Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not a Fluke

Or The Summer of Plums.  I love stone fruit season and we are now right at the tail end of it.  Fall is officially here, but I'm holding on for a little bit longer before jumping headfirst into the season of apples, apples, apples, pomegranates, and more apples.

While I usually cannot eat enough nectarines and peaches over the Summer, this year I was a little disappointed.  There were great fruits every now and again, but only every now and again.  Plums, though?  I had days upon days filled with black plums, red plums, a pluot here and there, and even green plums.  At season's end, I'm thrilled to find Italian prune plums (also called Empress plums, though these are a little larger) in the stores and markets.  Not typically an eating plum, I personally love the slight tartness when you bite into one that's not overripe.  I love the bright citron flesh hiding underneath the silver wax bloomed dark purple skins.

This recipe won't be for everyone.  Orange blossom water lends a distinct floral (some might say, perfumey) undertone.  If you're totally against it, you could substitute a little almond flavoring, or even a touch of orange.  But...I think the orange blossom is a small enough amount that you won't feel as though you're chewing on a bouquet.  Mind you, I am the girl who loves rose-flavored candies and can happily work through a pack of Choward's violet gum in no time.

Plum and Orange Blossom Preserves
Makes about a cup

3 cups Italian/Empress plums, chopped (about 6-8)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp orange blossom water

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Lower heat and cook until reduced by about a third, 20-25 minutes.  Preserves will thicken a bit.  Store in a glass jar.  This will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.  The possibilities?  On toast.  On French toast, instead of maple syrup (same with waffles).  Mixed with plain  yogurt and topped with granola.  Topping vanilla ice cream.  Mmm hmm...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meatless Monday

Okay...so I just did a little research.  Thank you, Google.  Thank you, Internet.  Did you know the Meatless Monday trend started 11 years ago!?!  I had no idea.  I think I only became aware of it a couple of years ago.  I have tried many, many times to do my part for this trend? tradition? (can you still call it a trend 11 years after its inception?  Does anyone know the rules to this?), but all too often absentmindedly end up having meat at some point on a Monday and think...oh, well...let's try again next week.

Today was one of those days where my eating habits are outright odd.  Sometimes when I'm home all day, I'll either graze for hours, or I won't eat much and what I do eat doesn't even really qualify as a proper meal.  Case in point...'breakfast' was a big taste of almond-peanut butter that I had just made.   The jar I use to store my peanut butter in was too small for the amount made and I didn't want to use a second jar.  I half considered toasting bread to have with my peanut butter, but I really didn't want to bring out the toaster, so there I was, spatula in hand, scooping almond butter out of the food processor bowl.  Lunch, a couple of hours later, was an avocado, sprinkled with a little sea salt and sumac, smeared on a couple of tostadas.  I guess from afar that might look like a meal, but it really wasn't.

So when the 5 o'clock hour came around I gave some serious thought to dinner and wanting to really have something more substantial than a spatula-full of almond butter.  Thinking back over the course of the day and realizing that I hadn't eaten meat, it was a prime opportunity to give this Meatless Monday a conscious effort.  A quick once-over of the contents in the fridge led to this.  I love mushrooms sauted slowly over a low flame, it draws out the earthiness and meatiness.  You can use any mushrooms you like, I tend to stick with white mushrooms (boring, I know).

Spinach and Mushroom with Short Grain Brown Rice
Makes enough for 2

1 cup short grain brown rice
3 cups water
sea salt

1/4 cup green onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 cups spinach, fresh, chopped
6 white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup grated Asiago (or Parmesan cheese)
1 tbsp red pepper oil (optional)

Rinse the rice to remove any dirt or debris and in a large saucepan, add one cup of rice to 3 cups of water, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a low boil, then turn heat to a simmer and cook rice until done (about 20 minutes).  Keep rice covered and fluff when ready.

In a skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and butter until melted, then add green onions and garlic, sauteeing until garlic softens.  Add the mushrooms, slightly lowering heat, and cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes.  Add the spinach, stirring quickly, until wilted.

Plate the rice, topping with the mushrooms and spinach.  Drizzle with red pepper oil (or red pepper flakes) and shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese.