Friday, August 29, 2008

Crisp, Crumble, Cobbler

Cobblers, crisps, crumbles, pandownies, buckles, bettys.

Yesterday Elaine tells me that she made an apple crisp using the method of my rhubarb crisp -- that is, with egg in the filling and crumb topping. I think crisp and crumble are regional terms for pastry with fruit on the bottom and a crumb topping. I think buckle and betty may be limited to just blueberry buckle and apple betty -- or may also be regional terms.

Last night, Alice, Miriam, and I made a peach cobbler. Evelyn tried another peach cobbler recipe last weekend that was different from mine. I think cobbler means pastry with fruit on the bottom and pie-crust or biscuit-like topping rather than a crumb topping.

They are all good, especially right now with all the seasonal fruit.

Peach (or Apricot) Cobbler
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make the filling first:

9 to 10 ripe peaches or 1 1/2 lb ripe apricots
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 for apricots)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

Peel the peaches and cut in 6-8 slices each, or cut apricots in quarters. Toss all the ingredients together in a 9-inch round or square glass or ceramic baking dish. Let stand until juicy, about 30 minutes or as long as it takes to make the topping.

For topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar mixed in
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk OR 1/2 c. milk plus a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar
2 or more teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl. Blend in the butter with your fingertips or a knife until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the buttermilk with a fork just until combined. Do not overmix.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on top of the filling; leave spaces in between the blobs to allow topping to expand. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon-sugar.

Bake cobbler in 400 degree oven until fruit is tender and topping is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly, about 15 minutes, and serve warm with ice cream.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From the Fortune Cookie Chronicles

I am a big fan of Jennifer 8 Lee's book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. This morning she posted this video of her experiences in China showing people fortune cookies, which are in fact American.

See the full details in this article on fortune cookies in China.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Roberta's Dangerous Chocolate Cake

My friend Roberta sent me a recipe that seems to be circulating, for a nearly instant chocolate cake which you microwave in a coffee mug. I made myself one for dinner as I was dining alone. It was like a cakey brownie with little warm chocolate patches from the choc chips. Delicious. Very large portion. Here's the recipe (with my adjustments) (and Jen's adjustments). Now you know I'm not eating only fresh produce.

Dangerous Chocolate Cake
1 coffee mug sprayed or greased

4 tablespoons flour, not self rising
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

Mix these well.

1 egg,
mix well, then add
3 tablespoons oil (I cut it to 2 Tb) (Jen cut to 1 Tb) and
3 tablespoons milk (I used 3 generous Tb kefir) (Jen used buttermilk).

If you'd like, add
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (Yes!).

Bake in microwave for 3 minutes. Cake will rise over the top of mug. Do not be alarmed. Let rest a couple of minutes.

Why is this cake the most dangerous?
Because now we are just 5 minutes away from chocolate cake any day, any time!!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Elaine's Plum Cake

This is Elaine's cake made with the recipe she sent me, originally from Janie's Nana.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Local Produce

The Ann Arbor Farmers Market was beautiful and sunlit this morning. I got there early enough to get a good parking space, and quickly bought the items that I wanted for a couple of recipes. The market stall above I where I bought herbs and zucchini. I was thinking plum chutney, but the Michigan blue plums aren't in yet.

And here's what I already have in the oven and in the pot: ratatouille and roasted tomatoes. Last year I made only one tray of tomatoes. We used them up so quickly that this year I have 2 trays in the oven, to cook very slowly until 10:30 PM. Last year's write up is at New Recipe. The recipe came from Lydia, here: Roasted tomatoes. The last thing I made with them was Trout.

When I make ratatouille, I always think of Michelle in Provence and her local produce from the market in Cotignac. This time, every fresh item I used is local. We don't have local olive oil the way they do in Provence!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Home Grown Tomatoes

Thinking about tomatoes -- when we were kids, our neighbor Mr. Boles always gave us tomatoes from his garden. He worked for the agricultural department of the railroad, and he was always checking out new varieties. We loved every one, still warm from the hot St.Louis sun. I may have mentioned this tomato story before.

