Archive for August, 2009

Peach Salsa

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Peachsalsaweb

 
We all need a little zing in our lives–and this recipe delivers it. I served it at a party with chips, but it would also be a terrific accompaniment to poultry or fish.
 
It reminds me of summer itself. It’s a little hot and a little wet. And it bursts with color, flavor, and sweetness.
 
The best peaches to use for this recipe are just ripe, still quite firm ones. VERY ripe ones will render your salsa rather wet.
 
If you use ultra-ripe peaches, you may either strain out a little of their juice before adding them to the salsa or serve the salsa with a slotted spoon.
 
Ingredients:
 
2 tablespoons finely chopped red or other sweet onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (leave in some seeds if you like your salsa hot!)
3 tablespoons (or more if you like) chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons honey
the juice of 1/2 lime
3/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups finely chopped peaches (prepare them a little later than the rest of the ingredients)
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the onion, pepper, cilantro, honey, lime juice, and salt. Let these ingredients marinate for at least an hour. Add the chopped peaches and serve. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.
 
peachesweb

Am I Blue?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Blueberry Snap cut web

 
Nationally, July is blueberry month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here in the hills of western Massachusetts, however, blueberry month falls in August.
 
I know that blueberries are a super food–all those antioxidants!–so I grudgingly eat the big ones in July. I bide my time, however, until the tiny, low-bush berries make their appearance a month later. Locally we find most of these in Heath. This town near my own Hawley is high in elevation and rich in good cooks.
 
Heath’s little blue pearls look prettier, taste sweeter, and freeze better than their jumbo counterparts.
 
For years neighbors just ate them, preserved them, and enjoyed them. Lately local food producers have been using Heath’s blueberries to make tasty, useful products. The Benson Place, a Heath grower, makes something called Wonderfully Wild (and it is!) Blueberry Spread.
 
Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream in Greenfield recently began a limited run of a new flavor called CISA Berry Local Blueberry Ice Cream. The company gets its berries from three Heath farms–the Benson Place, Tripp’s, and Burnt Hill. I asked Bart’s president Barbara Fingold about the origins of the project.
 
She reported that her husband and business partner, Gary Schaefer, is on the board of CISA, the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture. The organization is interested in making more durable products that use local crops, according to Barbara. In fact, she noted, the blueberry ice cream is “a prototype for future products made by Bart’s Homemade, as well as other local producers.”
 
CISA’s workers helped come up with the name of the ice cream and have assisted in publicizing it. A portion of all sales goes toward CISA’s work promoting local farms and farmers.
 
Barbara informed me that the company hopes to try making local peach ice cream soon. I can’t wait! Meanwhile, my family is savoring the current flavor. According to Barbara, its limited run will end in mid-September–or when the company runs out of the ice cream; she called the response “overwhelmingly positive.”
 
We can’t eat ice cream ALL the time, although some of us would like to–so here’s a simple coffee cake to add to your blueberry repertoire. Make it with large berries if you must, but the tiny ones will make it more delicious. It’s easy to bake and serve when you don’t have a lot of time or energy.  
 
Seasonal Heaven: CISA Berry Local Blueberry Ice Cream (with a few peaches!)

Seasonal Heaven: CISA Berry Local Blueberry Ice Cream (with a few peaches!)

 
 
 
Blueberry Snap
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 to 2 cups tiny blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by9-inch baking pan. Cream together the butter and white sugar. Beat the eggs together and then beat them into the butter-sugar combination. Beat in the extract; then add the baking powder and salt.
 
Add the flour and the milk, alternately, to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in the berries.
 
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and top it with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts (if you are using them). Bake for 50 minutes. Serves 9 (with big pieces) to 12 (with tiny pieces).
 
 
snap in pan web

Toni’s Salmon Mousse

Monday, August 24th, 2009
Toni in 2005 (Courtesy of Ena Haines)

Toni in 2005 (Courtesy of Ena Haines)

 
After our memorial party for the late Florette Zuelke, Florette’s niece Sue Stone requested that I post the recipe for one specific food that was served that day. She had fallen love with the rich, velvety salmon mousse provided by Betsy Kovacs.
 
I asked Betsy for the recipe–and she revealed that, appropriately, it came from one of Florette’s cohorts in the glory days of Singing Brook Farm, our summer community in Hawley, Massachusetts.
 
Betsy’s late mother Toni Leitner was charming, energetic (she worked well into her late 80s), bright, and a terrific cook. She gleaned her kitchen skills in one of the legendary culinary capitals of the world, interwar Vienna.
 
In 1965 Toni put together a recipe binder for Betsy. This is one of the binder’s cherished formulas. According to Betsy, Toni would have used the old-fashioned term and called it a receipt.
 
I helped Betsy make the mousse this past weekend–and it couldn’t have been easier. It’s a particularly useful recipe at this time of year because if you use canned salmon (and she generally does) the only cooking involved is boiling a little water.
 
You end up with a cool kitchen–and a dish that evokes the flavor of another remarkable member of a remarkable generation. 
 
Betsy gets ready to add gelatin to the mousse.

Betsy gets ready to add gelatin to the mousse.

 
Ingredients:

  

1/2 cup boiling water

1 envelope gelatin

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tiny onion, sliced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon dill

1 can (1 pound, or the closest approximation) salmon, well drained

1 cup cream (Toni preferred light, but use whatever you have)

2 or more drops red food coloring

 

for the sauce:

 

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

lots of chopped dill

 

Instructions:  

The day before you wish to serve the mousse, prepare it. Place the boiling water in a blender. Add the gelatin, lemon juice, and sliced onion. Blend for 40 seconds.
 
