Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Fruit Kuchen

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the many different things one could possibly mean when using the word cobbler. I shared a recipe for a biscuit-topped cobbler—which is what I mean when I say "cobbler"—but this of course doesn't mean that I don't eat and enjoy the many other kinds of things that can be identified as a cobbler (I just call them something else).

Several years ago a good friend rounded out an early summer dinner with a wonderful little cake that was loaded with summer fruit. I liked it so much that I asked for the recipe. When I sat down to look at it I was surprised to see that it was called "Fresh Fruit Cobbler". The recipe is from the book The Art of Quick Breads and the author, Beth Hensperger, readily admits in her description of the recipe that it really is much more like the beloved kuchens (or cakes) of German, Swiss and Austrian Baking. Whatever one chooses to call it (I prefer kuchen), it is delicious.

A few years later, I ran across a surprisingly simple recipe at the back of The French Laundry Cookbook for Cranberry and Apple Kuchen. The recipe is very similar to Hensperger's "cobbler". I have made both recipes and prefer the cake portion in the French Laundry version and the topping in Hensperger's. The recipe I am posting today is my combination of the two.

This versatile and simple dessert can be made with just about any fruit—or combination of fruits—you like. The French Laundry version uses 1/4-inch thick slices of apples and whole fresh cranberries or blueberries. Beth Hensperger suggests sweet cherries (halved and pitted), raspberries, or any of the summer stone fruits (apricots, plums, nectarines, peeled peaches)—halved, pitted and sliced 1/2-inch thick, chunks of rhubarb or slices of pear...even sliced bananas. In the early autumn I have made it with nothing but pitted and quartered Italian Prune plums.

My favorite summer variation is 1 1/2 cups of raspberries (a 6 oz. box) with 3 cups of sliced apricots or plums (or a combination of the two).

The fruits may be scattered casually over the surface of the cake, or arranged in spirals or concentric circles.

When I include berries in the mix, I don't toss them with the lemon juice...I scatter them separately over the cake.  I toss the remaining sliced fruits with the lemon juice before spreading over the cake.  If you are making an all berry kuchen, just drizzle the lemon juice over the berry topped batter...tossing berries with lemon juice—particularly raspberries and blackberries—will cause them to break apart.

When you build the cake you will look at the quantity of fruit to be spread over the batter and probably think that it is too much—particularly when compared to the measly looking amount of batter in the bottom of the pan. But when you are eating the cake you will discover that the ratio of cake to fruit is just right.

This kuchen is best served the day it is made. I think it is at its peak a few hours after it has been removed from the oven. At that point it will have had time to cool down, making it possible to really taste the fruit. Also, the kuchen will have begun to absorb the fruit juices, making for a soft, tender and moist cake infused with fruit flavor. On the second day, the cake portion will have absorbed more moisture and depending on the fruit—and the person eating the cake—it could be described as a bit soggy. In this state it is in fact a bit more cobbler-like (for those who think of cobbler as a cakey concoction), and is still quite tasty. In reality, it is unlikely that there will be any kuchen left after the first day...but, if there are leftovers, this dessert then becomes what I would call a perfect breakfast.

Summer Fruit Kuchen

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. milk
4 to 4 1/2 c. prepared fruit (see notes)
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Adjust rack so it is in the lower third of the oven (see notes). Butter a 10-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment, butter the parchment and flour the pan. Set aside.

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Combine the milk and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternately with the milk mixture in two additions.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Toss the fruit with the lemon juice and spread evenly over the batter (drizzle any juices remaining in the bowl over the fruit). Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle in an even layer over the fruit. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.

• Fruit may be any combination of whole berries, halved and pitted cherries, pitted and sliced (1/2-inch thick) plums, apricots, or nectarines, peeled, pitted and sliced (1/2-inch thick) peaches, pitted and quartered prune plums, chunks of rhubarb, or 1/4-inch thick wedges of peeled apple or pear.
• In my oven, this cake bakes best if placed in the lower third of the oven. Bake in the middle of the oven if you have an oven with very strong bottom heat.

