The Persuasive Persimmon Graham Pie

October 26th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Every fall I try to convince my husband that persimmons are one of autumn’s best treats. In turn, he reminds me that the most repugnant fruit that he’s ever eaten remains an unripe persimmon. For years we’ve been stuck at this impasse.

Here’s the deal with persimmons. If you yank a hard, yellowish persimmon from its leafy branch and then immediately take a bite, you’ll experience the bitterest fruit around. Have some patience, wait until the orb has turned reddish-orange in color, has softened and maybe even fallen to the ground and you’ll taste a honeyed fruit like no other.

How do I erase a bad food memory or, at the very least, persuade someone to give this berry another try? Persimmon pudding didn’t do the trick nor did persimmon tarts. No matter how beautiful or aromatic I made the offering, the memory of that acrid flavor lingered on.

This year, though, I hit upon a winning combo, matching pureed persimmons with graham cracker crust. Maybe it’s the mild sweetness of the cookies or the contrast between creamy filling and crumbly crust. In any case, this simple crust tends to elevate pies, making them utterly divine. In my case, it changed the status of persimmons from dreaded to desired ingredient.

PERSIMMON GRAHAM PIE
Eons ago, when I attempted my first homemade graham cracker crust, I read “12 graham crackers” in the recipe’s ingredient list and dutifully broke off 12 individual, little cookies. This, I quickly realized, was not what the recipe writer had meant. For 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, you’ll use 12 sheets of graham crackers. Alternately, you can do what my make-less-work-for-yourself-in-the-kitchen mother used to do and use a store-bought graham cracker crust.
Serves 8

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 12 plain graham crackers, crushed with a rolling pin or ground in a food processor or blender)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch salt

for the filling:
3 large or 4 small ripe persimmons, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan and set aside.

If making your own graham cracker crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, melted butter and salt. Fill the pie pan with the crumb mixture and, using your fingers, evenly spread it over the bottom and sides of the pan, pressing the crumbs together to form a crust.

Place the pie crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, put the persimmon chunks into the bowl of a blender and puree until smooth in consistency. Pour the puree into a measuring cup to ensure that you end up with 1 cup puree.

Return the persimmon puree to the blender. Add the brown sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and pulse the ingredients together.

Remove the pie crust from the oven. Pour the persimmon puree into the crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, checking after 20 minutes to ensure that the crust isn’t browning too much. If it is, cover the crust with strips of aluminum foil or with pie shields. When finished baking, the filling will have set and puffed up. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Always Delightful Dal Tadka

October 7th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Thanks to a Sunday evening spent eating platefuls of homemade Indian curries and watching Ritash Batra’s charming The Lunchbox, I’m shifting gears this week to share one of my favorite meals, dal tadka. In India dal is both an ingredient—legumes such as split peas, beans or lentils—and a savory dish.

Regarding the dish, at least 60 types of dal exist. What differentiates each are the combination of legumes and spices, the cooking times and the final consistency. Some dals are soupy while others are thick and stew-like. In the case of dal tadka I’ve made and eaten both types.

Chana dal (L) and the smaller toor dal (R)

Although turmeric injects its rich color into dal tadka, legumes likewise imbue it with a golden hue. Wondering which legume to use? In northern India I was instructed to buy yellow lentils. However, the staff at New York’s Kalustyan’s swear by chana dal or split black chickpeas. Following their advice, I use chana but, when I don’t have that on hand, I substitute the smaller toor dal or split pigeon pea. With the latter you get a denser, softer dish.

A few years ago, while at the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India, I came across what I dubbed “the ideal dal tadka.” Flavorful and filling, it possessed the perfect blend of aromatic spices and toothsome lentils. Direct-from-the-garden produce, including sweetly sour ginger, spicy green chilies and juicy, red tomatoes, balanced out the delightful dish.

I became so smitten with this dal tadka that the chef there ended up writing down the ingredients and steps and hand-delivering them to me. My version of dal tadka has been adapted from the Oberoi’s delightful recipe.

