Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blue apple

Not really blue, but a blue pearmain, one of the many Michigan heritage varieties currently available at The Produce Station in Ann Arbor. It's crisp and sweet with a pure white flesh that tastes of cinnamon and cider, a bit of apple wine. One good reason to make the, for me, out-of-the-way stop on South State Street on my way out of town.

And possibly a good reason to make the very out-of-the-way trip up to central Michigan to visit the orchard from whence it came, Eastman's Antique Apples. More than 1500 varieties of heritage and antique apples: sounds like a tasting opportunity I might have to experience!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday afternoon

...with almond macaroons, via the always delectable Alice Medrich:

Compared to making macarons, with the aged egg whites, and touchy touchy process for folding the batter, these are both much easier, and at least as delicious.

Begin by grinding 7 ounces of blanched almonds (whole, slivered, or sliced) together with 1-1/2 cups of sugar into a fine powder. If you have a food processor, the almonds and sugar will begin to collect on the sides in a thick paste. At least that's what Ms. Medrich claims. If, like me, all you have is a blender, you will probably have to process the almonds and sugar in batches, and guess a bit as to when it looks done.

Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract, and then gradually process in 3-4 egg whites until the mixture is the texture of thick mashed potatos. Again, with the blender, this was a little tricky, but, with occasional pauses to stir up the ground nuts that were stuck at the bottom, the job got done.

Drop rounded teaspoons (two teaspoons, total) of the batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Let sit for 30 minutes to age. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges begin to color just slightly. Rotate trays midway through the baking time, both top to bottom and from front to back. Drizzle with chocolate, if desired.

These will store well, frozen or refrigerated for several days.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Start here...

Slice in thin ribbons and fry in lots of butter until just crisp, but still green.
Add: a little sliced garlic (if you like), some peas (if you have them), bacon (if the carnivores in your household insist).

Pour over your favorite pasta and season with salt and pepper. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. A glass of wine, of course.

Call it dinner. No one will complain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apricot-Almond Tart

It's been years since I lived in Germany, but I still feel the pulse of those luxurious Sunday afternoon Kaffeestunden, the welcome infusion of sugar and wine after the exertion of that other German ritual, the Sunday Spaziergang through mountain forests. Sometimes there was something more nourishing, a plate of cheese, for example; slices of fresh fruit; coffee and wine. Friends came by to visit, and it was an easy meal, no fuss: we sat in the living room, crumbs falling into the sofa, soft lights, the youngest daughter playing piano; the gentle camaraderie of old friends, the comfortable silences of people who know each other well. Even today, as the sun is sinking into a brand new week, a slice of freshly baked pastry and a glass of wine (coffee if you want to be a purist) seems just the thing to ease the way.

If you haven't such a ritual already in your life, this lovely tart (recipe, from the wonderful, and wonderfully-inspiring pastry studio), filled with plump apricots, and topped with a streusel of almonds and sugar, might be just the one to get you started:

Apricots are not in season around here, so when I discovered that the late-season peaches I had purchased to use for this recipe were mealy, I soaked dried apricots in orange juice and used them instead. It made for a delicious cake that afternoon, but by the next morning, even carefully wrapped, it had begun to go stale: a hazard of yeasted tarts, I fear, and sundried fruit ... and a reminder that a cake like this is meant to share.

Next time, I promise, I will be more generous. We have neighbors now, hard-working organic farmers whose schedules are usually just flexible enough to accommodate a slice of cake. I'm pretty sure I could get them to stop on by. Add in a glass of wine, and I bet the deal is closed.

And next time, I promise to make a few other changes as well: I'll use juicier fruit (plums or pears), which I hope will make for a moister cake; there might be cinnamon or ground cardamom mixed in with the sugar topping; and I'm tempted to spritz the cake with a sweet Riesling, just like my Gastmutti did for practically every tart, as soon as she took it out of the oven.

One thing is for certain, though. With a cake like this, there will definitely be a next time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another experiment

Overall, we do pretty well with our field potatos. Even with our imperfect methods of curing and storing them -- basically, they get whatever temperature and humidity our basement maintains -- we are usually enjoying them through at least early January, and sometimes even into February or March. We are spoiled, though, and we resent those few brief months between the end of last year's potatos and the arrival of the new ones when we are forced to using store-bought ones.

So this year, we're trying something new: interleaving the cured potatos with sprigs of lavender to retard sprouting.

And if our roasted potatos taste of lavender? I, for one, won't mind a bit.