Sometimes the ones from the farmers market as good as Mr.Boles' home grown tomatoes. Click here to listen to the song "Home Grown Tomatoes" by Guy Clark.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

I can never get to eat too many good tomatoes, even in this high tomato season. I decided to cook some of the gorgeous ripe ones I bought yesterday. Despite what some experts say about canned tomatoes being just as good for cooking as raw ones, there's a splendid richness that comes from cooking really ripe tomatoes and eating them right away.

I didn't want to cook them too long, or make anything too complicated. So I made Shakshuka, an Israeli breakfast favorite for dinner for the two of us. Len's cousin Janet introduced us to this treat on our last day in Israel a couple of years ago.

I made this dish once before, but I don't think I posted anything about it that time. Believe it or not, we ate them with a grilled pepper and tomato salad. As I say, I can never get too many tomatoes in August.

What I did, based roughly on a Joan Nathan recipe --

2 Tb. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, roughly diced
2 large ripe tomatoes (around 12 oz each), cut in bite-size pieces
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
squeeze of tomato paste from a tube

4 large eggs

Over medium heat brown the garlic a little bit in the oil in a small frying pan. Add the tomatoes, salt, paprika, and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stop here if you aren't ready to serve; reheat the tomatoes when ready to cook the eggs.

Break the eggs into the simmering tomato mixture. Cover and continue to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the eggs are set. Serve directly from the frying pan.

More on Plums

Elaine sent this plum cake recipe from her old friend. I haven't tried it, but it's another answer to Arny's request. And it makes the second instance of an Eastern European summer fruit cake today.

Nana's Plum Cake
1/2 stick of butter (2 Oz.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Prune plums
Sugar, butter

-Melt butter, beat in sugar, then egg yolk, then vanilla.
-Add flour, sifted with baking powder and salt.
-Beat egg white until stiff. Fold it into the mixture.
-Pat dough into a 9" or 10" greased pan.
-Heat oven to 400 degrees.
-Cut plums in half the log way (remove pits), and lay them close together all over the dough.
-Sprinkle them with pretty much sugar.
-Dot with butter
-Bake for 20 minutes, or until center of cake starts looking like cake crumb when you look inside with a knife.
This dough is good with all kinds of fruit
Cherries, peaches or apricots with almond flavor in the cake
Blueberries or apples with lemon
I was recently making it with rhubarb, mixing little pieces with flour and sugar before putting them on top.
Part brown sugar is good on the fruit, too.
It's a very quick and easy cake to make.

Chutney Recipes

In answer to Arny's request for a plum chutney recipe, here are several chutney recipes for present and future reference. For plum cake, use the recipe in the earlier blog post today, but use plums instead of peaches. For plum compote, cook plums and apples and maybe some peaches with sugar to taste and a bit of lemon peel -- there's no recipe for this!

Plum Chutney
from the New York Times some time in the 1980s
3 lb blue plums           3 small hot peppers
1 and 1/2 lb. apples 2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups brown sugar 1 tbsp each ginger, allspice, cloves, mustard seed
Slice plums, chop apples, and mix in other ingredients. Simmer till very thick, about 1 hour. Taste and add more sugar if necessary before you have finished simmering it. Place in jars, refrigerate, and let the chutney rest 2 weeks before serving.

Note: I posted it with photos last year: Plum Chutney Recipe

Mango Chutney
6-7 large mangoes*                2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups light brown sugar 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded & chopped
1/2 c. golden raisins 1/2 c. finely chopped candied ginger
1/2 tbsp. Chinese chili-bean 5 whole cloves
paste, mashed ** 5 whole allspice berries
3 cardamom pods 1 stick cinnamon
Peel, seed, and chop the mangoes making various size pieces from very small to 1/4 inch cubes. Place all ingredients in a large kettle, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours until chutney is thick, stirring occasionally to ensure no scorching. Remove large spice pieces. Rinse canning jars in hot water, fill with hot chutney, cover, and store in refrigerator. Be sure to allow chutney to rest for at least 2 weeks to acquire a mature flavor.

