Category Archives: recipe

Waiting fruit

You’re not going to be able to make this recipe right away. First, you’ll have to buy three or four persimmons at the grocery store. They will be pale and hard. You should put them in a glass bowl on the table where you eat (we call this the “dining room table” but we don’t have a dining “room” any more than we have a kitchen “room”). Commercially available persimmons take about three weeks to ripen fully, so they should be somewhere you can keep an eye on them. Turn the fruit every few days so it doesn’t bruise. Their color should deepen to a lumenescent sunset orange and the calyx dry out to a pale green. They don’t really give off an aroma. Once the fruit is soft and yields easy to a fingertip, you’re ready for cake.

Persimmon pulp

  • 3 very ripe (very soft) persimmons (1 1/4 lb total)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace (or ground cloves)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup loosely packed dried pitted dates (5 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans (3 1/2 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 15- by 10-inch shallow cookie sheet/baking pan (1 inch deep).

If you have time, toast the nuts and then chop small in a food processor. Dump them out into a small bowl and chop the dates (you don’t have to clean the food processor between any of these steps) add to the nuts. Discard dried green or brown calyx (stem and leaves) from each persimmon, and scoop out the pulp into the food processor. Process until smooth. I’ve been making this recipe for a while and before I had a food processor I had to force the pulp through a sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula – which you can do but it’s a lot more work. Not to mention chopping walnuts and dates all day long. Transfer 1 to 1 1/2 cup purée to a small bowl and stir in lemon juice and baking soda. (The cake doesn’t change much with the varied amount of fruit.) The mixture will become foamy, then jell slightly.

Sift together flour, salt, and spices in another small bowl.

Whisk together egg, sugar, and oil in a large bowl until just combined. Add flour mixture and persimmon pulp stirring until just combined. Stir in nuts and dates.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Stir together all glaze ingredients until smooth, then spread over top of cooled cake.

Vitamin C!Totally worth the wait. . .

Buttermilk Bread

We had two versions of buttermilk bread – seeded and unseeded – for our New Year’s dinner of roasted vegetables and cabbage-apple slaw last week. I promised our friend and dinner-guest S.P. the recipe, and now that it has been a week and I need a break from taking down the Christmas tree, here you go!

This recipe is adapted from Laurel Robertson’s “Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book” published in 1984 by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. As you might expect it’s a very calming, basic cookbook full of clunky woodcut illustrations and comprehensive descriptions of the rising process. I might not have purchased this book (perhaps thinking I knew enough about the basics) but then I inherited it from my father-in-law who was an engineer and appreciated this level of detail. Now I have to admit that some of my favorites have at least started with the incredibly in-depth instructions from Laurel’s Kitchen.

Buttermilk Bread (APo’s abbreviated version)

1 Tbs SAF instant yeast *, 5 1/2 (or a little more) C all purpose flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar

1 C very hot water,  and 1 1/4 C well-shaken cold buttermilk

4 Tbs softened butter, 2 Tbs olive oil

Using the “bread blade”, combine 5 C of flour and the rest of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the liquid and pulse until mostly mixed, add the butter in chunks. Add the remaining 1/2 C to C of flour if necessary and process/knead until smooth and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl – about 45 seconds in my machine.

Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead just a few turns, form into a ball. Add the olive oil to a large bowl and drop the dough in, rotating it so the oiled surface is on top. Cover with plastic wrap or a plate and a dish towel. This dough tends to be soft and sticky and will stick to a dry dishcloth draped over it. Let it rise in a warm place for an hour and a half.

If you have time for a second rise, flatten the dough slightly and let it rise again for about 45 minutes. If not, press it flat (sprinkle with sesame seeds or a seed mixture if you like) and divide into two. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then shape it into two rounds and place in pie plates. These rounds make very good dinner bread. Let the dough rise again in the pans, another hour if you have time.

