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Qq is For Quince (eventually)

Finally, after a summer’s worth of extended weekend retreats and vacations, I’m back on my computer.  Writing has become a daily endeavor and going days without doing so feels akin to not brushing my teeth.  I really miss it when I don’t do it. 

First was my trip to El Dorado Hills to visit my little sister.  
Here we hiked with my niece and grandniece in the wide open spaces of Coloma, a sleepy historic town just outside of Sacramento.  Then there was an night of line dancing and every bedtime, late night sister-talk.  One afternoon Sis and I decided to chance it and took in one of those Meryl Streep’s movies where she felt compelled to share her big love (not-so-big talent) for singing.  But we had fun anyway.  Afterwards we went back to the house and I turned Sis on to the joy of Burrata with red, ripe Roma tomatoes, fresh garden basil Chiffonade and a drizzle of thick, rich balsamic.

A few days later I took a trip to Palo Alto to visit old school chums and Mother.  For someone who has not lived in the Bay Area for well over nineteen years, my cravings for home are incessant.  While there I went shopping, ate in quaint and artistic restaurants and strolled my customary walk up Hamilton Avenue to Homer and Forest to my brother’s old condo (tears, tears, tears).   The tree he and Aviva planted from a seed is now as lush and vibrant green as my brother’s spirit.  
Then there was my quick turnaround to the Pacific Northwest where I was able to give smooches and hugs to my favourite grandson.  
Lastly was my annual girls’ weekend to the cabin in Duck Creek Utah.  While each venture offered  good times and exciting meals, not to mention plenty of fodder for writing, I came home tired and spent.  But not so much after the trip to “the cabin.”  If you can call it a cabin, our dear friend K who spent years of her life as an interior designer has created an environment that exceeds the décor and ambiance of most homes I’ve cooked in. 

Duck Creek boasts grand vistas, wild life ranging from blue birds and hummingbirds to deer and bears, all encompassed by those strange and magnificent Hoodoos.  In my opinion the states of Arizona and Utah seem to bear God’s expression of whimsy and fun.  Stunning red rocks stacked high in creative and precarious arrangements.   I swear He must have worn the same expression as my young sons when they would call me over to show off their own near toppling Leggo towers.  Hoodoos, I find to be both eerie and astonishing.  I can’t help but stare and gape in quiet admiration.

This summer however, our trip to the cabin was four minus one.  Nancy, K and I arrived mid-day, without Sooz, to that familiar Grape Nuts crunch of the gravel beneath the tires of our truck announcing our official escape from society, technology and stress.  Almost immediately following the unloading of our bags and turning on of the water we opened a bottle of wine and K prepared an utterly sumptuous opened face BLT, warm and crunchy, topped with a slice of marbled yellow and white cheddar.  We sat out on the back deck taking in deep, deep breaths.  The transformation one feels when leaving Vegas for the wide open spaces of Utah are swift and complete. 

Since we couldn’t quite justify sitting and drinking for the remains of the day, a short hike was in order.  Changing into heavy boots and donning light sweaters we made our way down the slopping driveway allowing K to bring Nancy and me up to date on the status of her neighbors.  After another hour or so we headed back and someone (I’m pretty sure it was me) announced it was five o’clock somewhere and poured more wine.  Ruminations about dinner were uttered.  Usually our fourth member organizes our meals and snacks, but since she was not with us, we decided to wing it.  Winging it turned out to be just fine.  I prepared dinner that night; pearled couscous with bits of sweet dried apricots, spiced up with red pepper flakes and topped with filets of wild-caught grilled salmon then garnished with a handful of microgreens.  Afterwards we all headed off to bed, satisfied and exhausted.

The following morning, we took our coffee and K’s freshly baked apple-cinnamon and cheddar scones back out to the deck.  Morning chit-chat while feeding the squirrels and wild birds was followed by yoga out on the front deck.  Then we excitedly changed our clothes to ride the Rhinos to the “shoppy-shops.”   Since we were down a girl I would be driving one of the Rhinos all by myself.  Boy was I ready, but damn.  After pulling them both out of the garage, my Rhino wouldn’t start up again, dead battery.  I was regaled to riding in the back of the other one, with Nancy and K in front.  WOW!  What fun!  I was whooping and hollering all the way down the mountain.  Four hours later with our loot in tow, we headed back up to the cabin.  By now it was almost two o’clock, waaaay past time for our first glass of wine of the day and another of K’s open faced sandwiches.  The Devil Wears Prada (no singing) then off to bed.
A quiet afternoon of reading, talking and Hoodoo gazing and before we knew it, the dinner hour was upon us.  As chef in residence I prepared the second evening’s meal of salad Nicoise.   Instead of the traditional tuna I substituted marinated chicken thighs and rich, creamy cannellini beans.  Of course I included the traditional capers and Greek olives then crowned each plate with a soft boiled egg.  I love anything topped with an egg.  K prepared sumptuous stuffed mushrooms as a side.  Earlier she had played around with her iPad and was able to pull up a movie for us to watch before bed.  Another Meryl Streep movie

 In only two days we already had a ritual in place, coffee and scones followed by yoga.  Nancy had some of her own writing to finish that morning so K and I set out on a two hour hike.  Beautiful scenery and not a sole around, only us and the visible tracks of deer and elk.  As we began to make our way deeper into the dark woods I told K, “It feels like bears around here.”  Her reply?  “Oh don’t worry, I’m packing.” 

“You’re packing?  Where?”

“Right here,” was her answer, as she patted her side. 

K went on to explain the name and type of armament she had strapped to her side.  She is a licensed and accurate dead eye diva, so I knew I was good hands.  Unfortunately her explanation of the fact that our protection was so small, and only powerful enough to scratch and irritate a bear, thereby pissing him (or her) off, I grew more nervous than ever!  “Do you at least have a whistle?” I asked.  Nope, no whistle, at that I announced we were going back down the trail.  Whew.  Just in time too, within moments we heard the sound of breaking branches ahead.  We stopped, frozen and quiet.  It was just a crazy cyclist.  How he was riding over fallen trees and such rough terrain on a bike is beyond me, but there he was. 
K and I made our way to the road, climbed back into the Rhino bumping and jostling our way to the cabin where I shared the thrill of our adventure with Nancy and K exhibited her find of a perfectly heart-shaped rock.
So what does all of this have to do with the letter Qq?  Well, for our final meal in the mountains that afternoon I assembled a snack platter of membrillo and cheese .  Membrillo is a wonderful, soft treat with a consistency similar to jello, and is made from quince.  Quince is a fuzzy, yellow-green skinned fruit that taste kind of like an apple and pear combined.  They’ve been around for hundreds of years.  The Romans used the fruit and flowers of the quince tree for the preparation of perfume and honey, in addition to eating the fruit itself.  Since it is naturally high in pectin quince makes for great jams, jellies and of course pastes.  Membrillo is a dense paste made with the pulp of the fruit and cooked with sugar, vanilla bean, fresh lemon and water until it becomes very thick turning a dark, ruby red color.  The mixture is then poured into a parchment lined cookie sheet or other pan and allowed to firm up.  When ready, slices of this sweet and sticky wine-colored jell is accompanied with manchego cheese and marcona almonds.  The girls loved it.  I can remember seeing small packages of membrillo on my grandparent’s kitchen table, but don’t recall ever eating it.  Not until I was an adult did I learn about this uniquely sweet, astringent condiment.  It’s really quite lovely (had to get a Qq in there somewhere).  
Why is it that no matter whether you are camping in a tent, a fifth wheel or camper or find yourself in a cozy cabin nestled on top of a mountain, nothing compares to food eaten in the great outdoors?  Whether you are enjoying the sticky sweet of s’mores or membrillo, hot dogs extended on wire clothes hangers or small squares of quince atop a lightly toasted round of sourdough bread accompanied by the famous cheese of La Mancha.  I am certain Don Quixote and Sancho indulged and enjoyed this delightful treat as they rode their steeds amid those windmills. I encourage you to give the elusive quince and membrillo, which you're likely to find in a specialty food shop.