(Recipe adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller and The Art of Quick Breads by Beth Hensperger)

Printable Version

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sweet Corn with Slow Roasted Tomatoes & Grilled Steak with Lemon-Thyme Butter

Several years ago I helped a friend cater a summer picnic. One of the things she served was a delicious baked dish of corn and vine-ripened tomatoes. All the food at the picnic was really good, but it is the sweet and tangy taste of this dish that I particularly remember. A few months ago when I started to put together a recipe list for a class called "A Summer Steak Dinner for Friends", her dish came to mind. My friend served it with fried chicken, but I thought that its vibrant and friendly flavors would be perfect with a grilled steak...and they were.

When I made my version of this dish I decided to make a quick sauté instead of a baked dish. To get the rich concentrated tomato flavor I remembered, I used some of the slow roasted tomatoes I wrote about a few days ago. If you have some of these (along with their liquid) on hand, this dish goes together in a snap.

Besides the corn and tomatoes, the only other thing in the dish is a bunch of scallions—inspired by a summer salad of corn and tomatoes that ran in Gourmet a few years ago. If you don't have any scallions, you could start out by caramelizing some sweet summer onions (sliced or diced) and finish with a handful of fresh herbs (chives...parsley....basil...dill...etc.) instead of the green of the scallions.

The steak I made to go with the corn and tomatoes—pre-salted, grilled and smeared with a compound butter—was about as simple as it gets. If you are not familiar with compound (or flavored) butters, check out the "basics" post I wrote a couple of summers ago. In that post I focused on how much a flavored butter can enhance a piece of fish (smeared over the surface before baking/roasting), some corn on the cob or a quick sauté of mixed vegetables. But one of the best things you can do with a compound butter is slather it over a steak while it rests...the butter melts, basting the steak and mingling with the meat juices released during the resting process.

The result is a flavorful, meaty sauce. For this steak I made a lemon-thyme butter, enhanced with a bit of garlic and anchovy. It was super good on the steak and I think it would also be excellent on lamb.

Because corn is so good with potatoes and bacon, I rounded out the entrée for my class with a platter of potatoes roasted with sage and bacon. I posted the recipe last year. For my class I added a drizzle/dollop of Herbed Sour Cream. It was unbelievably good with the potatoes. To make it, to a cup of sour cream add 2 tablespoons each of minced chives and minced Italian flat leaf parsley. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Thin with milk if you prefer a "drizzle" to a "dollop".

If you aren't fond of steak, you should still try this simple sauté of corn and slow roasted tomatoes. We had it for dinner one evening a couple of weeks ago with a plain pan seared pork chop and it was delicious. I am also certain that it would be great with a nice piece of sautéed halibut...or fried chicken.... No matter how you choose to serve it, I'm sure you will be surprised and pleased by the astonishing flavor of this simple summer dish.

Sautéed Sweet Corn & Roasted Tomatoes

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, keeping white parts and greens separate
2 T. Olive oil
4 cups corn kernels (from 4 to 6 large ears of corn)
1/4 to 1/2 c. tomato liquid (see recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomatoes)
1 to 1 1/4 lbs. vine ripened tomatoes, Slow-Roasted (1/3 of a recipe), cut into a rough 1/2-inch dice

In a 12-inch heavy sauté pan set over medium-high heat, cook the white parts of the scallions in the olive oil along with a generous pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until golden—about 4 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook. When the corn is hot and sizzling—after 2 or 3 minutes—add a quarter cup of the roasted tomato liquid. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced and the corn is just tender—about 2 or 3 minutes more. If the pan dries out before the corn is cooked the way you like, add a bit more of the liquid.

When the corn is just tender, add the pieces of slow-roasted tomatoes, along with the green parts of the scallions, and heat through. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serves 6 to 8.

(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July 2009)

Strip Steak with Lemon-Thyme Butter

4 strip steaks, about 12 oz. each and about 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch thick
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 recipe Lemon-Thyme Butter

At least 4 hours before cooking the steak, and preferably the night before, season the steaks with the salt (use 3/4 t. kosher salt per pound of steak) and pepper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. About 30 minutes before you plan to cook the steaks, take it out of the refrigerator.

