Autumn delight: quinces

Now I really feel as if fall is here!  I found quinces in the market!  You don’t often see them (they appear in late fall (just before frost), but when you find them, you just have to

quinces on tree

from elderflower orchards

do something with them.  One of the things to do with them is to let them sit around in your fruit bowl and simply perfume the room.

Although they are considered by most to be inedible uncooked, they are wonderful to cook with.  Simply poaching them turns them a lovely rosy shade, and makes them absolutely luscious. Or there is membrillo (quince paste) which is lovely with cheese–particularly manchego

Here is a favorite recipe from David Lebovitz.  I’ve included the recipe below, but you really should read the additional information from his blog.

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Poached Quinces

(From David Lebovitz’s living the sweet life in paris)

Quince are not usually raised commercially so you won’t find many picture-perfect specimens. Expect a few bruises and scrapes, but avoid fruits with soft, dark spots. Like pears, quince ripen from the inside out, so later in the season, you might find fruit that’s past its prime when you cut them open. I look for firm quinces and lift them to my nose; if they have a nice fragrance, there’s a good chance they’re good candidates for poaching.

Some recipes advise soaking the peeled quince slices in lemon-tinged water to avoid browning. I’ve never done that, but instead, I simply slip them into the warm poaching liquid and any trace of discoloration soon disappears. Of course, this recipe can be halved, or increased.

7 cups (1.75l) water
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (150g) honey
1 lemon (preferably unsprayed), cut in half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 large, or 8 medium, quince

1. Mix the water, sugar, honey, lemon and vanilla bean in a large non-reactive pot and turn it on to medium-to-high heat. You can add any additional spices or seasonings, as indicated above, if you wish.

2. While the liquid is heating, quarter, peel, and remove the cores of the quince. Make sure to removed anything tough for fibrous, being very careful with the knife. (The intrepid can wear one of these.)

3. As you peel and prepare the quince quarters, slip each one into the simmering liquid. Once they’re all done, cover the pot with a round of parchment paper with a walnut-sized hole cut in the center and place it on top.

4. Simmer the quince (do not boil) for at least an hour, until the quince are cooked through.

Cooking time will vary, depending on the quince. They’re done when they are cooked through, which you can verify by piercing one with the tip of a sharp paring knife. It’s not unusual for them to take up to 2 hours, or more.

Serve warm, or at room temperature. To store, pour the quince and their liquid into a storage container and refrigerate for up to one week.

You can also use these poached quince to make my Quince tarte Tatin.

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Thank you, David Lebovitz!  Wonderful recipes on this website.  It’s a go-to for desserts.

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Varietal honey

I’ve always loved honey–even as a child–especially comb (also known as cut-comb) honey. Now that I have bees I have my own honey–but it is wildflower honey. It’s a mix of Honey jars 20160702_140009whatever is currently providing nectar for the ladies to tote back to the hive and process into honey.

Varietal  honeys have flavors that can be quite distinctive. (Note that I’m not referring to “infused honey” which has had flavors added–e.g. chilli pepper, which sounds delightful to me, but rather honey which is made exclusively (or almost) from a single flower.) My honey shelf includes varietals such as leatherwood, tupelo, orange blossom, thyme, lavender, eucalyptus, buckwheat, sourwood–and what was purported to be kudzu honey. I think the Hawaiian white is all gone. Always on the lookout for good varietals. It’s a real treat to have these on biscuits or warm, homemade bread, or used in a sorbet, sherbert, or granita where the individual flavors really stand out–or just on morning oatmeal.

These thoughts on varietal honeys sprang from update from Honey Bee Suite answering the question of whether or not bees made honey from poison ivy/poison oak. Turns out that they do–and the blog post included a link to a source of some really interesting varietals from the Pacific Northwest varietals. I think I really have to have some poison bees on frame of honeyoak honey–especially as I share the experience of having that same kind of reaction to exposure to poison ivy, although mine didn’t involve any horses. Just a lot of poison ivy.

The post on poison ivy/oak honey had a link to a site that has an interesting array of varietal honeys from Old Blue Raw Honey as single season, samplers, and the year-long honey subscription–a serious gift for a honey lover!

To have a varietal honey there has to be enough of the blossoms to let the honey bees do their “monofloral” thing. Even wildflower flavors will vary from season to season as the flora shifts; fall will bring goldenrod and aster nectar for honey. One of the intriguing things about honey in the comb is that you get to variable flavor even within “wildflower” honey.