 For Nancy, K and I, there was that one little matter of the minus of our fourth friend but as we sat quietly at the round checkered pattered table, gazing out the massive windows while savoring our platter of this traditional Spanish treat, each of us felt that sense of calm and rejuvenation that comes with being in nature.   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Peach Cobbler Recipe

Peach Cobbler
So, we have Cobblers, Crisps and Crumbles, Galettes, Crostadas and Turnovers, and of course Grunts and Slumps!  All of these wonderful dishes are filled with hot bubbling fruit amid a sweetened carb topping.  Of course they can also be prepared with savory fillings.  But what exactly is the difference between these homey, mom and apple pie treats you may ask.

I'll start with the Turnover since it is a rather distant cousin to the others.  Turnovers are simply pastry dough circles or squares folded into triangles or semicircles.  The edges are pinched closed to prevent any yummy filling from escaping.  The biggest difference here, is that Turnovers are prepared with layers of flaky puff pastry rather than singular pie crust.
My Mother and I ate Turnovers for Breakfast every morning for about a year!

Galettes and Crostadas are actually free-form tarts. No tart pan with the removable bottom is needed.  For these redolent confections, one prepares a basic pie dough, rolls it out, fills it with their fruit of choice then folds the edges around and over the filling.  These can be baked on a parchment lined sheet pan or in a deep-dish pie pan.  A very rustic and wonderful dessert for those of us who are pastry-challenged.  As for the difference between the two - none.  Galettes are French, Crostadas are Italian!  That's it.
You Say Galette I Say Crostada - Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

Now Cobblers, Crisps and Crumbles have become interchangeable monikers.  So let me clarify.  Cobblers are fruit desserts topped with a batter mixture which is more like biscuit than pie dough.  However, I like to prepare cobblers with a batter similar to cookie dough (sweet) as do many other cooks.  If you allow your eyes to look at the dish as a whole, and kind of unleash your imagination, the finished product does somewhat resemble a Cobbled Road, hence the name.  Now a Crumble is another dish of baked fruit.  These are topped with an oat-based streusel.  Yum!  Love streusel!  The brown sugar and butter, when mixed with the oats give you lots of "crumbly" texture.  While a Crisp, it's closest relative, also has a streusel topping but does not include oats.  Both offer a dandy, buttery finish to a hearty autumn meal.
A Stunning Blueberry Crumble

And just are Grunts and Slumps?  Well, to begin they are exactly the same thing, and are quite similar to Cobblers.  The difference between Cobblers and Grunts/Slumps is that while Cobblers are baked in the oven Grunts and Slumps are cooked on your stove top.  Most commonly in a cast iron skillet.  Then name Grunt came about because someone, somewhere decided the sound made by the fruit bubbling up from the batter sounded like grunting.  And Slump is the name given because someone else, some place else, decided that's what the dessert looks like when served on your plate.  Apparently there are many who agreed, as the names have stuck.

Stove-top Grunt or Slump - You Decide 

Oh! and there's one more, a Buckle.  A Buckle also used ripe fruit combined with a batter, but true Buckle recipes use a batter that is more cake-like.

So there you have it.  You now know the difference between Cobblers, Crisps, Crumbles and Buckles, Grunts and Slumps, Galettes and Crostadas.  I'm not going to even touch Brown Bettys!
Set Up - Not A Whole Lot Of Ingredients



3 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted        1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 cup all purpose flour                                 2 teaspoons baking powder                               
¾ cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
1 large egg – room temperature                  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup buttermilk                                          ¼ teaspoon salt
2-2 ½ cups sliced, ripe peaches                  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment – 6 ramekins, parchment paper or silicone mat (silpat)

Preparation                                                         Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1)    Line a large sheet pan or jelly roll pan with parchment paper or a silpat.
2)    Using a small pastry brush or a wadded up paper towel, brush the entire interior of each ramekin with the melted butter, set aside on your lined sheet pan until ready to fill.
3)    In a mixing bowl combine peaches, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon, set aside.
4)    In a separate medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, ¾ sugar, baking powder and salt.
5)    Using a large bowl, whisk egg into buttermilk – stir in vanilla extract.
6)    Gently stir dry ingredients into larger bowl with wet ingredients in 2 batches.
7)    Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter into the bottom of each ramekin.
8)    Evenly distribute peach mixture among the six ramekins then pour remaining batter over the top.
You may sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sugar on top of the batter.  I do.

Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until cobblers are golden brown in colour.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or my favourite, crème fraiche.
Big Flavor In a 4-oz. Ramekin

It's All About What's Inside - Right?