Heat grill to high (you will only be able to hold your hand 2 to 4 inches above the grate for a count of 2 or 3 seconds). If the steaks appear wet, blot with a paper towel. Rub the steaks lightly with oil. Place the steaks on the grill.

After 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, rotate the steaks a quarter turn (this will create attractive “crosshatch” grill marks). After another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, turn the steaks over and cook for a total of 3 to 4 minutes, rotating the steak one quarter turn half-way through the cooking time.

Finally, using a tongs, sear the edges of the steaks—about a minute for each long edge. This steak should be more or less medium rare. For a slightly more well done steak, increase the grilling time slightly. For a substantially more well done steak, it may be necessary to reduce the temperature in addition to increasing the time over the flame. When the steaks are done to your liking, transfer them to a plate. Spread a quarter of the compound butter over each steak and allow it to melt as the steaks rest.

Slice the steaks on a slight diagonal and serve. Serves 8.

Temperature Guidelines for determining “Doneness”:

Rare (cool red center)  —  120°
Medium Rare (warm red center)  —  125°
Medium (rosy center)  —  130°
Medium well (pink center)  —  135°
Well done (no pink)  —  140°

Remember to remove the meat from the oven when the temperature in the center is about 5° lower than the desired final temperature—the meat will continue to cook as it rests.

Lemon-Thyme Butter

2 oz. (4 T.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 t. lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
1 anchovy, smashed to a paste
1 T. picked thyme leaves, minced
Salt and pepper

Cream the butter with the lemon juice and zest, garlic, anchovy and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the butter to sit at room temperature for about half an hour to give the flavors an opportunity to blend and infuse the butter. Use immediately, or chill (or freeze).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

A couple of days ago I made Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for the first time. I don't know why I have never made them before (I have had Barefoot Contessa Parties! for years).  They are probably the best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie I have ever eaten.  Crusty and tender, and at the same time pleasantly soft and chewy....without being gooey or dough-y. Perfect. I think more people need to know about them, so today I'm doing my part to spread the word by sharing the (mostly unchanged) recipe on my blog.

The original recipe is available all over the web (simply google "Ina Garten Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk"), so I'm not going to post it again here. Rather, I'm recording here exactly how I executed the recipe in my kitchen. It is only half of the original since that was all I made (I don't particularly need a full batch of cookies in my cupboard).  Because I almost always use weights when I bake, I have given the recipe in weights. Furthermore, since it is my habit when I mix up peanut butter-style cookies to cream the peanut butter with the butter and sugar, that's how I made these (this is only a slight variation from the original instructions). Finally, the original recipe (made in this quantity) would make 18 to 20 large cookies. I don't care for such large cookies, so I made them smaller and got 3 dozen. I have adjusted the baking time and temperature accordingly.

If you like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, I'm fairly certain this recipe will be one of those that gets tucked into your "keeper" file (if it isn't already there). Enjoy.

Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

150 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
150 grams light brown sugar
75 grams granulated sugar
125 grams creamy peanut butter
1 extra large egg (55 g.)
1 t. vanilla
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together, until light...but don't overdo it. Beat in the peanut butter. Beat the egg, followed by the vanilla, into the creamed mixture until incorporated. Fold in the dry ingredients along with the chocolate chips. Cover and chill at least one hour.

Using a 1/2-ounce scoop, place slightly mounded scoops of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. With floured fingers, press down lightly on the balls of dough (just to create a thick disk of uniform thickness...not to flatten the dough into something that looks like a cookie).

Bake in a 375° oven until the edges are golden and one or two of the cookies have begun to settle (they will puff and then sink slightly as they cool—they should not all have begun to sink while in the oven)—about 10 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet when the cookies are half done. Cool the cookies on the sheets for two to three minutes until they are set and stable enough to lift. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3 dozen.

