Archives for category: fruit
painting of sour cherry pie, cherry syrup and ingredients

Sour Cherry Pie (Detail) 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor paper. Sharyn Dimmick

How can cherries be a part of seasonal cooking in November when I don’t live in Australia? When the weather turns cold we turn to preserved foods. We still have apples on our backyard apple tree, but Mom asked me to roast a pork loin and some squash while she and my sister-in-law Barbara scrubbed and taped walls for painting (I know I got the better part of this division of labor). Because I am supposedly getting ready for a week away, I wanted an easy pie with no peeling and paring, no slicing, so I went for the canned cherries in the garage. These are pitted sour cherries canned in juice. Mom had made crust earlier in the week, so it was pie time again. And while I’m at it, I’ll just say that I have made fresh sour cherry pie from some sour cherries I scored at the Ferry Plaza market in San Francisco and — drum roll — we prefer pie made with canned sour cherries.

Here is how to make cherry pie — my cherry pie.

Make the crust first. If you make Madge’s recipe, you will have enough crust for two cherry pies, so you can pit my cherry pie against your favorite recipe, double the filling recipe and make two cherry pies from this recipe or save the extra crust for quiche or apple pie. Our recipe is handy at Thanksgiving and Christmas when you are baking lots of of pies, but. truth to tell, pie is never a problem here: we’ll eat it for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea.

Once again, the no-rant version* of pie crust for your convenience:

Cut 1 cup of vegetable shortening plus 2 Tbsp of butter into 3 cups of unbleached flour and 1 tsp salt  until the mixture resembles small peas. Do not overwork the dough — you want to see streaks of fat in the raw dough: they will melt while baking and create flaky crust. If you use salted butter, you can reduce the salt to 1/4 tsp.

Into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, break 1 large egg. Beat egg with fork until blended.

Add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar to egg and stir. Then add water until combined liquids measure 1/2 cup, plus a little more.

Add liquids to shortening and flour and work just until combined. Pat dough into a flattened circle. If you are a novice pie baker, you may want to wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill it for awhile. The intrepid and experienced can divide the dough in half and proceed by cutting one half-circle in half again — this recipe makes four crusts, so half of it will give you the crust for your two-crust cherry pie.

Roll crust out on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Roll firmly but lightly, being sure to roll all the way to the edges — you want the crust thin, but you don’t want to press it down and make it stick. You’ll figure it out — it’s not that hard. Try your best to keep the crust circular. Measure the crust by setting your pie plate on top of it, allowing for enough crust to cover the sides. Fold rolled crust into quarters to pick it up and unfold it again in your pie tin.

Now you have an aesthetic choice to make. For that classic lattice cherry pie you can roll your next quarter of crust into another circle and cut the crust into long strips, which you will lay crosswise over the filling later. If you don’t have the inclination to build a lattice, just take your circle and fold it into quarters, leaving it for the top crust later.

Go and preheat your oven to 375 degrees if using a Pyrex pie plate. If you use metal, you can start the pie at 400, but be on hand to turn it down after ten or fifteen minutes.

Now the filling:

Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch and scant 3/4 cup sugar in a dry saucepan. Whisk until blended.

Open 2 cans of sour cherries packed in water (Do not use cherry pie filling, which belongs on The Horror Roll). Drain the juice from the cherries into a 2-cup measuring cup — you will have about 1 and 1/3 cups. Leave the drained cherries in the cans for now.

Whisk 1/3 cup cherry juice into the cornstarch and sugar and stir with whisk until thickened over medium heat. The first sign that the cornstarch is working is the appearance of little shapes that look like ragged skin. If you don’t care for the pale pink color add the secret ingredient, red food coloring, drop by drop until you get a hue you like — I particularly recommend this option if you are going the lattice crust route or planning to take photos of your pie. When the mixture is thick and glossy add the reserved cherries, remove from heat and stir in

1 Tbsp butter and

a grating of fresh nutmeg

Pour the filling into your prepared pie shell and weave your lattice strips over the top, or plonk your unfolded top crust over the filling and make an attractive pattern of knife slashes for vents. Do not wash your saucepan yet! Place pie in oven. Bake for about 50 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and filling is bubbling.

