July 25, 2013
When some food new crosses my path that I've never seen before, I can't help myself: I buy it. Sometimes it turns out well, sometimes it doesn't.
When I saw these Harvest Song preserved fresh walnuts – shells and all! – they seemed so strange I couldn't resist. They looked like huge black olives in thick syrup, and I tried to imagine what I might do with them. Put them over ice cream? Serve them with cheese? Pair them with pate?
Yes, to all of the above. They turn out to taste exactly the way you'd expect infant walnuts to taste – fresh, nutty, full of promise. They're particulalry good with powerful blue cheeses – Stilton comes to mind, but they're also great with gorgonzola. They make a very interesting topping for vanilla or coffee ice cream (and I imagine they'd be terrific swirled into home-made ice cream). They're wonderful with chunky pate. And I'm thinking come fall, I'll dice them into an intriguing topping for thick butternut squash soup.
July 24, 2013
Fresh Peach Cobbler with Buttermilk Crust
This is summer, served warm on a plate. Just peeling the peaches, uncovering that color right beneath the skin, makes me happy. As does the scent of this simple cobbler as it bakes, filling the house with its golden aroma. It’s a bit like a biscuit, with warm, ready-made jam.
Peel 4 large peaches, and slice them directly into a glass or ceramic pie plate, being sure to capture the juice. Squeeze half a lemon over the fruit and toss in a quarter to a half cup of sugar (depending on your sweet tooth). Stir in a tablespoon of cornstarch.
Mix a cup of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder, a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and a half teaspoon of salt. Cut in half a stick of butter and very gently mix in a third cup of buttermilk. Plop the dough onto the fruit and bake in a 400 degree oven for about half an hour.
Serve warm, with a pitcher of cream.
The peaches, ready for the crust.
Ready for the oven.
Just out of the oven.
July 23, 2013
Why didn't I know about this earlier?
This artisanal syrup from Morris Kitchens
is a leap forward for lemon. It's not merely fresh and bright, but also complex, with a sneaky, slightly salty undertone and a mysterious flavor that turns out to be the prickly voice of pink peppercorns mingled with the soothing tones of cardamom.
Add a splash of iced fizzy water and you've got a cool refreshing drink. With hot water it turns into excellent tea. And I find it's very nice in marinades, in salad dressings – and it adds an interesting quality to Asian dips. (Try it with soy sauce and ginger for summer rolls.)
Summer just got easier.
July 22, 2013
When some Roman friends gave me this little jar of truffle salt I stuck it in my suitcase and forgot all about it. It seemed like one of those stupid gimmicks for people who have too much money. But one day I was curious enough to open the jar. The warm, truffly aroma that came spilling out was so seductive that I simply had to try it. And then…. well I was hooked.
Unlike most flavored salts I’ve tried, this one is undeniably useful. The earthy undertone gives softly scrambled eggs a gorgeous richness. It’s perfect as a finish for fresh pasta. Shower it onto a tenderloin of beef as it goes in the oven, and watch it coax out flavors you didn’t know were there. And a few sprinkles turns popcorn – which is never less than wonderful – into a serious celebration.
The version my friends found in the Veneto is difficult to find here. But I’ve found another brand at Dean & Deluca, and it’s an entirely suitable substitute.
July 21, 2013
Fresh Corn Muffins
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the kernels from an ear of corn (you should have between half a cup and a cup of kernels).
Whisk a half cup of stoneground cornmeal with a half cup of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and a healthy dash of salt.
Measure a half cup of well-shaken buttermilk into a measuring cup, add an egg and stir well. Add half a stick of melted butter. Gently mix into the flour mixture, and then quickly stir in the corn kernels.
Spoon the batter into a very well-greased 6 muffin tin.
Bake until the tops are golden and a cake tester comes out clean; this should be 20 to 25 minutes.
These are especially wonderful eaten warm, with butter just melting into the crevices.