(Recipe from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Preserving Summer's Bounty with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on how to make tomato sauce with fresh summer tomatoes. Every year I make as much sauce as I can and put it in my freezer to use during the autumn and winter months (in baked pasta, braises, etc.). But sauce is only one way to preserve the delicious vine-ripened tomatoes of summer. Another great way is to dry them out a bit by roasting them in a slow oven. The resulting tomatoes are a fraction of their original size and have an intense, concentrated flavor. Tucked away in the freezer, they can be used all through the tomato-less months of winter on pizzas, in pasta sauces, relishes, soups, stews, vegetable gratins and ... that is, if you don't eat them all before winter arrives. They are that good.

I have been slow-roasting (or "oven-drying") tomatoes for as long as I have been cooking professionally. Besides being a great way to preserve tomatoes, the slow roasting process creates a product that packs a powerful tomato flavor punch without adding a lot of bulk or liquid to a dish. Moreover, if your tomatoes aren't great, slow-roasting them will bring out the very best flavor possible, making it a very useful technique.

You don't really need a recipe to slow-roast tomatoes. The peeled tomato halves are simply dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper and optional herbs and garlic and baked at a low temperature until they have shrunk and given up a large percentage of their liquid. Depending on your oven, the temperature you choose to use, the juiciness and size of the tomatoes you are roasting, the number of tomatoes you are roasting and finally just how dry you want your tomatoes to be (some chefs prefer them a bit softer and less shriveled than others), the process can take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours...even longer. This is a perfect activity for a day (or evening) whey you will be home doing other things and can check on the tomatoes occasionally.

The recipe I am posting is largely taken from Tom Colicchio's book Think Like a Chef. The main difference between his recipe and any other recipe I have ever seen is that instead of going to the trouble to blanch and shock the tomatoes in order to peel them, he starts them out in a hot oven. This causes the skin to release itself from the flesh of the tomatoes so that it can be easily pulled off and discarded. (A brilliantly efficient method.) The oven temperature is then reduced so the tomatoes can have a nice slow roast.

Another great thing about Colicchio's recipe is that it produces more than just roasted tomato halves. One of the by-products of his process is soft, sweet roasted garlic.  The roasted cloves can be peeled and used in innumerable ways. The other "extra" is the flavorful tomato liquid that is poured off during the roasting process. This roasted tomato juice can be added to soups, sauces, vegetable ragouts, vinaigrettes, etc. I love it that there is no waste. Like the tomatoes, both the juices and the roasted garlic can be frozen.

The finished products: tomato halves, roasted garlic cloves, roasted tomato juice

I have changed only a few details of Colicchio's recipe. First, after I peel the skins away, I brush the surfaces of the tomatoes with some of the oily tomato juices released during the initial high temperature roast. I also wait until the tomatoes have been peeled before I salt & pepper them. It doesn't make sense to me to salt the skins which will then be discarded. If it bothers you that there is no salt underneath the tomatoes, go ahead and salt them when you toss them with the olive oil and then give them a very light sprinkle of salt after the skins have been removed. Finally, I remove the garlic cloves from the pan when they are just soft—after about an hour. If they remain in the pan for the entire time, they darken too much for my taste and they also tend to become a bit hard.

You should not feel like the quantities given in the recipe below are iron-clad in any way. It is the process—not the amounts—that is important. I have simply recorded the quantities of ingredients I used the last time I roasted a batch of tomatoes. You should roast whatever you have on hand. For whatever quantity of tomatoes you decide to roast, just remember to choose a rimmed pan that is just the right size to hold all of the tomato halves in an even single layer. If the pan isn't full, the tomatoes will roast unevenly.

In the coming months, I will try to remember to occasionally post recipes that make use of these delicious tomatoes. But if you make them I'm sure you will have no trouble coming up with your own uses...layered into a summer lasagne, tucked into a sandwich, made into a quick relish to top a goat/ricotta smeared crostini..... If you want to have some left for the winter, you should probably make a really big batch.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

3 to 3 1/2 lbs. vine ripened tomatoes, cored and halved cross-wise (if using plum tomatoes, halve them length-wise)
3 or 4 sprigs winter savory
8 to 10 sprigs thyme
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and left unpeeled
1/4 c. olive oil

Place the tomato halves in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat everything with the oil and distribute the garlic and herbs uniformly.