Now, remember that other cup of cherry juice sitting in your measuring cup? You can drink it if you want to, which Mom does sometimes, but this is what I do with it: put it in your saucepan. Add some sugar — more than a Tablespoon, less than a cup. Turn the burner back on and boil it down until thickened — you want it to coat the spoon and be bubbly and shiny. Decant carefully into a glass jar (pour along a spoon or a knife if you are nervous — the metal absorbs some of the heat). Let cool and then refrigerate. This will keep indefinitely in a cold refrigerator. It is delicious on cornmeal pancakes, stirred into your morning oatmeal, over ice cream, with lemon pound cake …. You can also add some cream and cook it into cherry caramel — you’ll never drain cherries over the sink or throw out cherry juice again!

Let your pie cool while you eat dinner or make tea (at least fifteen or twenty minutes — the hotter the pie when you cut it, the more likely the filling is to run. We don’t care a whole lot about this, but for a prettier pie give it some cooling time).

Serve plain or a la mode.

*For the full rant on pie crust, please visit Gravenstein Apple Pie.

Food notes: For the full flavor benefit you must make this with sour cherries packed in water and scant the sugar as I do. For those of you stateside, canned sour pie cherries show up infrequently at Canned Foods Grocery Outlet — aka “Half Foods.” Some cherry pie recipes call for lemon — that will not be necessary with this pie. Please do not make it with sweet cherries (Bings, Burlats, etc.) — sour cherries have a different flavor, the ideal flavor for cherry pie in my opinion. Try them and see. If you are out of cornstarch, you can substitute flour: if you use flour, your filling will be cloudy rather than clear, but it will taste equally good.

On Kale: When I wasn’t making cherry pie, baking acorn squash with hot mustard, honey, lime and black pepper, roasting the squash seeds or boiling down cherry syrup I finally tried my friend Cathy’s version of kale with fresh walnuts and homemade raisins. The verdict at the table? “It’s still kale.” Back to the tasting laboratory…

I’ll be away for eight days starting Sunday sans electronic devices with which to entertain you or read and respond to your comments. Please make comments anyway if you are so moved. I’ll be back to coach you through your cherry pie crises well before the run up to Thanksgiving. I’ll also instruct the robot to give you a post to read on Wednesday while I am gone. Au revoir, dear readers. I’ll be back in person November 14 with stories to tell and perhaps a new recipe or two.

Painting of a Pink Poached Pear

Dream Pears 7″ x 7″ Acrylic on Fabriano  Paper by Suzanne Edminster

Dear Readers and Cooks,

I am pleased to introduce my first guest post on “The Kale Chronicles.” My real-life best friend Suzanne Edminster is a painter who lives in Santa Rosa who teaches popular classes in acrylic painting techniques which you can find on her website, SaltworkStudio. What not everybody knows about Suzanne is that she is a talented hostess who can pull together delicious meals with skill and grace. Just for you, she painted the painting and wrote out the recipe. Enjoy.

Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

On an autumn night in Santa Rosa I was contemplating a bag of small Bartlett pears that had been carried too long in the car and were starting to bruise. I was longing for a sweet, elegant way to cook pears without messing with pie crust, cobbler or crumble. I developed this recipe as one that could, in the best of all possible worlds, be cooked with fruit from our garden, though I draw the line at keeping goats for cheese– four chickens are demanding enough.

We have two young pear trees in our urban backyard orchard, both Red D’Anjou. This was a mistake; we were given one of the two trees and was assured it was a Bartlett. Neither is bearing yet, as we’ve had to take young fruit off too-young branches to avoid breakage. Scott, my husband, planted 9 kinds of blueberry bushes in a raised bed, but between chickens, squirrels, raccoons and other poachers, we got a total of about five blueberries from the plants this year, although they are bearing well. Next year, bird netting goes over all and the humans of the house can eat the harvest. Eventually I’ll try this recipe with our own blueberries (self-frozen if need be) and our own pears.

