Tag Archives: fruit

The Post with the Confession

If ever there was a case for seasonal eating, this concord grape focaccia is it.

And, now, the confession alluded to in the title of this post:

I’m all about seasonal eating—I’m one of those people you hear waxing rhapsodic about things like the first peaches of the summer, makes multiple trips to the greenmarket to get as many sour cherries as possible, and who hunts down ramps (it counts if it’s in a restaurant, right?). I’ve been known to send alerts about the first appearance of cider donuts in the Union Square Greenmarket to a dear friend of mine who is obsessed (and, yes, I’m counting that as seasonal).

Except when I’m not.

This is all a long way of getting at this: last year, I totally dropped the ball.

Although I saw this recipe for concord grape focaccia on Smitten Kitchen in early September and put it to the top of my top “to cook” pile, I let it languish, assuming that I had more time. And, that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations at any rate.

Right. About that—it was even better than I had expected.

And, it’s grape season now. Which means, your Saturday plans should involve a trip to your local market. You could make this focaccia with grapes other than the concord variety, but really, why would you? The concord grapes work perfectly. Their intense sweetness makes them the perfect foil for saltiness of the bread. They’ve got just enough acid to compliment the bread base. Before you know it, you’ll have finished an entire focaccia loaf. And, thinking about hiding the second one from your brunch guests.

Do yourself a favor: buy an extra pint of concord grapes while you can. You’re going to want to freeze them, so you can make this long after the season has ended.

And, you might want to infuse some in vodka, too. Watch this space for some instructions.

Concord Grape Focaccia
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved Concord grapes (you can use red grapes here, too)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Deremera sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

In the bowl of on electric mixer, combine water, milk, granulated sugar, and yeast and allow the mixture to sit until it is foamy. This should take approximately ten minutes.

Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix well, using a paddle attachment, on low. Once the mixture has been combined, replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low for another 8 minutes.

Once the dough is well combined, scrape the dough into into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. The brush the top with additional oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a cool place, letting it rise until it doubles in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

One the dough has risen, press the dough down with a floured hand. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two balls. Brush a large parchment lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough balls on to the baking sheet and brush the tops with more oil. Set it aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel. After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into a 8 to 9-inch circle-ish shape. The dough should be dimpled from your fingers. Cover again it again with the towel and let it rise for another 1 1/4 hours in a cool place.

While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the remaining olive oil, brush the dop of the dough. Top it with the grapes, rosemary, coarse sugar and coarse sea salt, spreading it all into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and puffed around edges. Cool before serving.

Makes two 8-9″ focaccia loaves


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When it Works

Sometimes, I get it right.

Lately, not so much.

If you’ve been following along this Summer, then you’ve repeatedly read about how that it’s been a busy one—unplanned in many ways. That’s always the case, I suppose.

I’m rolling with it.

Monday night, after my apartment was back in order and the leftovers from the Last Hurrah Brunch were all stowed away, it struck me that it was, indeed, the last hurrah.

Insightful, I know.

In a feeble attempt to hold on to the season a little longer, I even attempted to use the air conditioning one last time, just because I could.

It turns out that I couldn’t—again, I’m being really deep here.

What I mean is simply that, with the change of season, I think that change is in order, generally.

My friend Peggy recently posted her own version of a back-to-school list, and while I’m keeping mine closer to the vest, I’m running with the promise of fresh starts that seems to go hand and hand with early fall.

In that spirit, I’ll be posting recipes from the last brunch soon, but for now, I want to share a recipe inspired by the school lunches of my childhood. Really, what could be more quintessentially back to school than fruit roll-ups?

Consider this version a reinvented nostalgic version, scented as it is with vanilla, cinnamon, a nutmeg.

Don’t be put off by the time it takes to dry out the fruit—its a reason to loaf at home as the weather gets colder and catch up on some reading. I, for one, cannot think of a better way to spend a cool, crisp fall afternoon.

Fruit Roll-ups

Apple Fruit Roll-Ups
Inspired by Food Network Magazine

1 large Apples, peeled and chopped (I used Mitzu)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS vanilla
1 pinch nutmeg

Vegetable oil, for greasing your baking sheet

In a blender, combine the apples, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon juice. Puree the mixture until it is completely smooth.