Bake the rounds in preheated 325 F degree oven for nearly an hour. The crust will be brown but not hard, and the bread has a wonderful fine texture. Brush with more butter if desired.

This recipe makes excellent rolls and breadsticks. Bake the breadsticks at the same temperature and amount of time for maximum crunchiness. It keeps well, too, as Laurel Robertson points out, “when hidden”.

If you can manage to have enough for leftovers, this is our favorite bread for croutons, homemade bread crumbs, and “Toad in the Hole”.

*If using regular yeast, use 1/4 C of water at lukewarm to proof first, then proceed with the recipe as written.

Spritz!

Spritz cookies with a 60's influence, FTW.Spritz cookies are a wonderful tradition this time of year, and an easy treat once you have the little machine that squeezes the dough out in shapes. I have an old copper and aluminum Mirro cookie press, which I guess is not available any more. There are battery powered versions on the market for those of you who need to make these cookies by the gross, I guess? The rest of us mortals should buy the ubiquitous screw-down cylinders and save our money for all that butter we’ll be using in the basic recipe.

1 C unsalted butter softened, or melted and cooled; 3/4 C sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp almond extract, 2 1/4 C white flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder.

Cream the butter and sugar well, beat in egg and extracts. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Fill cookie press and form on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 37 degrees 10 – 12 minutes. Yields @ 60 cookies.

A few hints:

  • Don’t chill the dough. The cold dough will be harder to push through the die and won’t stick as well to the cookie sheet, but
  • DO chill the cookies once they are shaped on the cookie sheet. The shapes will hold up better in the oven.
  • Avoid handling the dough. It will soften almost immediately in the heat of your hands. If you need to scrape the sides of the barrel or clean residue off to change dies (and you will), use a spatula or a kitchen knife.
  • If you use food coloring don’t color the dough all at once. Instead, fill the press canister with plain dough and add a few drops of color near the top. As you press cookies out, add more plain dough and then more food coloring. Better than tie-dye, and makes the dough less “stiff” than mixing it in.

Serious cookies

Today I took off from work – somehow a day off is even better when it’s a really bad idea – and made cookies. I did errands, cleaned the house, visited my mother, cleaned the house some more, put up the tree, and made cookies. That last item is the important part, because these are serious cookies – you need the whole day.

I lived in Philadelphia in the 70’s and had a wide selection of part time jobs while I went to art school. Around Christmas-time I worked evenings at an Italian bakery that had plaster models of fantastical wedding cakes in the windows and specialized in traditional, labor-intensive treats for the holidays. We made anise biscotti and weird sponge cakes filled with lemon cream, almond crescents, white fruit cakes studded with golden raisins and sprinkled with gold leaf, but mostly we made seven-layer-cookies. Pink, white and green almond cake layers with apricot filling and a chocolate frosting on both sides, we made them in huge sheet pans, sold them all to happy housewives the next day and spent the night making more. I know all about how to make them in a bakery , with a walk-in freezer and professional ovens, but I’d never thought of making them at home until I read this post at SmittenKitchen.

I love this site and I’ve found that I can completely trust her work. So – hop right over there and read the recipe, study the comments, and then take tomorrow off to make cookies! Let me know how it goes.

One hint that’s not on SK’s list – at the bakery we added a 1/2 tsp of baking powder to the batter, and were free to add a Tbs (or more, if the ovens were blasting heat) of cream to the colored divisions right before laying them out in the pan. Both additions made the batter easier to spread in a thin, even layer. As a bonus, here’s a pic of the pink layer (colored with Ameri-Color Super Red gel paste) cooling on the table. Doesn’t that look like a fun way to spend an afternoon?

OMG PINK

PS Because I just posted this and someone is already asking, the other cookies on the plate (equally delicious and a lot easier) are Excalibur cookies from Food from the Field’s blog. Great stuff!

Windfall

Last Friday I picked apples at an abandoned homestead on my commute home from work.