At the end of the summer we had overbought on white wine and had not yet laid in the stock of red. My mother used to serve red warm cinnamon pears—yes, I think she used cinnamon drop candy on them and to make the sauce!– and I really wanted the pears to turn that glorious holiday crimson. What could I do to give the wine a color? We had small frozen organic blueberries that we keep on hand for cereal. I adapted Stacy Slinkard’s recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears that I found in About.com at http://wine.about.com/od/howwineismade/r/poachedpears.htm. The result was delicious, and the color of both sauce and pears, a deep red-purple, divine. Surprisingly, the blueberries held their shape through the longish poaching time. I used fresh lime juice from our lime trees rather than lemon, and I chose soft new Sonoma goat cheese to offset the brilliant sweetness of the pears in the sauce. Scott and I agreed that the white, tangy bite of goat cheese was perfection on the warm red pears. A bonus of this recipe is that the whole house smelled of pear-pourri!


Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

Ingredients:

4-6 halved, cored pears (peeling is optional and top stems can be left on)

1½ cups of white wine (your choice)

½ cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice, with optional zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ to 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Soft plain or new goat cheese

Combine all the ingredients, except pears and goat cheese, and bring to a boil. Let the sugar and wine combine, then add the pears face-down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, turning once after about 10 minutes. Pears should be tender and easily poked through with a fork, but don’t overcook them. Remove pears and boil the wine/pear sauce until reduced by half. Serve pears warm in bowls with a small dollop of soft goat cheese in the middle of each half. Pour warm sauce over all. It’s excellent cold as well.

Painting Note: This slightly cosmic pear painting shows both the pinkish red of the sauce and the purple of the blueberries. It’s 7” x 7”, acrylic on paper. The pink-purple ranges from Alizarin Crimson to Fluorescent Magenta. You can see more of my paintings at www.saltworkstudio.net . Or visit my blog at http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com/

painting depicts Canary melon, limes, chile paste, peanuts and fish sauce

Canary Melon Salad 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil, Sharyn Dimmick

Those of you who know me well know I am iffy about melons: I like watermelon and ripe honeydew, but I O.D’d on orange melons sometime after childhood. When I get a new melon, it is not necessarily a day of rejoicing. Wednesday’s CSA brought a rather large and spectacularly yellow Canary melon. I had never tasted one before. To make matters worse, my mother does not eat melons of any description, except for a token piece of watermelon on the hottest of days.

I got a sneak peek at the melon on Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market because they were giving pieces away at the Riverdog Farm stand. It was very sweet, floral or perfumy, complex and not orange: it was a melon I could eat.

In the schizophrenic weather of Northern California October I am cooking posole in the morning for a hot lunch and wishing I had gone swimming by mid-afternoon. After thinking about it for six days I knew what I was going to do with the ripe melon: I would fix it Thai-style with chile paste and fresh lime juice and some fish sauce and eat it on a bed of arugula, also featured  in the farm box.

As I sliced and seeded the melon, I tasted it again. It was really sweet. After I cubed each slice into a bowl, trying for bite-sized pieces, there was a lot of juice in the bottom.

I took another bowl, added a dollop of chile paste from my trusty jar, squeezed a lime into that and  added a touch of fish sauce. I tasted the dressing. Pretty good. I combined the dressing with the melon and tasted it again. Hmm. Could it use more lime? Try again to be sure. At this point I was standing at the cutting board tasting rapidly. Yes, It could use more lime. I cut another and squeezed in half of it. “More,” the melon said, “More.”

I ended up using two limes’ worth of juice in the salad. And I tossed in two packets of honey-roasted peanuts leftover from my last Southwest Airlines flight. I ate every bit of this in my large salad bowl and drank all of the juice from the bowl and am happy to say that I have enough melon and arugula left to make another batch for lunch tomorrow (or the next time it turns hot).

Canary Melon Salad with Arugula, Lime and Chile Paste

Slice and seed 1 Canary melon. Cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Wash and dry enough arugula to give each eater a portion of salad.

Make a dressing of a dollop of chile paste (up to 1 Tbsp if you like heat. 1/4 tsp if you are wary of chilies), plus the juice of 2 limes and a splash of fish sauce. (It helps if you taste the dressing with a piece of melon and a leaf of arugula to know what you are getting).

Toss arugula with dressing and remove arugula to individual salad plates or bowls or a family-style platter. Pour remaining dressing over melon and toss. Pile melon on top of arugula. Garnish with whole or chopped peanuts to taste.

Food notes: I meant to garnish this with Thai basil and/or mint as well, but I never made it out to the yard to pick any. But if you have more discipline than I do by all means add either herb. I might like this with cooked shrimp or prawns, too, or even grilled beef, or coins of sausage.