You can also sterilize the filled jars with a 10-minute water bath and so on in order to store the chutney at room temperature safely. (I never do this).

* Seems to be better with somewhat greener mangoes.
** Note: my bean paste had whole black beans. The second time I made the chutney I tried to pick them out as they looked funny, even when mashed into the paste. I think Chinese chili garlic paste is a better choice here.

Cranberry Chutney
Use a total of 2 packages of cranberries -- 6 cups
Combine the following in a large pan and boil until sugar dissolves:
   1/2 cup cider vinegar        2 and 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 tsp. curry powder 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves 1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1 and 1/2 cups water
Add and simmer 10 minutes:
   1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped
2 lemons and 2 oranges, prepared as follows
Use the orange and lemon rind and the fruit -- pare rind with a vegetable peeler and chop or grate it. Discard the pith. Section and chop the fruit.

Add and boil 40 minutes:
   1/2 cup golden raisins       1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
3 cups cranberries
Add 3 cups more, that is the rest of the cranberries. I fool around with this recipe a lot. Sometimes I just put everything together and cook until it looks thick and done. Sometimes I use candied ginger.

Store in jars in refrigerator. Age this chutney about a week before using. It keeps for several months in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb-Apricot Chutney
Mainly as received from Lydia at The Perfect Pantry, May 2008
2 cups diced rhubarb                  2 cups dried or fresh apricot halves, diced
1 cup honey OR 1 cup golden raisins
1 and 3/4 c. brown sugar 2 cups cider vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger OR 1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp candied ginger 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp allspice
In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

The original recipe didn't say to age the chutney, but of course I did, and of course it improved with age.

Polish Peach and Apricot Cake from a New Cookbook

Stunningly beautiful Michigan peaches, apricots, plums, peppers, tomatoes, are in season. Lat night for dinner we enjoyed tomato salad, grilled peppers, and the depicted cake made from peaches and apricots.

The cake recipe is very much like the one my mother made, in the Jewish tradition, but this one comes from The Polish Country Kitchen Cookbook by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab. Some Polish friends recently gave me this book as a gift, and I'm really enjoying it.

Like many recently published cookbooks, this one includes a great deal of social history and food history for the recipes. It is organized around the seasons and holidays celebrated in Polish villages. The author is Polish-American, and combines her family recipes and traditions with information about customs throughout Poland in the last two centuries.

While I've read quite a bit about Jewish traditions in villages in the same regions, I learned a lot by reading this book. For one thing, Polish village life continued until quite recently -- and probably is still alive in places. In contrast, I'm used to thinking of Jewish village life, which was completely extinguished in World War II.

The parallels and similarities between Polish customs, foodways, and even vocabulary, and those of their Jewish neighbors are rarely mentioned in the book, but I found it striking. Recipes include similar cakes (babas and babkas), fruit compotes, poppy seed sweets, meat and vegetable soups, noodle casseroles (which would be called kugel in Jewish tradition), kasha and kishka (same words for buckwheat and stuffed intestines, but the Poles used pork), potato pancakes, stuffed dumplings, cucumber salad and others. In many cases, the only difference is the use of bacon and pork fat in the Polish recipe instead of chicken schmaltz, or the use of sour cream to garnish meat dishes as well as vegetable dishes.

The biggest surprise to me was the line-up of Easter foods placed in a basket to be ritually blessed by the priest. A Paschal Lamb made from cake or butter, eggs, meat ("especially pork ... reminiscent of the Old Law of the Old Testament which forbade pork"), horseradish, salt, greenery, and bread were the ritual foods (p. 164-165). Meanwhile, for Passover the same week, their Jewish neighbors, not mentioned in the book, prepared a ritual plate with a lamb bone, horseradish, eggs, salt, greenery, and unleavened bread, as well as charoset -- but never, never pork. I had no idea that the cultures mirrored one another this way.