The tree is big by Maine standards, about 40′ tall and 20′ around. Deer have pruned the branches back to 5′ above the ground by eating all the fruit they can reach. I used my walking stick to knock down enough to fill a canvas tote – about 15 lbs. of hard red, conical apples with minimal insect damage and no fungus. I haven’t looked up the variety yet, but the combination of large tree with that shape fruit hanging on a  tree past first frost is fairly uncommon and I should be able to find it in my loaner copy of “Apples of Maine”. Thanks, Agnes!

We don’t eat much jelly and jam, and space is scarce in the chest freezer downstairs. When the grapes came in (and in, and in some more) I made quarts of thick, sweet grape juice concentrate and we used that up very quickly indeed. I’d never made apple juice but honestly, how hard could it be?

You can see where this is going, right? I followed the directions in the Blue Book; cutting the stem and blossom ends off the fruit and then coarsely chopping the rest. I added a pint of water and a little lemon juice and cooked the apples down to “mushy”. Then the recipe says to drain the mush through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth and after an hour I had about half a cup of juice. Very nice juice, but half a cup seemed unrewarding. Compared to the huge amount of apples in the strainer, ti also seemed stingy. I added more water, switched to a colander instead of cheesecloth, and generally made everything in the kitchen sticky sweet with apple residue and got 4 quarts of very thin applesauce for my trouble. Again, very tasty (those are good apples) and a pretty color, but not what I had in mind.

I think the next painting I sell will turn into a steam juicer.

 

 

Crepuscular

The light is fading fast in the garden as we approach the equinox. I have a day job, so gardening is relegated to the hours around 9 – 5 and very soon there won’t be any of those. Tonight I stayed out long enough that I needed to come back to the house for a flashlight to find where I’d put my Felcos – normally very visible with their bright red plastic handles.

Twilight is sacred to Hindus. The part of the day when the sun is below the horizon and objects are still visible is considered prime time for study and contemplation and is known as the “Cow Dust Time”.

Crespecular is the collective adjective for who are most active in the early evening, such as red pandas, deer, moose, and myself. I might be further described as “vespertine” with the woodcock and coyotes. We’re all out there together, avoiding predation and thermal stress by doing our best work just after sunset and before moonrise.

Now that I’m back in the house with my electric noon I’ll put up grape juice and peach nectar for the long time ahead, when twilight and dawn are only six hours apart.

Peach Nectar, or, The Easiest Way to Put Up Lots of Peaches

Wash and pit peaches. If they’re ripe and you trust your source, don’t bother peeling them. Pit them directly over the bowl of the food processor so all the juices go in, too. Sprinkle 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 C sugar over the full bowl and puree. I have a 6 Cup capacity Cuisinart, so adjust for the size of your processor.

Dump the contents into a large pot and repeat until you’ve almost filled the pot. Heat just to simmer and add sugar, a little salt, and a little vanilla to taste. Ladle into sterilized canning jars and process for 15 minutes in a steam canner.

This is great stuff for your breakfast smoothie.

 

Peach nectar night

This will be a very short post, because there are a lot of peaches waiting on the kitchen counter that aren’t going to can themselves.

Last year I experimented with a few different ways to preserve the bounty from the Red Haven and Red Baron peach trees in the front yard. Of the 15 bushels (yikes) that we didn’t give away or eat fresh I froze some in white grape juice, made plain and brandied canned whole, canned pie filling, jam, and conserve. Summer 2010 also produced a tremendous harvest of Beta grapes and I eventually gave up on making grape jelly and canned them as juice instead. We really enjoyed the juice, and making concentrate was an efficient way to store vast quantities of produce. It also made killer popsicles.

Tonight I decided to make peach nectar and it was so successful that I think I may just turn everything into juice concentrate for the foreseeable future. Home made V8! Pear nectar! Harry Potter pumpkin juice – well, maybe not.