Painting Note: I was uploading the painting and realized I forgot to paint the arugula. Oh well. Artistic license.

Next Week’s Treat: Next week “The Kale Chronicles” will feature a guest post by painter Suzanne Edminster who will share with you her recipe for poached pears with goat cheese.

Painting of melons, agua fresca and limes.

Melon Liquada 8″x 8″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

Our heat wave has hit, the one we have been expecting since the end of July, bringing our typical Indian summer weather. I spent part of the weekend in a park in downtown Berkeley listening to an old-time string band contest, part of it at a hostel down the coast at Montara and part of it sitting on the outdoor patio of Jupiter alehouse back in Berkeley listening to more old-time music.

Before I left for the weekend, I had to prepare food for the overnight at the hostel. I had been asked to bring salad and juice. The abundant peppers and tomatoes made Greek salad a no-brainer, with the last of the Armenian cukes. so I packed tomatoes, red peppers and quartered cucumber into a small beverage cooler with some blue ice, adding a small jar of olive oil, a clove of garlic, two small Meyer lemons and a pre-mixed jar of red wine vinegar, dry mustard and black pepper. plus a package of feta in brine.

Juice presented a problem: I don’t drink juice and don’t keep it around and I don’t go out and buy things for potlucks — I use what I have. But I had two large melons from the veggie box, problematic in themselves since neither of us in this house enjoy orange melons, so I decided to make liquada or agua fresca.

Saturday morning found me seeding a large muskmelon and an even larger orange honeydew, paring away the rinds and dropping chunks of the flesh into the blender with a little water in the first batch. I squeezed in one lime and blended several batches, straining the pulp over a large mixing bowl. I have never made proper agua fresca before and was surprised by the amount of time that it took to force the liquid from the melon pulp through a strainer, perhaps half an hour for the two melons. Because I tasted the flesh of the melons beforehand and they were very sweet I didn’t add any sugar. After a taste test I threw in a dash of salt — less than a quarter teaspoon — to intensify the flavor, squeezed in one more lime and added a little crushed cardamom because I can’t resist messing with things. I poured the strained liquada into a five gallon jar and added two trays of ice cubes to keep it cold on its journey southward along the coast.

When I arrived at the hostel, I put the liquada in the refrigerator for Sunday’s breakfast and made a quick Greek salad. I had forgotten the kalamata olives. Oh well. All of the salad was eaten anyway. As for the liquada, or agua fresca, when there was still a cup or two of it in the jar I announced that I was ready to pour it down the sink and a couple of people said, “Oh no. Don’t do that” and rushed to get empty yogurt containers to take it home. Apparently liquified melon is popular with my friends.

You can, of course, make liquada out of other things — cucumbers, watermelon, berries, stone fruits. The important steps are to taste the fruit before and after liquefying it, to strain the pulp, to add lime for piquancy, and to serve it well-chilled, If I had not added two trays of ice cubes to mine I could have diluted it with plain water or served it cut with sparkling water. This is a hands-on, low-to-no-measurement recipe where you have to taste and adjust, taste and adjust, to get something you like.

I was tempted to add some juice from crushed ginger to the melon version, but the hostess of the potluck suggested that I make two batches if I wanted to do that. There are limits to what I will do and I didn’t want to carry two five gallon jars, along with my sleeping bag, backpack and cooler. I could have brought some ginger juice to spike the melon with in the cooler, but I didn’t think of that.

Melon Liquada or Agua Fresca

Seed melon or melons and remove rind. Chop flesh into pieces.

Taste melon flesh — if it is very sweet you will not need to add sugar.

Fill blender jar with melon chunks. Add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Blend until liquid. Season with juice of one lime and a dash of salt (1/8 tsp, perhaps).

Pour through large metal strainer set over a large mixing bowl. Push on solids to extract liquid (Try using a potato masher to push with).

Repeat until all melon has been blended and strained.

Taste and adjust seasoning with lime, salt, or sugar. It should be full-flavored because you are going to dilute it with ice or water.

Add optional flavorings — chopped mint, basil, crushed cardamom, juice extracted from fresh ginger, dark rum, etc. Taste again.

Pour into five gallon glass jar. Add two trays of ice and set jar in refrigerator to chill. The ice will melt and dilute the liquid. Or skip the ice and dilute to taste with water or sparkling water.