Transfer the tomatoes, herbs, garlic and all liquid to a rimmed half sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  (If you don't have any parchment paper, simply brush the pan with a thin film of olive oil. )  The tomatoes should be placed cut side down and should be arranged so that they are evenly spaced.  The garlic and herbs too, should be distributed evenly around the baking sheet. 

Place the tomatoes in a hot oven (375° to 400°) and roast until the skins split and begin to separate from the flesh—about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and tip off the accumulated juices into a heat-proof container. With the assistance of a pair of tongs or a small paring knife, lift off and discard the skins. Brush the peeled surface of the tomatoes with some of the olive oil that has risen to the top of the tomato juice that was just poured off. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper (be careful—the tomatoes are going to shrink considerably).

Reduce the oven temperature to 275° to 300° and return the tomatoes to the oven.  The lower the temperature, the longer the tomatoes will take...but the less likely they might become over-caramelized as they roast. At the higher temperature, they will cook more quickly, but you will need to monitor them more closely and possibly reduce the temperature as the tomatoes near doneness.

The tomatoes will take anywhere from another 1 1/2 to 4 hours to finish. Remove the garlic cloves after an hour of roasting time (or whenever they have become soft and tender) and continue to tip off and reserve any accumulated juices from the pan as necessary. The tomatoes are done when they have shrunk and appear concentrated—but they should not be dried out.

Allow the tomatoes to cool on the sheet before lifting off and transferring to storage containers. Store the tomatoes in between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container. They will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. If frozen, they are best used within 6 months.

(Recipe adapted from Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Peach & Raspberry Cobbler


Recently I have been thinking about...and making...summer fruit cobbler. If you tell someone you are going to make a fruit cobbler, it is entirely likely that they will envision something that is quite different from the cobbler that you are planning to make. I would venture to guess that there is less agreement among cooks and cookbooks on what is meant by this particular dessert than any other classic fruit dessert. Styles of cobbler seem to vary regionally and also seem to be tied to a family's ethnic/culinary origin. I do not come from a particular ethnic cooking tradition. But I do come from several generations of Midwestern cooks. The style of cobbler that I was raised with is mostly typical for my region. It is a big pan of sweetened and lightly thickened fruit baked with biscuits (drop or rolled) scattered over the surface.

This is still the kind of cobbler that I make most often...and it is what I picture when I refer to a "cobbler"...but I have of course encountered many other kinds.

The first cobbler I ever made was a peach cobbler from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. It consisted of a layer of sweetened and lightly thickened peaches topped with a cake batter. It baked up very much like an upside-down cake—albeit with more fruit and with a more casual and rough appearance. It was not what I had thought a cobbler should be, but it was in the cookbook that I was using to learn how to cook so I went ahead and made it. I remember thinking that it was very good.

Some years later I made another peach cobbler. This one was from a magazine (Midwest or Southern Living, I believe) and was like a deep dish peach pie without the bottom crust. It was also very good. If I am not mistaken, this is also the kind of cobbler that my mother remembers her maternal grandmother making. Recently I discovered that Edna Lewis's idea of cobbler was just like this one...only she included a bottom crust. I guess I'm not quite sure how this differs from a deep dish pie....

I have a good friend (who is also a chef) who champions his grandmother's style of cobbler. He too was raised in the Midwest (which for my purposes is Kansas and Missouri...I realize that the term "Midwest" also means different things to different people, depending on where you were raised), but his grandmother's cobbler seems a bit European to me in that it sounds more like what I would call a kuchen. Her cobbler is made by spreading a thick batter in a thin layer in a pan and then topping it with a generous quantity of juicy fruits and a final sprinkling of sugar (although, when I make a kuchen, I put a streusel on top instead of sugar). My friend remembers the cobblers his grandmother made when he was growing up with great fondness. Unfortunately, like many treasured family recipes, the exact details of her recipe have disappeared. Today, he makes a version that is as close to hers as he has been able to get it. He tells me that every time he makes it he is nearer to getting it right. (He better share some with me when he does.)