DELIGHTFUL DAL TADKA
Although it may require more than a few ingredients, dal tadka is still quite simple to make. Boil the lentils. Saute the onion, tomato, peppers and spices. Stir everything together with fresh lemon juice, chopped cilantro and dried chilies. Easy!

Serves 6 to 8

9 cups water
2 cups split pigeon peas (toor dal), chana dal or yellow lentils
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped green chili pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 6 dried red chilies
Generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Basmati rice, for serving

In a large sauce pan bring the lentils, turmeric, salt and water to a boil. Skim the foam off the top, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over medium-low for roughly 1 hour. When finished, the lentils will be soft. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, chopped onion, ginger and green chilies. Saute until the onion browns and then add the tomato, granulated onion and ground cumin and sauté it for 1 minute. Add the lentils, lemon juice and chilies to the cooked onion-tomato (masala) mixture. Check and adjust the seasonings as needed. Finish the dish with chopped coriander. Serve with a side of basmati rice.

Sailing away from Summer in Raspberry Meringue Boats

September 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Sometimes my timing is off. During the last days of summer I collected and baked a rare autumn treat, ground cherries. On the first day of fall I took a field trip to a community supported agricultural garden and picked a quart of a beloved summer delicacy, raspberries. That they had not already been scavenged by birds, bees and other berry fiends amazed me. That they retained their brilliant ruby color and sweet, juicy flavor at the end of a long growing season was even more shocking. How lucky could I get?

Although I’d spent much of the summer simmering, pureeing and swirling fruits into desserts, I didn’t want to toss these fresh-from-the-vine beauties into a blender or pot. Such gorgeousness should be showcased and not transformed into a lumpy, red mass. Rather than just serve them whole with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, I turned to an old family favorite, the meringue. A simple sweet, it would be the perfect foundation for these exquisite berries.If your ancestors are French as a smattering of mine are, then you might swear that meringues originated in France. After all, they star in the classic French dessert île flottante. However, if your relatives are Swiss, you may claim these sweetened, whipped and slowly baked egg whites for Switzerland. Historians can’t say with any certainty which country created them. The one thing upon which everyone can agree, though, is that meringues make a lovely vessel for seasonal fruit.

Although tempted to sail my raspberry meringue boats across an ocean of crème anglaise and channel the old île flottante, I left them dry docked on dessert plates. You can eat these with fork or fingers. The choice is yours.

RASPBERRY MERINGUE BOATS
Makes 2 dozen

for the meringues:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2-3 cups fresh raspberries

for the almond cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

To make the raspberry-chocolate meringue boats, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. See the photo directly below for an example of soft peaks.

Add the vanilla extract and balsamic vinegar and beat until incorporate. Adding the sugar a spoonful at a time, continue to beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. The photo below depicts egg whites beaten into stiff, glossy peaks.

Sprinkle the ground cocoa and chopped chocolate over the top. Using a spatula, fold the cocoa and chocolate into the egg whites. Once they’ve been incorporated, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of meringue on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Using the back of the spoon, make a shallow indentation in the center of the meringue; this is where the raspberries will “sail.” Repeat until you’ve filled up both cookie sheets.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and lower the temperature to 280 degrees. Bake for 1 1/4 hours and then check for doneness by sampling one of the meringues. If, when you bite into it, the texture is firm and the center seems crisp, the meringue is done. If it’s still moist and sticky, leave the meringues in the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes. When finished, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool inside on the parchment. When cool, the meringues should lift easily from the parchment paper. If not, use a thin, flat, metal spatula to remove them.

Before assembling your raspberry boats, you’ll need to make the almond cream. Place the cream, sugar and almond extract in a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the meringue boat. Place an ample amount of raspberries on top of the cream. Repeat until all the boats are made.

Dishy and Delicious Pistachio Coconut Creams

September 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Over the summer I became infatuated with the English syllabub. Velvety and light, this simple dessert consists of only three ingredients—cream, sugar and a smidgen of alcohol. If you’re a traditionalist, you add sweet wine or cider. If you’re more of a rebel, you may include a splash of rum, brandy or any other liqueur or flavoring that strikes your fancy. Whip it all together and you’ve got an ambrosial syllabub.