Click on this copy of the cake recipe -- which includes my notes -- to see a full-sized version. It's definitely a good recipe! For my cake yesterday, I used my sister's technique of baking the cake for 10 minutes before topping it with the fruit, so that all the fruit doesn't sink to the bottom of the cake.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What does this mean?

I just made this blog into a word cloud, using Wordle. I guess the internet is full of silly little applications like this! Well, at least the word "food" came out pretty big.

Here's the word cloud for maetravels:

What do these tell me?

Monday, August 18, 2008

We're not in Hawaii any more

But we had a couple of treats during our last 24 hours on the island. A last dinner at the Kona Brewing Company:

A last lunch at Merriman's Cafe during a leisurely ride up the coast. Dessert: pineapple-papaya crisp with brown sugar ice cream:


Friday, August 15, 2008

An Ancient Hawaiian Kitchen

Between the buildings in our condo complex are the ruins of a royal palace that once stood on this site. All along this beautiful stretch of coast for miles there were a variety of Hawaiian villages, royal residences, fish ponds for aquaculture, boat-launching docks, and sacred sites. On the hills where coffee plantations now stand, ancient Hawaiians cultivated taro and other plants. At the beach a little to the north were several temples to the gods that brought good surfing waves and to the gods of fishing.

According to the documentation on this archaeological site, ancient Hawaiian kings lived here from the 15th to the 19th century. It seems ironic to see such important sites between the swimming pool and the tennis courts -- and to realize how much was destroyed to build these buildings and many other hotels, condos, and a golf course along the coast.

The photos show the part of the complex that the king's men used for living and cooking. Buildings made from wood and plaited or woven leaves and reeds stood on top of the stone foundations. Some of the walls also functioned as defensive fortifications.

The building, as I mentioned, was the men's house. Polynesians -- especially Hawaiians -- believed that it was taboo for men and women to eat together. They ate different foods, especially different types of fish. Some foods were reserved exclusively for the kings, as well. Men and women cooked their meals separately. Women never handled the men's food. Infant boys began to eat with the men as soon as they were weaned.

The Hawaiians did not have any metal until contact with Europeans. (They may have been obtaining a small amount from driftwood with nails in it, from European ships, within a short time before contact.) They used shark fins and teeth for cutting and honing tools and implements, and made fishhooks and weapons from teeth and bones. Their cooking and food preparation utensils, like the foundations of the houses, were all made from volcanic rock and wood. I took the following photos of stone food-prep implements at the Lyman Museum in Hilo a few days ago.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Excellent Restaurants -- And a look in the kitchens

First, two photos of the kitchen at Daniel Thibault, a French/Pacific restaurant in Waimaia where we had lunch yesterday on our way back from seeing the volcano.

Our delicious lunch:

And tonight's dinner: at Rapanui, a very new place in downtown Kailua-Kona. We were surprised and delighted at the delicate touch of the chef. The food is billed as New Zealand-Thai. Last year in N.Z. we found the food wonderful -- this upholds the country's reputation with us. We both had fresh ahi. Mine was with a salad called gado-gado. Len's was served with vegetables and rice. Dessert was an individual coconut cream pie, with a very light, soft filling. I suspect the custard was placed in the shell just before serving, to preserve the crispness of the shell and provide a great contrast in textures.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's for Breakfast?

Far under the surface where I was snorkeling from this morning's boat Len was seeing an amazing sight: three tiger sharks, including this one, up very close. These are deep-ocean creatures that come in to feed from time to time, and our remarkable dive guide knew where to find them today.

This eel also has a rather hungry look, I'd say. I did not see any eels today, though I've seen them on dives earlier during this vacation. I'll probably post a few more of the diving photos at the travel blog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

French Toast at Lava Rock

Last night we slept in Volcano at a forgettable B&noB -- bed but no breakfast. The whole two-day trip was really worth doing: our experience seeing volcanic activity was fabulous -- we had great conditions for viewing the current eruptions. I'll be figuring out a selection from our couple hundred photos of lava gushing into the ocean and creating clouds of steam by day and at night.

