Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Do you ever get the feeling that life is moving too quickly? Do you wonder: did I really get enough sun-soaked outdoor time or smokey, campfire-roasted marshmallows this summer? Did I swim enough? Did I take full advantage of those golden afternoons on my balcony, when a cold beer and a cool breeze can feel just shy of heaven? Did I savor the overwhelming freshness and clarity that is so essential in summer foods? Call me a pessimist, but as the summer draws to a close, I can't help but wonder if I lived it to the fullest, catching every last morsel of that special joy that only summer can provide. At those times, I think back to all the things that define the season for me, like peaches.

Mom loves peaches. I have vivid memories of vacationing down the Cape, sitting around whatever cottage the family had rented, playing gin and watching Mom eat peaches. It is always amazing to me, the kind of subtle, non-traditions that seem to seep into my memory such as Mom's love of peaches. For me, peaches mean comfort and an easy relaxation that can only come with time spent at the beach, with no cell phones, blackberries or laptops. Just good food and good company. Away from the things of man, my love. Away from the things of man. 

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
(Adapted from Ruth Reichl's blog)

4 large peaches, peeled
8 or 9 oz. blackberries
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice peaches over a glass pie plate, making sure to capture any juices from the fruit. Add blackberries. Squeeze half a lemon over fruit and toss with sugar and cornstarch.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using your hands, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly mix in the buttermilk, making sure the dough is not too moist. Plop spoonfuls of dough on to the fruit. Sprinkle dough with sugar and bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raspberry Lime Popsicles

These days it seems like everyone has a strategy for dealing with the heat. The blogs are buzzing with homemade ice creams and frozen treats. So when Mom handed down these Tupperware Ice Tups molds, I knew I had to find a use for them. (Raspberries!)  The Tupperware molds are totally timeless and work great, but I can't help but want these Cuisipro Sailboat Popsicle Molds. How cute are they? What could scream summer leisure time more than cute little sailboats? Adorable!

These pops were super tangy, which I love, but the thyme wasn't as pronounced as I would have hoped. Oh, well, I guess I'll just have to make more!

Raspberry Lime Popsicles with Thyme 
(adapted from this Gourmet recipe)

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 or 3 springs of fresh thyme
4 cups fresh raspberries (about 16 oz.)
2/3 cups fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)

Combine sugar, water and thyme in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar completely dissolves. Cool.  Discard thyme.

Blend half of the raspberries and half the lime juice in a blender until smooth. Add syrup, remaining raspberries and lime juice and blend until smooth. Force puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on the raspberry seeds and then discard them.

Pour mixture into molds. Freeze. If using molds without lids, wait a an hour or two, until pops are slushy and insert sticks. Freeze for 6-8 hours.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vacation Edition: Boston

While I was visiting the Fam in Boston this weekend, the Mayor (an affectionate nickname we have for Brother, who is not, in fact, an elected official) and I went to the 1st Annual Boston Food Truck Festival. This dog, from Boston Speed's Famous Hot Dog Wagon, was well over a food long - and I waited for over an hour for it. (I got it "loaded" with homemade mustard, barbecue sauce, relish and onions. Tangy!). I really wish I had put something in this picture for scale. The only downside to the day was that there were not quite enough food trucks to meet the demand (the lines were long!). Luckily, the Mayor was there with me. While I waited in line for this gigantor, the Mayor spied a shorter line and fetched us some of my favorite snacks: PICKLES!

Hot pickles...
... and sour pickles.

All in all, it was a great day. Plus, I heard a rumor that the group which organized the festival may be organizing similar events in other cities. With so many great good trucks in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), I can only hope someone puts one together here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Interstellar Renegades and Cast Iron Cookware

So I learned something about myself since starting this blog. I really enjoy watching Sci-Fi while I bake. I know; I'm baffled by it, too. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I first got big into baking, I coincidentally received Star Trek The Original Series season one on Blu-ray. It goes without saying that I was watching Star Trek more or less non-stop and there just so happened to be baking involved. Now, I have some sort of Pavlovian association between baking and Sci-Fi. Stranger still, it totally doesn't carry over to savory or meal type dishes. Figure that out.

Recently, someone reminded me how much I love the now defunct series Firefly. If you haven't seen it, Netflix it. It is wicked awesome. So, I thought, what could be more appropriate for a Western set in Space than a little cooking with cast iron, right? I said to myself, Self, if I'm ever an interstellar renegade, hopping from third world planet to third world planet, I am sure as shootin' gonna be clinging to my cast iron cookware. You never know when you might need it, for cooking or self defense.

"We're not gonna die. And do you know why? Because we are so very pretty." 

I love tomatoes. I really really do. Fruit, veggie, whatever. I will never get tired of the tomatoes. Tomatoes as a dessert was too darn temptin' to pass up. You mean I can sneak tomatoes into a whole 'nother course? Hot damn! This dessert was a leap of faith, but I was handsomely rewarded. It was sweet and fresh tasting, with a funny kind of dessert pizza feel. Enjoy!

Tomato Tarte Tatin
(Adapted from this August 2010 Bon Appetit recipe)

8 or 9 large roma tomatoes
3 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed, (rolled out, if necessary) and trimmed to a 10" round (to suit the size of your skillet)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Fill a medium saucepan with water and boil. While the water is warming up, cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, until skins begin to peel, about 15 to 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to a bowl of ice water to cool. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Peel tomatoes, halve lengthwise, cut out cores and remove seeds. (This step takes a few minutes to do). 

(These tomatoes totally look like the eggs from Alien, don't they?)

Slice butter and spread over the bottom of an ovenproof skillet. My skillet is a 10" cast iron skillet, but any size, give or take an inch should work. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange tomato halves, rounded side down, bottoms pointing out, in concentric circles.

Warm skillet to medium heat. Cook until sugar and butter are reduced to a deep amber syrup, about 25 minutes. Move tomatoes around occasionally to make sure they aren't burning or sticking.

Meanwhile, tackle the pastry. I used the better part of a 14 oz. frozen pastry sheet, which was a little smaller than the diameter of my skillet.  If you need to roll out your pastry a bit, do so on a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Once you have to size you like, cut pastry into a round a little bit bigger than your skillet.

Remove skillet from heat. Pour vanilla extract over tomatoes and transfer pastry round to skillet. It is ok if you're pastry doesn't exactly fit the skillet. If the pastry is larger than your skillet, tuck the extra pastry down with a knife or spatula. Cut a couple of slits in the pastry, and bake until it is deep golden brown, about 20 - 25 minutes. 

Remove from oven and cool in skillet for 10 minutes. While the tart is cooling, mix together confectioner's sugar and cream in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat together until stiff peaks begin to form. 

Loosen pastry around the edges with a knife or spatula. Place large plate over skillet. Using oven mitts, invert skillet over plate, and give a little shake until you feel the tart drop onto the plate. Carefully lift off the skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have moved. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.