I am certain that this short list of cobblers has not exhausted all of the things one might mean by the term cobbler. When I looked up Edna Lewis's recipe, I found that Scott Peacock's family made a cobbler with biscuits, but the biscuits are put in the dish first and a cooked berry juice is poured over the top of them. The baking process produces dumplings in a berry sauce. Peacock calls this "Alabama-style" cobbler. A few years ago I discovered that a friend of mine who was raised in the south (but not in Alabama) means something more like what I would call a crisp when she uses the word cobbler. If I did some actual research, I know I would be able to go on and on.

In any case, the wonderful thing about this great variety of things called cobblers is that all of them sound delicious. I really wish I had the time to bake them all...and compare and contrast. Hopefully someday I will get around to trying one of each kind at least once. Because of my early days learning to cook, I already have a bit of a start. But in reality, since I am a creature of habit, it is most likely I will continue to make the biscuit topped style of cobbler on most occasions when I am in the mood for cobbler.

The only requirements for this type of cobbler are a good biscuit and a generous quantity of ripe fruit that is not overly sweetened or overly thickened. When I eat cobbler, I want to eat lots of juicy fruit garnished with some biscuit...not lots of biscuit with a meager portion of gloppy fruit. You might feel otherwise...which is fine since it is clear that any cake-y or dough-y kind of preparation that includes cooked fruit can probably be called a cobbler.

As far as the biscuit is concerned I just found a recipe that I like very well. While visiting my friend Bonnie we made a variation of the raspberry cobbler that appears in the June issue of Martha Stewart Living. The biscuit in her recipe is a cream-style biscuit (something I am partial to) that baked up sweet and light and with a nice crusty top. Instead of plain raspberries, we made a sort of seasonal mixed fruit cobbler with blueberries and rhubarb in addition to the raspberries.

The resulting cobbler tasted delicious.

If I make it again, I will increase the quantity of fruit a bit. Martha's recipe called for 5 cups of berries. We increased this slightly, but not enough for my taste. I think a cobbler with this quantity of biscuit dough should have 7 or 8 cups of fruit. I also found the finished fruit to be a bit thick—but this was our mistake. We should have decreased the thickener slightly when we went from all berries to part berries and part rhubarb (rhubarb requires less thickener than berries).

When I returned home, I was in the mood still for cobbler. Peach season is just hitting its stride, so I decided to make a Peach and Raspberry cobbler.

I increased the quantity of fruit to about 7 1/2 cups and decreased the cornstarch slightly. I thought this cobbler was about perfect. But in the recipe I have given a range of cornstarch in case you like the juices to be a bit more thickened.

I took my cobbler to a friend's house for dinner and served it with vanilla ice cream. Whipped cream or a dollop of crème fraiche would be good too. Her children seemed to like it very much...and this is one of the nice things about a cobbler—people of all ages and backgrounds seem to enjoy it. The next morning I had just enough left over for breakfast. Served with a big spoonful of plain yogurt, I couldn't believe how good it was. Cream biscuits...yogurt...and a juicy fruit compote....a perfect breakfast....

Peach & Raspberry Cobbler

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200 gr.)
1 3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 c. granulated sugar (50 gr.)
1/4 t. salt
6 T. cold unsalted butter, sliced 1/4-inch thick (85 gr.)
2/3 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing

2 lbs. peaches
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 T. cornstarch (use 2 T. if you prefer a thicker fruit compote)
pinch of salt
12 oz. (3 c.) raspberries

Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter a 2 1/4- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish (one that is about 2-inches deep). Set aside.

Make the biscuit topping: Whisk together flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, and salt. Add the butter and using your hands or a pastry blender, rub in the butter until the mixture has the appearance of cornmeal and peas.

Stir the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula while pouring in the cream, continuing to stir until a soft, shaggy dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, gathering loose bits into ball. Pat dough out into a 3/4-inch thick square, rectangle or oval (depending on the style of dish you are using). Chill the dough while you make the filling.