As winter creeps closer to my doorstep, I start to crave desserts heartier than flavored whipped cream. I still like the idea of a creamy treat that I can spoon into and out of elegant Moroccan tea glasses. However, instead of stuffing these delicate souvenirs with cream, I’m filling them with a far more common and filling Moroccan ingredient, yogurt, and a few other tasty things. The end result? The easy, dishy and delicious Pistachio Coconut Cream.

Reminiscent of the English syllabub, Pistachio Coconut Creams feature yogurt whisked together with confectioner’s sugar, dried coconut and thick and sweetened cream of coconut. Don’t confuse cream of coconut with its thinner, less flavorful relation, coconut milk. You will find both in the international aisle of most grocery stores and in Latin American, Asian and Caribbean markets.

PISTACHIO COCONUT CREAMS
You can also top the coconut creams with chopped toasted almonds, grated chocolate, raspberries or a swirl of chocolate sauce.
Serves 4

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream of coconut
2 cups low-fat, plain Greek yogurt
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons sweetened, dried coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons chopped pistachios

In a large bowl whisk together the cream of coconut, yogurt, sugar, dried coconut and vanilla. Spoon into four small glasses or bowls and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the tops with chopped pistachios.

Bewitching Black Currant Palmiers

September 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A few Sundays ago I lucked out and found fresh, plump red and black currants at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market. Unlike the red currants, which I’d churned into sherbet, I took a fairly traditional approach with the larger, purplish-black fruit and cooked up a batch of black currant jelly.

Why jelly? Like their red relation, black currants contain a large amount of pectin, the substance that causes foods to thicken and gel. To make black currant jelly, I simmered the fruit with some sugar and lemon juice. Once the berries had softened and the sugar had dissolved, I strained the reddish-violet syrup into a glass bowl. I allowed it to cool and set and — voila! — I had black currant jelly.
Because I’d wanted to do more with currants than just make preserves, I came up with a twist on an old family favorite, palmiers. Made from puff pastry, this simple French cookie gets its name from its palm leaf-like shape. Depending on where you live and how you perceive its appearance, you may know this treat as an elephant ear, angel wing or butterfly. Different names. Same sweet.

When I was growing up, my grandmother would make palmiers from leftover dough and granulated sugar, the same ingredients and technique that French bakers had been employing for a century. As elegant as they may sound, palmiers originated in France as a means of using up scraps of puff pastry.

In spite of the cookie’s humble origins I’m more likely to buy puff pastry specifically to make palmiers. I also like to dress up the cookies with ground cinnamon, ginger or chocolate or almond paste. Spreading a thin layer of homemade black currant jelly over the puff pastry isn’t much of a stretch.

If you’re come across black currants and decide to make your own jelly for these cookies, you’ll need to follow the Easy Black Currant Jelly recipe.

EASY BLACK CURRANT JELLY
Makes about 1/2 cup

10 ounces black currants
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the currants, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the berries have softened, the sugar has dissolved and the released juices have thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

Pour the berries and juice into a fine mesh strainer placed over a glass bow. Strain the liquid into the bowl. Using a spoon, press down on the berries to ensure that you squeeze out all of their juices. When finished, discard the spent berries.
Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the jelly has set completely, at least 2 hours.

BLACK CURRANT PALMIERS
Makes 2 dozen

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup black currant jelly
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust your work surface with flour.

Place the puff pastry on the flour-covered work surface and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Evenly spread a thin layer of jelly over the pastry.

Fold the longer sides of the pastry to the middle of the dough, so that the edges of the two touch. Fold each side to the middle again so that you have the long roll that’s depicted in the photo below. Fold one long side over the other so that you have one long, skinny roll. Cut off the uneven ends and set aside the scraps. You can bake or compost them later. If you find that the puff pastry seems too soft, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes or until chilled and firm. Otherwise, using a sharp knife, slice the pastry into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the rounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each. As you’re slicing, be sure to wipe off the knife periodically so that your cookies don’t also become jelly-coated instead of just jelly-filled.