I pitted and then cooked the fruit lightly in a cup of lemonade and 1 C of sugar, just enough to soften it and bring out the juices. Then I put it, skins and all, through the food mill. The mill strainer that I chose made a fairly clear juice, although you can see that the amount of waste is fairly small. Next batch I’ll use a slightly larger hole and see if that produces a thicker “nectar”.

This was a successful experiment. Very tasty, and the entire process took less than two hours and only a cup of sugar. Now – Bellinis all around!

Peach pie

Ripe summer peaches need a strong pie crust. Even with the advantage of tapioca and an egg white finish, peaches right off the tree are too juicy to be contained in a thin, dry pastry that might be perfectly suitable for winter apples. Someday I’ll have an outdoor wood-fired oven  and then during the long, slow cool-down of a bread fire I’m going to dry some peaches and make pie with the soft, withered fruit. I bet that will be outstanding.

For the crust: put 4 C white flour, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp baking powder in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add 1 C cold unsalted butter (two sticks) cut into 1/2″ pieces, pulse just until there aren’t any large chunks. Mix 1/2 C very cold water with 2 tsp of good quality cider vinegar and add to the processor bowl by tablespoonfuls as you pulse. You want the pastry to just begin clumping together, but not be totally wet.

Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a large piece of wax paper. The dough will be crumbly and not entirely cohesive. Push it together using the ends of the sheet of wax paper. Cut the lump of crust in half with a bowl scraper or a large knife, pile one half on top of the other and squish them gently together. As you do this a few times the crumbs at the edge will gradually be incorporated and the crust will have lovely layers, like danish pastry. Cut the lump almost in  half once more (you want one piece slightly larger to be the bottom crust, the top will use less), wrap each piece in some waxed paper, put both pieces into a plastic bag and refrigerate for half an hour, or overnight.The vinegar and baking powder make a very soft, resilient crust that rolls out beautifully and doesn’t crack or develop holes where the fruit pokes up.

Now go pick some peaches.

I confess that while my pantry is stuffed with wonderful cookbooks full of pie recipes, including handwritten ones from family members, the only recipe I use for fruit pie is the one on the back of the Minute tapioca box. It works every time, adds nothing objectionable to the basic fruit and pastry, and is incredibly easy – what more could one ask? I’m also fond of the idiosyncrasies. The box lists instructions for apple (sliced), blueberry, cherry, peach (sliced), and strawberry rhubarb. Did someone, somewhere, put whole apples or peaches in a pie?

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Separate an egg and pour the white into a small dish or a coffee mug.

Following the instructions for peach pie, add 1/4 C tapioca, 3/4 C sugar and 1 Tbs lemon juice to 4 C of (sliced) peaches. Mix gently and let stand for 15 minutes while you roll out the crust. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dishtowel because fruit flies will arrive out of nowhere to have some of this stuff.

Retrieve the dough from the fridge. If it’s very hard, give it a minute to soften slightly. Roll it out fit it to the pie plate, being careful not to stretch the dough. Cut the excess off the edge with a pair of kitchen shears, and make a pie tail with the “leavings” that you wish you could mail to the Boy who is at university. Sadly, it doesn’t travel well.

If your peaches are really juicy, pour about 1/4 C of liquid off before you dump the fruit into the bottom crust. Dot with a Tbs of butter cut into small pieces. Brush egg white on the edges of the bottom crust and gently lay the top crust over it. Again, try not to tug or pull on the dough. Trim the edges close to the pie plate again with shears. Press all around the pie with a sharp-tined fork to seal. Cut a few holes in the top crust and brush all over with egg white. Sprinkle a tsp of sugar over the top for a slightly crunchier crust.

Bake the pie at 400 F for about 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and fruit juice is bubbling in the vents. If the pie tail is small you may have to take it out at 45 minutes.

Eat pie.

