Monday, July 29, 2013

Velvet + Rosemary

My hope is that when you read the title of this post,  the first thought you had wasn't a portrait of Rosemary Clooney on black velvet.   Because that would be a little odd.   But I don't think your first thought would have been coffee cake either.  

Nature's marketing worked its magic on me once again when I was grocery shopping.  I came home with Black Velvet apricots, which are as pretty as they sound.   A hybrid of an apricot and a plum,  they are similar to pluots, but with the fuzzy skin of an apricot and the deep burgundy skin of a plum.  

Another cookbook found its way into my hands a day or so after that shopping trip (shocking!).  The book is called 'Fruit Desserts!' by Dorothy Parker (not that Dorothy Parker) and is filled with pretty straightforward, unfussy, recipes.  The recipe for the Blueberry Coffeecake looked like a winner and an easy pick since I've been wanting to make coffeecake for a while.  

I know rosemary may seem like an odd choice to pair with fruit.  Rosemary is a very polarizing herb, I find.  There are definitely the 'love it' or 'hate it' camps.  I'm in the 'love it' camp.  Remember that scene in 'Gladiator' with Russell Crowe walking through a field of high grass, his hand moving through the grass, fingertips grazing the tips?  That's how I am, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I walk past the pot of rosemary I grow on my patio.  A soft brush against those long, narrow leaves and a deep inhalation of that heavenly scent and my day instantly perks up.

While rosemary is usually found in savoury dishes, I think it lends a subtle, bracing note with fruit, especially stone fruit.  Fresh rosemary also lends a green note that you don't see in the dried variety.  Restraint, though, is necessary.  A hint of rosemary is what I wanted.  As much as I love the scent and taste, I didn't want to be smacked in the face with it, especially with the delicate taste of the apricot.  As an added bonus, I also let the fruit soak in a couple tablespoons of rosemary honey.  But any honey you have will work.

Can I say the cake was a hit if I took it into work (minus a piece...maybe two) and came home with an empty cake pan?

Black Velvet Apricot and Rosemary Coffeecake
Makes one 8x8 inch cake

6-8 Black Velvet (or regular) apricots, chopped
2 tbsp rosemary honey (or whatever  honey you have)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups plus 1 tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 oz milk
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, very finely minced

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1/4 cup butter, softened

Mix the chopped apricots with honey and set aside for at least an hour.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 inch cake pan with parchment and butter lightly.  

In a small bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  Cream the sugar and butter.  Add the egg.  Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the juice from the apricots and the milk.  Add the rosemary and mix well.  Toss the additional tablespoon of flour with the apricots and add to the batter, folding the fruit in gently.  

Spread batter evenly into pan, getting into the corners.   For the crumb topping, mix all the ingredients to form coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle on top of batter.  Bake for 45 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out clean.

You can leave the cake in the pan.  Otherwise, let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing from pan.

For all you Google Reader users out there...I'm sure you know by now that Google did away with Reader.  I've added the blog to Bloglovin' and switched my reading list there too.  I'm pleased with it and if you use them too, please consider adding me to your reading list!

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And if you're still thinking about Rosemary Clooney...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Old Tools of the Trade

Ever since high school, I've been a collector of vintage.  What I collect has changed over the years.  It started with clothing and handbags, scarves, and jewelry. I went through a very long phase of wrought iron candle holders and candelabra.  Then came the kitchen- and dinnerware.  This phase has lasted the longest.  I've started and stopped collections.  Salt and pepper shakers were my first, because they're small.  But seriously, how many sets does one person need?  I've sold most of them, except for the milk glass range set and a 'fancy' silver pair.  Of course, I should apply that thinking to my current 'accidental' collection of pitchers and creamers.  I can't resist the pureness of a white ironstone creamer, or the charm of a bright red cap on a clear glass pitcher.  I love enamelware and glassware.  Anything in aqua makes me weak in the knees.  I have a set of Sasha Brastoff's 'Surf Ballet' in aqua and platinum that I cherish.  That's my 'good' china, the set I would have registered for...if I had been getting married in 1954.  I can see that dinnerware displayed in a blonde Heywood Wakefield hutch, situated in a dining room flooded with light.  Someday.  When I have the house and the hutch.

I love mid-century pieces.  Stainless steel and rosewood serving trays and platters from Denmark.  Pyrex and Fire King casseroles for roasting chicken or baking lasagna.  Silver-trimmed Dorothy Thorpe old fashioned glasses to channel a 'Mad Men' vibe.   And the cookbooks.  Oh, my god...the cookbooks.  This blog has been a thrift shopping bonanza for me.  Know why?  Props!  An interesting plate, an embroidered tablecloth, a glass juicer.  Sometimes I'll be setting up a photo wishing I had a certain colour plate or working in the other direction, I'll be at the thrift store, pick up an item, and imagine it in a future shot.