Dust the tops of the cookies with the sugar. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden and puffed. Cool completely on wire racks before consuming.

Elderberries and Cream

August 21st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A little over a month ago I spent a morning picking elderflowers at my friends’ farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Last weekend I returned to find one lone cluster of white flowers and an inordinate number of reddish- to blackish-purple berries drooping from the limbs of their elderberry trees. Since my last visit those pert, little flowers had transformed into August’s big bounty, tart and spicy elderberries.

As with all of this summer’s foraged fruit, elderberry collecting is a new undertaking for me. Sure, I’ve been the beneficiary of others’ wild berry gathering, adding elderberries to mini apple pies and boiling them into violet-colored sauces. However, this would be my first venture into harvesting them.

Thankfully, the task turned out to be quite easy. Just look for the darkest fruit, snap off the sprays of berries and shake them into a big bowl. As I said, easy!

Berries picked and shucked, I took my share home and tried to think of creative ways to use two pounds of this fruit. After washing and removing any remaining stems, leaves, green berries and unlucky insects, I placed half in a large freezer bag and popped them into the freezer. At some point I’d include these in a pie or tart. Along with putting them in baked goods, cooks have long made elderberries into jams, jellies, chutneys, cordials and wine. The fruit’s bold, tangy flavor works particularly well in the latter beverage. Because elderberries do possess this strong, rather earthy taste, I like to temper them with mild and sweet or sweetly tart ingredients such as whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt, apples, pears and oranges.

The following dish may call to mind such earlier summer offerings as Blackberry Fool and Coconut Syllabub. Unlike in fools, the fruit in this recipe is not folded into the cream. If you choose to mix the elderberries into the whipped cream, you will technically have the aforementioned British dessert.

ELDERBERRIES AND CREAM
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound elderberries, washed, drained and all debris removed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Place the elderberries, granulated sugar and water in medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the burner and add the Grand Marnier. Stir to combine, return the pan to the heat and bring the ingredients to a boil. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and allow the ingredients to cool completely.

To make the whipped cream, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks take shape.

To assemble the desserts, spoon equal amounts of elderberries and sauce into 4 to 6 small or juice-sized glasses. Cover the berries with a thick layer of whipped cream. Spoon another layer of elderberries over the whipped cream. Top this with a final layer of whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Rockin’ Red Currant Sherbet

August 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This week I’ve got a great farmers’ market find—currants. In season from June to August, these petite relatives of the gooseberry come in three colors and two sizes. The smaller red and white berries possess a moderately sweet and tart taste and bright, glossy skin. The larger black currant is milder in flavor and duller in color but still has a visual and gustatory bite. All are high in pectin, making them rich in fiber and quick to gel.

British cooks often turn red currants into jams, jellies and sauces. Pop a handful of these little guys into your mouth and you’ll see why. As small as they are, these berries are chocked full of seeds. Although I have munched on fresh currants, I find them far more enjoyable after they’ve been cooked, pureed and strained as the British do. Freed from the currants’ crunchy seeds, I’m left with a thick, ruby syrup that can be made into the aforementioned specialities or into a cotton candy pink sherbet, sorbet or ice cream.

What’s the difference between ice cream, sherbet and sorbet? Dairy. Ice creams typically contain cream. Sherbets may or may not contain milk. Sorbets are dairy-free. Yet, this wasn’t always the case. Two centuries ago sherbet and sorbet referred to the same dish, a cold, sweet, fruit juice-based drink. By the 20th century this cold drink had transformed into a frozen juice. Sometimes it contained milk, making it a sherbet. Sometimes it did not, which meant that it was a sorbet or, in some regions of the country, still a sherbet. When it comes to sherbet versus sorbet, there is no ironclad rule.

Before I share this week’s recipe, I have to present a little discourse on spelling. In the UK this fruit is spelled as one word, i.e. redcurrant. In the U.S. you often see it spelled as two words. Since both Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries opt for the latter, that’s what I’ve chosen to do, too.