Haole curry

I know, it’s a bad word. Or not bad exactly, Haole  simply means “white” on the Island. White, and foreign in your skin and habits. I learned to make this dish from a Hawaian roomie and she called it Haole curry because it’s not particularly authentic: coconut milk from a tin instead of ladled out of the 55 gallon drum in back of her mother’s restaurant, and green curry from a can instead of mashing chilies, lemongrass and galangal with a mortar and pestle. Nevertheless, it’s cheap, easy, and we ate a lot of it back in art school. Heck, we eat a lot of it now – still a fan of cheap and easy. Thanks, Lilith!

Haole Curry – this is the “green” version:

Buy a can of coconut milk (splurge and get the organic variety – it’s a higher quality) and a jar of green curry. I’ll assume you also have fish sauce and brown sugar in  your cupboard? Steam green beans, snow peas, broccoli, or a combination of your choosing – you’ll need about 2 cups of assorted veggies in small pieces. Carrot slices are nice sometimes, and if you want to go really crazy you could sautee some diced red pepper. The idea is to have a pile of cooked veggies cut up and ready to go. Drain a package of extra firm tofu and cut into cubes. Make a pot of rice.

Now dump the can of coconut milk into a large sauce pan. Add 3 Tbs brown sugar, 3 Tbs fish sauce, and between 1/2 and 1 tsp green curry and whisk until the lumps in the brown sugar and coconut milk smooth out. I use the larger amount but I started my son out on 1/4 tsp.  Heat gently – it doesn’t need to boil.  Add the tofu and veggies, and as soon as the mixture is hot enough for you it’s ready to eat.

Garnish with chopped peanuts, diced scallion or green onion, and chopped Thai basil. I’m growing Thai basil for the first time this year and am planning have it be a regular in the garden going forward. It’s a pretty little plant with yellow-green leaves and bright purple blossoms, hardy and extremely drought tolerant.  The curry is delightful with a couple of aromatic leaves sliced thin and sprinkled on the mix.

Spaetzle, new and improved!

I would have thought it would be difficult to improve spaetzle. Flour, eggs, milk, maybe some herbs, definitely a few Tbs. of butter, press through a colander with the back of a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water and presto – dinner! Then my friend Susan presented me with a spaetzle-maker, and suddenly spaetzle was even easier. Neater! More uniform! Honestly, it’s a grand day when you come across a well-designed kitchen utensil.

Earlier this week I came across a recipe for spaetzle that used ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds) as part of the dry ingredients. They add some protein to the dish and offset all those carbs and it sounded pretty tasty, too. Tonight we had speatzle with pepitas with a little bit of very good Parmesean grated on top, and a huge green salad (because every meal has to include a large green salad at this point because we’re drowning in lettuce).

Pepita Spaetzle

4 servings as a main dish

1/2 C pepitas, @ 3 C all purpose flour, 3 eggs, 1 C milk, 1 tsp sea salt, herbs

In a food processor, pulse the pepitas and 1 C of  flour until finely ground. Empty the mixture into a large bowl with 2 C of flour. Add chopped herbs if desired: chives, summer savory, parsley and thyme work well. Whisk the eggs and salt in a small bowl with the milk, make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid, stir. The mixture should be cohesive, thick and springy. If it’s not, add a little more flour, up to 1/2 a cup. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes or store up to 1 day in the refrigerator.

Bring a large pot of salted water to full boil. Rest the spaetzle maker across the top of the pot and load the square container with batter. Move the container on its track back and forth until nearly empty, refill and repeat quickly until the batter is used up. Stir the spaetzle gently and cook for @ 3 minutes.

Ladle the spaetzle on to a wire rack over a clean towel to drain. You could use a pasta board or a dishtowel, or just decant them into a colander. Add 4 Tbs of butter to a large frying pan and cook the drained spaetzle briefly, just enough to coat them and heat through. Sometimes I sautee 1/4 cup of diced red onion in the pan first.

Serve with grated cheese, a German white wine, and a green salad. Thanks, Susan!