Move the pureed apple to a saucepan and bring it to a summer over medium-high heat. Be careful as it might splatter. Once it is at a simmer, lower the heat, to medium-low and cook, stirring periodically — more often towards the end — until most the liquid evaporates, making the mixture very thick. This will take 35-45 minutes.

While you’re stirring the apple puree, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. You should also line a 8-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with a foil that is coated with oil or a Silpat baking mat.

When the apple puree has sufficiently thickened, pour it onto your baking sheet, using a spatula to spread the fruit on the mat or foil into a thin layer. Bake until barely tacky, 3 hours to 3 hours, 30 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the fruit leather cool completely. Peel off of the mat or foil, being sure to check that the fruit leather has no moist spots. If the leather is still moist on the underside, return it to the oven, moist-side up, until dry, about 20 more minutes.

Once the fruit leather is completely dry and has cooled, lay it smooth-side down on a sheet of wax paper. Cut into cut it into strips using kitchen shears. Roll up the strips and store in plastic bags.

Makes 8 fruit roll-ups

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Cause for Celebration

Indulge me if you will. This is my hundredth post.

I was at a party recently when I finally realized how far I had come from here. The fact that I had a blog had come up in conversation and I went through my usual explanation of it—how many months after being restructured at work, I was feeling stymied and started to worry that I’d lose what rudimentary knowledge html I had; how a food blog seemed a better vehicle for creativity since I wouldn’t be mining my personal life for content, which had been something that I wanted to avoid.

Jared stopped me.

“Why not just say, I have a food blog because I like cooking?” he had asked.

I started to protest. A year and some odd months later, and I still don’t think of myself as a food blogger.

“Fine,” he said, “But it sounds so much better. And more interesting.”

The thing is, this project has morphed. I still code all of the posts myself, just so I remember. But, this blog has also gone from being a thing that I do just because to a thing that I look forward to doing. It has become an archive of my cooking and a way to challenge myself, coming up some outlandish projects and new staples.

I’m just as likely to check the recipe index here when I’m cooking as I am to consult a cookbook. I’m hoping that some of you out there are, too.

And, while originally, I took pains to keep the personal out, it has slowly seeped in. I like that.

It seems fitting, too, that my hundred post is one in which I tackle one of my long standing kitchen fears—pie crust. It’s always seemed unnecessarily fussy to me, with the ice water and the need to keep everything chilled just so, and I’ve never been certain it’s worth all the effort. But, after going through the effort of freezing sour cherries during their short lived season, it seemed like it was finally time to try.

I’m ambivalent, which is why I’ve stuck to topping the tart with an almond crumb.

Who knows, maybe lattice crusted will be the next step? Perhaps it’s something to aim for with my two hundredth post.

It’s certainly nice to have goals towards which to aspire.

To make the crust:
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 TBS ice water
1/2 cup (8 TBS) butter, chilled and divided

In a food processor, combine the flours, cinnamon, and butter. Pulse about 10-15 times, adding ice water slowly until the mixture forms into loose pebbles. Turn out of your mixer and form into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To Make the filling:
4 large peaches, diced
3 large shiro plums, diced
1 1/2 cups cherries (sour if you have them)
1 TBS lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar, if using sour cherries. 1/4 cup if using sweet.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS cornstarch

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, plums, cherries, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and corn starch. If you are using sweet cherries, scale back the granulated sugar to 1/4 of a cup or less. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the tart.

To Make the Crumb:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 TBS butter
3 TBS granulated sugar
3 TBS dark brown sugar
1/4 cup almonds
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the almonds have been coarsely ground. Chill for at least twenty minutes before using.

To assemble:
While you are assembling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough and place it into a 9×13″ pan. Using a fork, poke holes along the bottom. Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet.

Pour in the fruit filling, spreading evenly throughout the pan, then top with the almond crumble.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow the tart to sit for at least twenty minutes before serving so that the juices can cool.

Serves Eight

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Summertime and the livin’ is easy

A few days back, I told you about my Memorial Day Weekend adventures, if such a word is correct.

Mostly, it was a weekend marked by lazing about, enjoying good food and relaxed drinks overlooking the water.

Indeed, while not strictly necessary, it helps to have access to a deck and a lake before you begin making white Sangria for no other reason than that the drink screams of summer. It has just the right bit of sweet with a lightness, brought out by the carbonation, that makes the humid days seem more than bearable. That might also have something to do with the generous pour of cognac.