 

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Cool stuff for hot weather

pickling and Amira cucumbers side by side

This hot weather has me looking for cool things–ways to beat the heat. Cucumber is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of cool, refreshing things–with tomatoes in salad, or with mangos. But thinking really cold, I started  skulking through my old recipes for a dimly remembered recipe for cucumber sorbet with eucalyptus honey.

Eucalyptus honey is fairly dark, with an assertive earthy, spicy flavor with a slightly cool overtone like mild menthol. For some it might be called medicinal, but I found it an interesting combination, with the cool cucumber plus the extra little kick of coolness from the eucalyptus honey. (If you don’t have eucalyptus honey, this sorbet will still be tasty.)

Problem–someone (no names here) didn’t write down the quantities or the source of this recipe–or maybe it was an off-the-cuff invention with whatever was around at the time that obviously included eucalyptus honey.

So, some research. Going to The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz (one of my two favorite sources on frozen dessert stuff), and Jenis Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (my other ice cream favorite) I found what I needed to fill in the missing quantities for the sorbet.

Cucumber and Eucalyptus Honey Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 2 English or Japanese cucumbers–about 2 pounds–coarsely chopped
  • 5 ounces eucalyptus* honey
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Preparation and notes

  • I prefer the English or Japanese cucumbers because you don’t need to remove seeds. This would take about 2 cucumbers. Peeling is not necessary. If you have slicing cucumbers, remove seeds.
  • Combine honey and water; heating is not necessary.
  • Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions
  • To make without an ice cream maker, use the method for granitas: pour into a shallow baking dish and place in the freezer. Stir with a fork about every 30 minutes until firm. (This breaks up ice crystals although the texture will not be as fine as with an ice cream maker–but still tasty.)

*A note on honey: Eucalyptus honey is a varietal honey; made from the nectar that bees collect from flowering eucalyptus trees. It is not an “infused” or “flavored” honey–those are made by adding flavoring to wildflower honey. I found the eucalyptus honey in my local Harris Teeter grocery store, next to the orange blossom and wildflower honey.

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Some other interesting recipes that I found whilst trolling the internet:

 

 

There’s an app for improvisation

Cooking for one? Frustrated with recipe adjustment? You want to improvise but not quite ready to just “wing it”?  You want a fritter batter (for one or two) but the recipe serves six?

Using something other than measuring cups and measuring spoons can give you a lot more freedom in the kitchen. How to Cook without a Book will help you get away from the frustration of looking at the recipe that serves six and wondering how to modify it for you (and the cat). If you know cooking techniques (e.g. sauté or braise) you are well on your way to using that recipe for inspiration and adapt it to your needs and taste. If you want a good start on learning techniques, I would recommend you check out Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty that includes not only the techniques but important ingredients as well: water, onions, acids, eggs, butter, and flour for a start.  Now to take improvisation to the next level of freedom from recipes: using ratios of ingredients.

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking Cover ImageThe Ratio (link below) is devoted to explaining and working with ratios in the kitchen.  Topics in this book include batters (cake and bread), stocks, roux, sauces, and even sausages. Measuring by weight  (though not required) does simplify this process–and eliminate washing all those measuring cups and measuring spoons. Adjusting the amounts of main ingredients is straight forward, but this approach does mean that you will need to adjust seasoning by tasting–rather than simply mathematically.

There is an app that will put all this at your fingertips (links below). Let’s say your gardening neighbor has just gifted you a BIG bag of zucchini. You might think you can use some of them to make fritters as the main course for your supper. You can go the Google route–find a butt-load of recipes, most of which serve six, or you can use this app to check batters–and you’ll see a button for fritter batter. The “details” tab will give you more specific information: e.g. that each 4 ounces of flour and liquid will hold together two cups of garnish (your shredded zucchini) and that would make about eight nice, big fritters and some seasoning suggestions for both sweet and savory. This app is NOT free ($4.99 from Google Play via Ruhlman Enterprises); there are some issues with it–but I think it’s worth that small price.

The issues: The egg part of the ratio, since eggs come nicely packaged right from the hen. I learned the “ratio” approach from my grandmother she taught me to make a “pound” cake or “four parts” cake–since the egg was premeasured, we worked in egg weights and use an equal weight of each other ingredients–flour, sugar, and butter. This is easy if you use scales, but if not, then here are some ways to deal with the egg part of the ratio.