RED CURRANT SHERBET
Makes about 4 cups

2 tablespoons water
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 pound red currants
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cups whole milk
Handful of blackcurrants or blueberries, optional, for serving

Place the water, sugar, currants and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the currants have softened and released their juices and the resulting liquid has thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner and allow the ingredients to cool slightly.

Puree the currant mixture in a blender and then strain the puree through a sieve or fine mesh strainer, reserving the thickened syrup and discarding the pulp and seeds. Whisk together the syrup and milk and refrigerate the combo for 45 minutes or until chilled.

To make the sherbet, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making ice cream. Freeze until ready to serve.

Masterminding Moroccan Carrots

August 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Think of all the controversial topics that could come up between family and friends. For most people slender, knobby, orange root vegetables wouldn’t be among them. Yet, in my household carrots have long been a source of contention. Until recently, the only way that I could convince my husband to eat these vegetables was if I shredded and made them into a carrot cake. Smart guy, huh?

Rather than rely on cake alone to provide us that burst of Vitamin A, I look for ways to make carrots more palatable to the picky. So far, Moroccan Carrots, which I featured in Fish Market, are the favorite.When teaching a class, holding a talk or just sitting around the dinner table, I’m frequently asked how I and other food writers create recipes. While I can’t speak for my colleagues, I can explain the rationale and process behind Moroccan Carrots.

All dishes begin with the question “What foods go well together?” If I’m working with a versatile ingredient such as a carrot, that’s easy to answer. From a lifetime of eating carrots I know that they pair beautifully with butter, honey, maple syrup, sugar and salt. If you’ve ever had a glazed carrot, you know this, too. They also partner with spicy, savory and tart ingredients, including cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nuts, parsnips, peas, lemon, lime and olive oil.

The next aspect to consider is the cooking method. How well or poorly does an ingredient respond to different forms of heat? With carrots I can boil, bake, braise, roast, saute, steam, stew or stir fry them. Unlike meats and certain produce, they can also be consumed raw.When masterminding Moroccan Carrots, the next concern was personal preferences. Because my husband loves the sweet spiciness of carrot cake and I adore raw carrots, I decided to pair uncooked carrots with such carrot cake mainstays as cinnamon, raisins and nuts. Since we both enjoy Moroccan cuisine, I added a taste of North Africa to the mixture. Hence the use of preserved lemons and cumin. As for the multifaceted allspice and olive oil, the former lends complexity to the dish while the latter binds the ingredients.

From this point onward I test, tinker with and re-test the recipe, determining proportions and adding or subtracting ingredients. Toss all these considerations together and you get Moroccan Carrots. Sweet enough to be a dessert, they are likewise savory and satisfying enough to be a delightful side dish.

MOROCCAN CARROTS
From Fish Market (Running Press, 2013)
Serves 6

1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch long and 1/4-inch wide matchsticks
1/3 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and diced

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and olive oil.

In a medium bowl toss together the carrots, raisins, and pine nuts. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss again. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 45 minutes or overnight if making a day ahead.

Once the carrots have chilled, add the preserved lemons and toss to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

The Blackberry Fool

August 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This week in the world of seasonal fruit I’ve got a bumper crop of blackberries. The largest of all wild berries, blackberries have long been both treasured and trashed. Give me a bowl of these dazzling, violet-black orbs and I’ll rave about their gorgeous color, plump shape and tartly sweet, purplish juice. Invite me to pick and eat them from a backyard copse and I’ll grumble about their brutally thorny, trailing vines that leave my fingers bloody and their copious seeds that wedge in between every tooth. I’m not the least bit surprised that the British have dubbed this fruit “bramble.” This is one prickly drupe.

In spite of its drawbacks I do adore blackberries. Along with consuming them straight from the stem I like to feature them in a fool. A classic British dessert, a fool is as simple as its name sounds; it consists of mashed raw or cooked fruit folded into homemade whipped cream. Spoon this concoction into delicate, etched glasses or bowls and you have the elegant and ethereal English sweet.
In the UK fools usually contain berries—gooseberries, raspberries or strawberries—or rhubarb or plums. My fruit of choice generally gets reserved for apple and blackberry pie, blackberry jelly or blackberry tea. In the case of the tea it is the plant’s leaves and not the fruit that are used. Nonetheless, I find that the blackberry’s beautiful color and piquant flavor do well in a fool.