We ate breakfast at the Lava Rock Cave. Lilikoi taste of the day: syrup for my French Toast. Excellent, light French toast. Not-too-sweet syrup with fresh-tasting fruit flavor.

Len had a bagel. Did you know that bagels are Hawaiian? At the picnic shelter in Volcanoes National Park we were sitting next to a group of elderly Hawaiian aunties who were talking about where to get the best bagels. So we knew they were authentic local food. What did I say about everything here being both local and global?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Desert Island Pantry

Lydia at The Perfect Pantry once wrote about what she would take to a desert island for her pantry while she was marooned there.

I've been preparing quite a few meals in our mostly un-supplied condo in Hawaii -- an island, though not a desert. I have managed with only a small palate of flavors -- especially compared to the 127 items Lydia admits to having.

A few spices and some vinegar were already in the cupboard, and of course I bought both olive oil and butter. But in the photo you can see the condiments I've been using.

Mustard goes on all the sandwiches we've been eating. It mixes with oil and lemon juice for local tomatoes and lettuce from the small farms over in Waimaia. I coated chicken with it once for pan frying as well. Salsa is good with chips and on a sandwich. Yogurt is a snack, a sauce for fruit, or if plain, a sauce for chicken -- with cucumbers, which grow here and are quite nice.

Ponzu has a lot of possibilities -- I like to have a bottle on hand at home. It's a different flavor for fresh vegetable salad, as well as being good with steak. I bought fresh bok choi, dried shitake mushrooms, and onion -- Hawaiian supermarkets are almost as well-provided as some Oriental groceries back home. I fried the steak and stir fried the vegetables. Along with Ponzu and a little of the water from soaking the mushrooms, I added a little of the vinegar and a packet of sugar. Luckily, some former occupant had taken the sugar from a cafe and left it in the cupboard as well.

That's my desert island cooking!

Kenichi Pacific Dessert

After our sushi, we had the tempura-fried ice cream. Here is the dessert and the kitchen it came from:

Sushi at Kenichi Pacific

First, here's the sushi bar at Kenichi Pacific restaurant. And now, our sushi. We ordered special fresh-ground real wasabi with the shrimp, which had the tails as raw sushi, and the heads tempura fried. This presentation apparently is a kind of classic, and the tempura shrimp was really crunchy and delicious.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Buffy's Cookies

One special treat on the Aloha dive boat is home made cookies to eat after diving (or in my case, snorkeling). Today we had chocolate chip and oatmeal-coconut-chocolate chip. Sometimes Alohi, Mike and Buffy's daughter, makes the cookies -- she and her twin brother were on the boat today so we quizzed her about the technique. Yes, they do chill the dough before baking!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Merriman's Kitchen

Merriman's in Waimea is probably the most famous restaurant here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We've eaten here almost every time we have visited this island. Today, we drove up for lunch -- it's around an hour from the condo we are renting. On the way there and back, we stopped at several breathtaking beaches which I'll post later.

I took photos of Merriman's kitchen and our desserts today. My choice was perfect Waimea strawberries in a tapioca pudding. Len had the chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and espresso sauce. We started with salad -- local red and yellow tomatoes, local goat cheese -- and soup, and both had fish for the main course, garnished with other local vegetables.

Lilikoi tastes of the day: I had lilikoi iced tea. Len's fish came with a lilikoi-flavored dipping sauce. As I recall, I had the lilikoi mousse last year, but it's still on the menu.

A little background: Peter Merriman, the restaurant's founder, was one of the inventors of Pacific Rim cuisine, and developed a whole local gourmet food-growing industry here. Since the climate is diverse, local food includes beef, lamb, herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, tropical fruit, goat cheese, mac nuts, and probably other items as well. Fresh ocean fish complements the farm offerings. The restaurant has been in business for over 20 years, and there are now additional Merriman's on other islands -- but this is the original, in the heart of the farm country where the produce grows. For more on Merriman's, see their website.