Cut a small slit in the skin on the bottom of each peach. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Remove from the heat and drop the peaches into the pot. Let stand for 30 seconds to loosen the skins; transfer to a towel. When cool enough to handle, peel, halve, pit and slice the peaches 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick. You should have about 4 to 4 1/2 cups sliced peaches.

Place the peaches in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the peaches. Add the raspberries and carefully fold in. Transfer the fruit to the prepared dish.

Remove the slab of dough from the refrigerator and cut into 9 to 12 rough squares. Place the biscuits on top of filling. Brush with cream, and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

Bake cobbler until the fruit in the center is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes to an hour (loosely tent with foil if biscuit topping gets too dark). Depending on the size of your dish, you may want to slide a baking sheet under the cobbler after about 20 minutes in the oven. Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving...preferably that the juices will have some time to firm up a bit.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, June 2012)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Linguine with Sautéed Cauliflower & Bacon

I just returned from a wonderful week spent visiting my good friend Bonnie. We did many things while I was there, but of course much of our time was spent cooking and talking about food. I anticipate that several future posts will come of the things we made together. But for today, just to get back into the swing of things, I thought I would post something I made right after I got back.

Most of the time when I return from a vacation, I return to either a bare cupboard or a pantry/refrigerator of food in various states of decay. I try to avoid the latter with some judicious planning and eating prior to my departure, but it isn't always possible. And since I hate to throw away food that isn't currently bad...even if I anticipate that it will probably be bad in a week...sometimes I return to find a few inedibles hanging out in my produce drawer.

As always, the day after my return was busy trying to restore the rhythm of normal life...laundry, cleaning, catching up on work correspondence, etc. I never made it to the grocery store. When dinner time rolled around I decided to brave the refrigerator. Inside a loosely closed plastic bag, carefully wrapped in a paper towel, I found a half of a small head of cauliflower that I had purchased at the farmers' market almost a week prior to my departure. I unwrapped it with a bit of trepidation. To my surprise, I discovered it to be perfectly usable—it wasn't limp or moldy and had not developed any sort of strong cabbage-y smell. Such is the beauty of purchasing fresh produce from the grower. (It does make me wonder though how long grocery store cauliflower sits in a warehouse before it reaches the consumer.)

With my cauliflower in hand, and with a bit of rummaging through my pantry staples, I soon found the makings of a delicious pasta. Quick, easy and filled with the salty kinds of things that compliment cauliflower so well (bacon, Pecorino), it will definitely be appearing on our table again.

Linguine with Sautéed Cauliflower & Bacon

2 strips of bacon, sliced cross-wise a scant 1/4-inch thick
Olive oil
1/2 of a very small red onion (about 1 1/2 oz.), cut in a 1/4-inch dice
2 c. (about 6 oz.) small (3/4-inch) cauliflower florets
Salt & Freshly ground Black Pepper
6 oz. Linguine
2 to 3 T. coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
Pecorino, grated medium fine

Warm a scant tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add the bacon and cook, stirring regularly, until the bacon is rendered and crisp. Remove to a plate and pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat, reserving the fat for later.

Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until softened but not browned (about 5 minutes for fresh summer onions). Add some of the reserved fat, push the onion to the edges of the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the cauliflower

and sauté, tossing occasionally, until golden brown in spots—about 4 or 5 minutes. If the sautéing vegetables seem dry, drizzle in a bit more of the reserved drippings.

Season with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Return the bacon to the pan

and add a splash of water (2 or 3 T.); toss to combine. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low. Cook until the cauliflower is tender to the tip of a knife....about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat and cook until any remaining water has evaporated off and the cauliflower is once again sizzling in the fat. Add the parsley and toss to combine. Turn off the heat and keep the cauliflower warm while the pasta cooks.

While the cauliflower cooks, drop the linguine into a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water.

Add the linguine to the pan of cauliflower and toss to combine, adding more of the reserved drippings (or fresh olive oil) and pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Add a handful of Pecorino and toss to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper. Add more oil or pasta water if necessary. Divide between two plates and top with more Pecorino.