Blackberries are in season from June to September. When selecting them, I look for berries possessing a deep, rich color, firm but not hard texture and clean appearance. Highly perishable, they should be consumed immediately. If you refrigerate them, use them within a day.Unlike my previous farm-procured offerings, I plucked my fool’s berries from the produce stand across the street from my Upper West Side apartment. I later braved the thicket at my friends’ Frank and Jane’s farm and collected another cup or so of the fruit. Surprisingly, the differences between cultivated and wild were few. Although larger in size, the commercially produced blackberries possessed the same bright flavor as their wild counterparts.

BLACKBERRY FOOL
Serves 4

2 1/2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the blackberries, half of the sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Allow the berries to sit for at least 15 minutes, stirring periodically, until they have released some of their juices.

Put half of the berries in the bowl of a blender or food processor and puree. Pour the puree over the whole berries and stir the mixture together.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks take shape. At this point fold in the berries. Because I prefer a dryer fool, I strain off and reserve most of the juice and just add the berries and strained puree to the whipped cream. I later drizzle the juice over the individual servings of fool.

If you’re serving this right away, spoon equal amounts of fool into 4 bowls. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate the fool until ready to serve. Note that, when refrigerated, the fool will keep its shape for 2 to 3 hours. Make and serve accordingly.

What to Do with a Boatload of Bananas? Banana Ice Cream-Banana Date Bread Sandwiches!

July 25th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

What can I share about bananas that hasn’t been said a zillion times already? They’re curved, yellow-skinned and white-fleshed with microscopic, black seeds running through their centers. They’re high in potassium and Vitamin B6 and more or less fat-free. They’re also soft, tasty and perishable. But I bet you already knew that.

If you’ve ever eaten one in the tropics, you realize how spectacularly sweet and rich locally grown bananas taste. You likewise understand that this tropical fruit doesn’t come in one color and size only. Red, orange, golden yellow or green-striped, they vary in size from around 2 1/2 to 12 inches.

Bananas originated in Southeast Asia. Perhaps this is why the best bananas I’ve eaten have been along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The length of a pen, their diminutiveness belies their powerful, candy-like flavor. As much as I love dessert, I’d happily skip ice cream, cake or pie and cap off my evening meal with one of these little gems.

Why all this talk of bananas? Thanks to over a dozen ripe bananas and only one banana fanatic in my household, I’ve been baking and cooking with this fruit all week. As a result, I’m passing along not one but two banana-rich recipes, Banana Date Bread and Banana Ice Cream with Honey Sauce. You can eat each independent of the other or put them together and enjoy a glorious year-round treat, Banana Ice Cream-Banana Date Bread Sandwiches with Honey Sauce.

BANANA DATE BREAD
Makes 1 9″x5″ loaf

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped dried dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy in texture, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat until blended and crumbly in texture. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

With a spatula or spoon fold in the mashed bananas and dates and gently stir until just combined. Evenly spread the batter in the greased loaf pan.

Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing the bread from the pan and placing it back on the rack. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.

BANANA ICE CREAM WITH HONEY SAUCE
Makes 3 cups

5 ripe bananas
1 cup skim milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for the sauce
1/4 cup honey, for the sauce

Place the bananas, milk, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If you have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making ice cream. If not, pour the mixture into a freezer-proof bowl and place it in the freezer, removing periodically to stir the mixture until it resembles the texture of ice cream.

To make the honey sauce for topping the ice cream/ice cream sandwich, melt two tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the honey. Pour over the ice cream.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches, take one slice of banana bread and cut it in half. Place one scoop of ice cream between the two halves. Repeat for the desired number of ice cream sandwiches. At this point you can either cover and place the sandwiches in the freezer until you’re ready to eat or gobble them right away with a spoonful of honey sauce over top.