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Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

poached pears in cold weather; not only are they amazingly delicious, they make your house smell great.

i used five bosc pears that were ripe and needed to be eaten.

choose a dish that will comfortably accommodate the pears; they should be able to remain vertical, but not be jammed in there. i like one that has sides, i think it does a better job of steaming them. peel the pears and slice a tad off the bottom so they will stand nicely. many people core the pears from the bottom, but i think it wastes a lot of the pear.

stand your peeled pears up in the dish. put the zest of a lemon in the dish, and squeeze the juice over the pears. add red wine and a little water to reach about half way up the dish. i used only about a 1/2 cup of water, the rest was wine. i like the dark line the red wine makes on the pear. add about a 2″ piece of ginger cut into matchsticks, some peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, a pat of butter, and a small pinch of salt. bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until they are tender, but not mushy, about 25-20 minutes.

strain the liquid into a small pan; i used a windsor pan, as it’s flared top allows the liquid to evaporate more quickly. i had about 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid, and i added 1/2 cup of sugar. allow the liquid and sugar to boil until it is reduced and it becomes syrupy.

pour the syrup over the pear when served. add whipped cream or creme fraiche
if you like.

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i received a himalayan salt block for christmas from my ex- husband, i had been really curious about cooking on one. i decided to start off slow, with grilled apricots and butternut squash. the salt block did impart a bit of a salty flavor, but it was very complimentary and not overwhelming in the slightest.

i macerated the apricots in some locally hand- crafted aqua vit, a splash of triple sec, and some sugar. i just rubbed the squash with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

while the apricots were stewing in the aqua vit, i heated the salt block. i started it on a low flame, then slowly increased the flame every 15 minutes for almost an hour [it’s about 45 minutes for a smaller block to get it to cooking temperature]. i never let the flame get past medium. i took a small sliver of squash with nothing on it and stuck it in the corner as a temperature control.

when the block was adequately heated, i drained the apricots, put a little butter on the slab, then arranged my apricots stone side down. i was amazed that they sizzled immediately, and after a few minutes the butter was browning beautifully.

i flipped the apricots over and allowed them to cook on the other side. at this point i turned off the flame, but let it sit on the hot burner grate. i sprinkled the tops with a little sugar and flipped them once more on their stone- side to see if the sugar would caramelize nicely. it did.

i squeezed a blood orange into a pan with the liquid from the apricot maceration and added some honey, about 1 t of butter, and a bit more sugar. i let it come to a boil until the sugar was dissolved and it was a little syrupy.

when i removed the apricots from the block, i started the squash. they browned and cooked through quickly. i ate the apricots for lunch with the syrup dripped over and some whipped cream.

i was very pleased with the results. i was glad that i tried something manageable and not meat or fish. but that’s next!

EPILOGUE

so, if you have read by blog before, and you are still unconvinced of my excitement for food [and this blog], i offer some evidence. i ate the apricots at my desk while i downloaded, saved, uploaded, and wrote this post. and not only did i leave the kitchen a complete disaster, but i left the butternut squash on the salt block. the squash became shrunken and salty to the point of being inedible, and circles where the slices had cooked become canals; the slices had sweat and dissolved the salt block. live and learn.

i left the block on the stove burner to allow it to cool slowly. i cleaned the salt block with a sponge that has one of those textured sides [but not abrasive], then just wiped the moisture off with a paper towel. a brush is also recommended, and a patina will develop over time. the block needs to dry thoroughly before next use, overnight. evidently a salt block has a life expectancy of about 24 uses, so plan accordingly. now i have to go clean the kitchen…

[that’s a pot full of stock i made after roasting a turkey yesterday, sitting on the back burner of the stove. looks like soup again soon…]

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this is probably the best pie i have ever made, but that’s not saying a whole lot.

the recipe is a combination of my mom’s orange marmalade pie, and a shaker lemon pie. the marmalade pie has been a frequent staple during the holidays since i was a kid. there’s something about the fresh, crisp, clean citrus in the winter; it’s like mother nature taking pity on us.

the recipe uses blood oranges and meyer lemons; i have no idea why anyone would use anything other than blood oranges and meyer lemons when available; the color and flavor are superior. i’m game for any recipe that uses citrus rind, i might try something with grapefruit… hmmm…

the oranges and lemons are prepared separately, then combined in the shell and baked. i prepare the different parts and let them rest overnight, but you could start it in the morning and bake in the afternoon. it’s important to let the lemons soak with the sugar.