I try to be practical (justification!).  I look for pieces that I will actually use on a regular basis.  I don't like anything too fine or delicate (hence the pieces of restaurant ware--they take a beating).  So imagine how happy I was when I came across one of my newest finds, an old enameled dutch oven.  Yes, I already had a dutch oven.  All 5-quarts of it are great when I'm making no-knead bread or a large amount of stock.  I wasn't really on the look-out for another one, but when the opportunity arises, well, who am I to say no?  This one...well, she's a looker.  She's a vintage Cousances (bought out by Le Creuset).  Cobalt blue, 18 cm, a little discoloured on the inside from use, but the enamel is still shiny and only a nick or two in the enamel on the rim and one of the handles.  A perfect bargain at $8.00.  A perfect size for me.  A perfect size for making soup.

Maybe I'll share photos of the blog props after I do some rearranging.  Maybe I need to rotate what I have and freshen up the kitchen.  Maybe I need to purge some of the collection.  Or maybe I just need to keep finding things to make in my new old tool.

Pesto Broth with Butternut Squash Ravioli
Serves 2

For the pesto:

4 oz basil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2/3 cup pine nuts
Olive oil

For the soup:

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 tablespoons pesto
2 cups spinach
4 oz ravioli or other cooked pasta
Parmesan, grated, for topping

To make the pesto, remove any thick stems from basil and throw half the amounts of basil, pine nuts, and cheese in a food processor with the garlic and black pepper.  Pulse a few times to mince the ingredients and pour in some olive oil.  Stop every few pulses to scrape down the sides and mix everything together.  Add the remaining ingredients, pulse repeatedly, slowly adding more oil until it reaches a consistency you're happy with.  

Heat the stock over medium heat.  Add the pesto and whisk to mix in.  Add the spinach and let wilt before adding the pasta. Simmer for 5-8 minutes.  Ladle into soup bowls and top with grated cheese.

Note:  I used a butternut squash ravioli from Trader Joe's.  You'll find it in the refrigerated section.  You could easily use tortellini.  If you want to use a plain pasta, I would use a cut like ditalini.  

Isn't she pretty?

It all started last Summer when Dad sent me that green pitcher. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

So's Criminal

...okay...maybe not criminal.  But easy.  I made my first jar of pickles.  Bread and butter favourite!  I can thank The Today Show, Carson Daly, and most specifically, his wife, Siri Pinter, for my first foray into mixing vinegar, sugar, and cucumbers.

It's true...The Today Show is my morning guilty pleasure mix of news, food, and anchor banter.  Carson Daly was a guest anchor last week and while I used to watch his show pretty frequently a couple of years ago, I rarely find myself up past midnight these days.  I like him...he's funny and a little self-deprecating.  And who knew his wife wrote a food blog?  It's called Siriously Delicious and you almost have to feel a little bad for her because her name is...Siri.  Yes, Siri.  I cannot imagine the number of jokes she must have been the brunt of when Apple came out with their own Siri.  On the other hand, she is married to Carson Daly, so I'm sure she's doing just fine.

How did all this lead to pickles?  Well, she was also on The Today Show last Friday doing a food segment.  She was cute and funny too, so I decided to check out her blog.  The pickle recipe was under one of those 'You Might Also Like' links.  I clicked, I liked, I decided to make them.  You know what this means, right?  I'll be making more pickles.  And no mention of pickles can go by without a viewing of this gem:

Bread and Butter Pickles
Adapted from a recipe on Siriously Delicious
Makes about 2 cups

4 Persian cucumbers, sliced thin
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup pure cane sugar
1/2 tbsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp tumeric

Slice the cucumbers, onion, and garlic thin, preferably on a mandoline.  Put the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with the kosher salt to brine.  Let sit for at least an hour.

After you've brined the cucumbers, rinse thoroughly.  In a medium sauce pan, add the cider vinegar and sugar.  Over medium heat, stir frequently and let sugar dissolve.  When sugar has dissolved, add the mustard seed, celery salt, cloves, and tumeric.  Stir.  Add the cucumbers, mixing well.  Allow to come to a low boil.  Let mixture boil for 2-3 minutes, turn off heat.

Allow to cool for a few minutes.  Pour into clean glass jars and refrigerate.

For today's dose of marital banter, here is Siri's Today Show segment.

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