Add the mayonnaise, paprika, dill, and salmon. Replace the top of the blender, leaving the removable center piece off. Blend the mixture while gradually adding the cream. Add the food coloring and blend for 5 to 30 seconds more, until the color is dispersed and the mixture has turned a pale salmon color. 

Pour the mixture into an ungreased 4-cup mold. Cover gently and chill overnight. 

While the mold is chilling prepare the sauce by whisking together its ingredients. Chill until needed. 

The next day, gently dip the outside of the mold in hot water to loosen the mousse. Turn it out onto a platter. 
If you are using a ring mold, place 1/3 to 1/2 of the sauce in the middle of the mousse. (If you put too much sauce in the middle, it will overwhelm the mousse and make it collapse.) Place the remainder of the sauce in a bowl.

Serve with small pieces of bread, toast rounds, or crackers. Makes about 2-1/2 cups mousse. 

salmon mousseweb

Peachy Keen

Friday, August 21st, 2009
Jan likes to think about what she's going to do with orchard-fresh peaches.

Jan likes to think about what she's going to do with orchard-fresh peaches.

 
I can’t stop eating peaches!
 
These gorgeous fruits symbolize the color of this time of year. In August everything around us takes on a golden hue. The light seems deeper and more yellow. Black-eyed susans, sunflowers, and goldenrod fill the fields.
 
Lush yellow peaches give us a literal taste of that glow. It’s not just their color that puts summer’s gold into our mouths. Their juice and their texture–not soft but not hard, just yielding–help our teeth sink into the season.
 
A couple of years ago a frost hit just as peach blossoms came out. It ruined the peach crop in local orchards. I remember feeling as though summer hadn’t really taken place that year. (I’m sure our peach growers felt this lack even more strongly!) Since then I’ve never been able to take peaches for granted. They are a special summer gift.
 
We are lucky enough to have several peach orchards in Franklin County, Massachusetts. I bought the peaches for this recipe at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in South Deerfield, where Tom and Becky Clark were proudly displaying photos of their sojourn at Woodstock40 years ago. The Clarks are wonderful orchardists–caring about their community and full of information about their fruit.
 
Of course, mostly I just eat the peaches (messy but SO GOOD). Company always provides an excuse to bake, however, so here is a simple cake that gently and richly enrobes the peaches.
 
Summer Peach Pound Cake
 
I gave some of this cake to a friend, Helen-Marie Goff. She reported that her children were disappointed that the cake had no frosting … up until the moment they took a bite of the buttery mixture! It is a lovely cake–rich, sweet, and very fruity.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
2 cups chopped fresh peaches
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
 
In a mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Beat in the baking powder and salt.
 
On a low speed blend in the flour until it is incorporated. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the fruit into the batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
 
Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto the rack and let it cool completely. Serves 10 to 12.
 
peach pound cake web

Pestopalooza

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
The Queens of Basil: Denise and Mary Ellen

The Queens of Basil: Denise and Mary Ellen

 
My cousin Mardi reported last week that this year’s rainy summer has made the basil in her garden grow to record heights. She asked what she could do with the stuff aside from making pesto and sprinkling it over tomatoes.
 
I said I would think it over. Little did Mardi know that I had a secret weapon up my sleeve: Stockbridge Farm and its annual Pestopalooza celebration.
 
Stockbridge Herb Farm in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, is owned by Mary Ellen and John Warchol and Mary Ellen’s sister Denise Lemay. Mary Ellen, Denise, and John grow herbs and market a variety of herbal products to the public.
 
Every so often they host public events. Their down-to-earth, fun-filled personalities make these offerings entertaining as well as informative.
 
Last weekend they held their annual salute to basil, Pestopalooza. John showed off his healthy herb patch, which features 40 different varieties of basil. Denise and Mary Ellen cooked under a tent for a couple of hours, demonstrating different uses for basil and pesto.
 
Naturally, I came home with some plants and herb mixes–and a recipe or two. Mary Ellen and Denise explained that one can add other vegetables to this panzanella, an Italian salad starring bread and fresh tomatoes.
 
They used red-basil vinegar, but since my basil vinegar is still steeping (more on that in a future post) I suggest using red-wine vinegar as a substitute. Be sure to wash the lemons well and slice them into very thin pieces (organic ones are best) since you’ll be eating them rind and all.
 
The bread should be at least a day old, preferably a little older; use up your stale bread on this one!
 
It’s a lovely dish for a warm day on which one can’t be bothered to cook. If you want a little protein, add grilled chicken or tuna.
 
Panzanella web
 
 
Basil Panzanella with Tomato and Lemon
 
Ingredients:
 
1 lemon
1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 cups); the Stockbridge gals used mixed red and yellow/orange
3 to 4 slices hearty sourdough or whole-grain bread, toasted and cut into squares
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup fresh basil leaves (use leaves from a miniature basil plant or chop larger leaves coarsely)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-basil or red-wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
 
Instructions:
 
Slice the lemon into paper-thin slices, catching the juice and placing it in a salad bowl. (You may discard the seeds!)
 
Add the tomatoes, toast cubes, capers, and basil. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad, add the salt and pepper, and toss gently. Let the salad sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. (Don’t let it sit for more than 2 hours.)
 
Serves 4 to 6.
 
Forty Kinds of Basil