TART CRUST

this recipe makes a very flaky crust, and it’s pretty easy. the trick to making good pastry, i think, is really cold butter. when i make scones, i use frozen butter. the thermostat in my refrigerator is busted, so my butter is pretty much frozen anyway.

measure 3 cups flour into a bowl. dissolve 1/2 t of sea salt in 2/3 cups very cold water and set aside.

cut 2 sticks of unsalted butter, and 4 T of vegetable shortening into very small chunks and toss in the flour mixture, breaking up the clumps of cubes and coating them with flour. with your cold hands, reach in and grab the chunks of butter, and squish them between your thumbs and fingers, kind of smearing the butter and flour together in a big, thick flake. toss around and continue to do this until all of the flour chunks have been smooshed this way. or, use a pastry blender. you can also use a food processor, but only use the “pulse” feature, and don’t over blend.

the mixture should look combined, but with the large flakes of butter. do not over- mix, or your dough will not be flaky, nor will it be tender. drizzle in the water and salt mixture a little at a time, quickly tossing with a fork. i like to use a big serving fork. when it is combined but still rough, let it rest for a minute to allow the water to be absorbed by the flour, then shape the mass into two discs, wrap, and refrigerate.

CITRUS FILLING

with a sharp peeler [oxo makes the absolute best peeler], peel zest from two blood oranges. take a very sharp knife, cut off the ends to make the orange stable on the cutting board, then carefully cut off the white pithy part of the peel just inside the membrane, leaving as much of the flesh as possible.

over a pan, run a sharp knife down beside the membranes that separate each section and remove the sections. squeeze excess juice out of the remaining orange flesh into the pan.

chop orange zest into tiny 1/16″ slices and add it to the pan. simmer the zest, sections, and juice until the liquid [not everything] is reduced to about 1/2 cup. stir in 1/2 cup of sugar and 3T of triple sec and let rest until cool [i left it overnight].

trim off the stem end of the two meyer lemons, then with a peeler, peel the zest off the other end, about an inch from the top. this keeps your fingers from slipping while you slice. cut the lemons in half lengthwise, and with the flesh side down, slice them as thin as possible. it helps if the lemons are very cold [which mine are because, as previously stated, my thermometer is busted on my fridge]. chop the zest from the end as you did with oranges, and add the lemon slices and chopped zest in a non-reactive bowl with 2 cups of sugar. cover and let sit overnight.

the next morning, roll out one of the tart dough disks to a thickness of about 1/4″, and place in the bottom of a 10″ pie pan or tart pan with removable bottom. make sure the tart dough extends a bit beyond the edge of the top, as you will be adhering a top crust.

mix 1 t cornstarch into the orange mixture and distribute orange pieces and liquid evenly around the bottom. beat together 4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks and 1/2 t salt. whisk in the sugar and liquid from the lemons. pour about 1/2 cup of the egg and sugar mixture over the orange layer.

carefully lay lemon slices evenly on the top, trying not to disturb the orange layer. check that any leftover seeds are removed. spoon the remainder of the egg mixture over the lemons; going from outside [near crust] to inside.

beat two egg yolks with 2 T of heavy cream. brush around edge of bottom crust. roll out the second crust and lay over the top. press around edges to adhere, then crimp around the edges as you would do regularly for a pie. sprinkle with a semi- coarse sugar, and cut vent holes in the top of the pie. place a large piece of foil on the rack below the pie [not under the pan]. bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. set a timer for 30 minutes and check.

this pie must cool completely before it is cut so that it will properly set up. i can never resist having a warm slice and wreck it every time. try and show restraint…

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citrus is one of the bright spots of winter, as far as i’m concerned; they are like jewels in a snowstorm with their bright color, vitamins, and juicy texture. this salad combines the sweetness of blood oranges with the grassy taste of spanish olive oil, tartness of vinegar, and mint. i made this with roast lamb, it was a lovely, fresh accompaniment.

with a sharp knife, remove rind of 6 blood oranges, cutting just inside of the membrane separating sections. cut into 1/4″ slices. add the seeds from one half of a pomegranate. combine 1/4 c really good quality olive oil with about 3T (to taste) of pomegranate or balsamic vinegar. add salt and pepper to taste and pour over oranges and pomegranate seeds. garnish with chiffonade* of fresh mint.

*a chiffonade is a technique for cutting leaves of herbs or lettuces. stack leaves and cut thinly into 1/16 – 1/8″ ribbons.

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fruit salad

fruits are extra sweet right now; peaches, berries, nectarines. with all of the sweetness,
i like to add a bit of tartness and freshness to balance out the flavors.

combine in a bowl: cut up peaches, apricots, and nectarines, fresh berries, and sliced cucumber [seeded, and peeled if you like]. squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the fruit and toss gently.

in a small pan combine 1T honey, 2T balsamic vinegar, and 2T orange juice. warm until the honey melts and combines, and the mixture is hot but not boiling. pour mixture over fruit and toss right away. salt lightly. freshly ground pepper to taste if you wish. serve.

fruit_salad

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