It also helps to have time on your hands when you make this Sangria. The preparation isn’t involved—really, it amounts to a nothing more than some cutting—but the Sangria is something that improves with time, allowing the flavors to muddle together, so the sum becomes better than its parts. You’ll also want to give the drink plenty of time to chill. I like to use ice sparingly here, so the fruit juices don’t get too diluted, but, in a pinch, extra ice works just fine.

The weekend is not quite over, and Sunday is supposed to be lovely. This Sangria is just the thing to kick it off.

White Sangria

1 bottle light to medium bodied white wine (Chardonnay works well here)
1 cup cognac
1/2-3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup cherries, pits removed
2 nectarines, diced
juice of 1 orange
Fresca and/or club soda

Combine blueberries, raspberries, cherries, nectaries, and the juice of 1 orange in the bottom of a large pitcher, muddling slightly. Add the sugar and stir. Note that, if your fruit is ripe, you should only need 1/2 cup. Allow the fruit to sit for approximately 30 minutes, allowing the juice to run out of the fruit.

Add the white white and cognac and chill at least an hour.

Once the sangria has chilled, add in the Fresca/Club Soda so that the liquid reaches the top of your pitcher. Add ice to chill, if necessary, and serve.

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In the interest of full disclosure…

I may have told you this before. No matter as I’m sure that those of you who have been reading from the very beginning have probably noticed anyway.

I’m a really picky eater.

Embarassingly so. particularly for someone who has kept up a food blog for more than a year. After all, I went more than twelve years without eating red meat.

I eat based on textures—in case you were wondering, Jello is out. Curiously, I find gummies to be one of most statisfying types of candy.

I also tend to avoid condiments at any cost. My aversion to mayonaise has been well documented.

And now, here’s another for the records: sour cream.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t buy it. Usually for a recipe that I end up not making (this seems to be a pattern of mine, doesn’t it?). And, so, once again, creativity saves the day—or stubbornness, since instead of throwing away the last batch of sour cream, I made muffins.

It turns out that sour cream is good for something after all. It lends the muffins a subtle tang, which, when paired with lemon zest provides a wonderful tangy counter point to the sweetness of the berries. And, as an added bonus, the extra moisture helps the muffins to freeze well. If you’re going to go that route, simply defrost them in the oven and they’ll be good as new. Which means, a warm breakfast can be ready while you’re in the shower.

Sour Cream Berry Muffins

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees Farenheit.

Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray.

With a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until well creamed. Add egg and beat well. Once combined, mix in the sour cream and the lemon zest.

Put the flours, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into a sifter and sift half over batter. Mix until combined. Once the dry ingredients have been incorporated, sift in the other half and combine. Fold in the berries, taking care not to crush them.

Fill the muffin cups so that they are 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The tops should be golden and a toothpick inserted should come out clean.

Makes twelve muffins

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Sweet and Spicy

Salsa, done right, is the ultimate snack food. Light, filled with vegetables—and in this case fruit—and refreshing.

It’s also the kind of food with thousands of variations. Here, the combination of the sweetness from the mangoes and the spiciness from the shallots counterbalance each other, perfectly rounding the salsa. It’s great served simply, just with corn chips, but even better when served over black beans or freshly grilled fish.

The beauty of it is that you can adapt it to suit your tastes. If you want to make it spicier, add in some fresh hot peppers. Or, if you like cilantro (but, really why would you?), chop it up and mix it in. The variations are endless.

One quick note about the instructions before you get started: It may seem fussy to add the ingredients in the order I’ve indicated, but it’s worth it. By adding the shallots and garlic to the lemon juice first, they mellow out slightly, losing some of their bite and adding a more subtle flavor. Likewise, putting salt in early on helps to draw moisture out of the tomatoes, creating a liquid base, so you’re not simply spooning cut up fruit and vegetables onto your chips. Not that there’d be anything wrong with that.

Mango Salsa

1 mango, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely diced
2 tomatoes, diced with seeds removed
2 TBS lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, minced garlic and diced shallots. Add a pinch of salt and allow to sit at least 5 minutes. This is a good time to start cutting your tomatoes and mangoes.

Add the tomatoes to the lemon/onion mixture and add another pinch of salt. Allow to sit another 5 minutes.

Add the mangoes and stir. Add salt to taste and season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Eat immediately.

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