Weights of various grades of eggs for the USA and for other countries can be found in Wikipedia; additional volume information can be found on Get Cracking . Using this site you can find that a large egg (called for in most recipes) weighs 2.0 to 2.25 ounces (56.7 to 63.7 grams) and volume of 46 mL (3.25 tablespoons). Cup equivalents of eggs are found at The Incredible Edible Egg. Some recipes (custards and some sauces) will call for egg yolks only. To help on these calculations you need to know the weight of the yolk of a large egg is 17 grams or 0.60 ounces. Weights for other egg sizes can be found at  the {convert to} site. From this same  website you can convert that 1 yolk into cup measure: 0.07 cups, which is equal to 0.56 fluid ounces, or 1.12 tablespoons, or 3.37 teaspoons of egg yolk. (I doubt that you’ll be doing this kind of conversions–but it can be done.) Just to be complete,  the weight of egg white from large eggs is = 33 grams = 1.2 oz. The information for other sizes/grades of chicken eggs, as well as duck, quail, and turkey eggs, is also given.

Now suppose you want to make a small amount of custard (e.g. for quiche) you can use the calculator of this app to determine how much liquid you need. To do this by weight, enter 56.7 in the “eggs” and set units to grams. Now set the liquid units to grams as well–and the calculator will tell you to use 113 grams of liquid. (You’re saying you could have done that in your head–true, but now you click the “details” tab, and you’ll get a kind of “master” recipe with more instructions.)  Want Crème Anglaise using only egg yolks? Use the weight of the number of egg yolks, and the calculator will spit out the amount of cream and sugar you need, as well as the total weight. For two egg yolks, you would need 136 grams cream and 34 grams of sugar.

More on using ratios:

Happy improvisation with ratios! A son gôut!

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Fresh Fig Ice Cream (Gelato di Fichi)

I just have to pass along this post from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. I love figs, love ice cream, and this is easy. I’ll be anticipating the fig season next year, though we have brown Turkey figs here, rather than the deep purple ones.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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Fresh figs have to be imported and because they are quite perishable they are not often of a great quality, but sometimes some nice figs are available in the Netherlands. A nice way to use them is to make ice cream. I’ve used a recipe from SeriousEats that uses lemon zest and lemon juice to enhance the flavor, and it was very nice indeed. The recipe is quite easy as nog eggs are involved. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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Makes about 750 ml (3 cups)

900 grams (2 lbs) fresh figs, plus additional figs for garnish (optional)

1 untreated lemon

150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar

250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream

Preparation

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Wash and dry the figs and remove the tough stem.

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Chop the figs.

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Put the figs in a saucepan with 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water.

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Add the grated zest of a lemon.

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Bring to a boil, stirring…

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Fig season

ripening fig

Excitement. . . .

Anticipation is one of the good things about seasonal foods. I know some have already had fresh figs this season, but not here yet. I’m anticipating that day when I see that luscious, brownish-reddish fruit, the little drop of nectar at the bottom telling me its ready to eat. It’s like the anticipation of the first asparagus in the spring, or the first home-grown tomato in the heat of the summer. The very first of a seasonal food–even if it’s only a single fig found ready to eat, need to be appreciated without adornment so that the appreciate the season, not the sauce or other accompaniments. Those come later when the figs, asparagus, or tomatoes are more abundant–maybe even a little overwhelming.

The first of the brown turkey figs are starting to ripen now–they are straggling in–the figs are ranging from very tiny to several that have been mostly devoured by birds, to one that was ready for me to eat–but lots of tiny ones that I can look forward to.

Mornings may find me with my latte visiting the fig tree in hopes of a fresh-off-the-tree, warm from the sunshine, figs for breakfast.

There are so many easy things to do with figs:

The anticipation of watching them ripen, hoping that you’ll get them before the birds. . .so many easy and delightful ways to enjoy this luscious fruit during its season.

 

Recipe: Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

I like this wine–just for drinking, and can imagine that this will be awesome.

Wine by Ari

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I came across this amazing recipe for Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake from Chasing Delicious.

Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces flour
  • 2 ounces cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 ounces vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⅓ cup sweet red wine (try Apothic Dark)
  • 1 cup cinnamon red wine sauce, recipe below

Instructions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter and flour or grease a bundt pan. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Beat the sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the vanilla, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture and mix in well. Pour in the wine and mix…

View original post 207 more words