Agua fresca is best drunk on a hot day when you will appreciate it, perhaps outside on a patio in the shade. Please write in to comment if you invent some splendid variation.

Painting depicts ingredients for recipe polenta with peaches

Summer Breakfast. 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn Dimmick

My mother went to Reno for a few days, leaving me in the house with our three cats, so I had three days to observe how I cooked for myself while she was gone. When I lived alone I developed a fondness for one-bowl cooking, complete meals that fit in a single bowl. Friday morning I made one of my favorite summer breakfasts, polenta cooked in milk, seasoned with vanilla extract and stirred into a bowl of diced peaches. It was so good that I made it again on Saturday — in fact, it is what I eat for breakfast any time we have fresh peaches in the house, usually from late May through early October.

The secret to this recipe is a fresh, tree-ripened peach. I buy most of my peaches from Frog Hollow Farm at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. In formerly flush years I would buy them by the flat and we would eat peach waffles, peach bread pudding, peach cobbler. I would freeze peach puree to make waffles in the winter or spring. Now I buy them a few at a time: I bought four last Saturday, two Cal Reds and two O’Henry’s, enough for four breakfasts.

The other secret is cooking polenta in milk, which makes it lovely and creamy. I began cooking grains in milk when I broke my first bone five years ago, started cooking oatmeal in a cup of milk to make sure I would get daily calcium in the food I ate.

To make this dish, go out and pick a peach from your tree or buy a soft, sweet peach from your farmers’ market. Slice it and then chop the slices into smaller chunks. Put this into your cereal bowl. Then film the bottom of a saucepan with a little water, add a cup of milk, a dash of salt and a quarter-cup of polenta. Cook over medium high heat until it starts to bubble, then reduce heat to a simmer until it thickens enough to your liking. It’s a good idea to stir it frequently so that it won’t stick to the pan. When it’s done, remove it from the heat and stir in a capful of vanilla extract. Pour it over your peaches in your bowl, stir and dig in. The polenta warms the peaches. The juice from the peach sweetens the polenta. The yellows and oranges look like summer in a bowl.

 Depicts ingredients for whole wheat pasta with cilantro pesto and green beans

Cilantro Pesto with Green Beans. 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn DImmick

At lunch-time on Friday, I looked at the cilantro that I had bought a week before and stuck in a glass on the counter — I needed to use it. Cutting off the stems, I broke each leaf from its stem and tossed it into my blender. I went out and picked a Meyer lemon from the front yard, cut it, and squeezed it into the cilantro. I diced a red onion and minced half a clove of garlic. I added some chopped walnuts from our freezer (new crop has not come in yet). I moistened the mixture with some olive oil and started blending it while I got out some rinds of Parmesan, which I grated with my microplane. You can get a microplane, otherwise known as a rasp, at any hardware store — don’t bother with expensive versions from cooking stores: it is the best tool I know for grating hard cheeses and zesting citrus. I gave the blender a stir and added the cheese and a tiny pinch of salt.

Pesto done, I put on some water to boil and got down a package of whole wheat penne, taking out about a quarter pound (four ounces). While the water heated, I topped and tailed a large handful of fresh green beans and snapped them in half. I cooked the pasta for seven minutes or so, then added the green beans to the pasta water, cooking them for one minute more. I drained the pasta, scooped some cilantro pesto into a pasta bowl and stirred like mad to distribute it. It made a little more than I could eat — measurement is not my forte when I am not following a recipe — so I had a small serving leftover for Saturday’s lunch, which I ate cold — equally delicious. The lemon and onion in the pesto and the bitterness of the walnuts play off the sweetness of the green beans and whole wheat.

For dinner, I ate leftover Greek salad on Thursday and made a sandwich of leftover roasted pork loin with leftover apple coleslaw on Friday

Whole Wheat Pasta with Cilantro Pesto:

Combine in jar of blender for pesto

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed.
1 lemon or lime, zested, than juiced or squeezed
1 small red onion
1/2 clove garlic
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil to moisten

Salt to taste

3 to 4 oz whole wheat pasta per person.

1 large handful of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half.

Blend pesto. Cook pasta until almost done: about a minute out, add green beans to pasta water. Drain pasta and beans into a pasta bowl. Add some pesto and stir or toss to mix. If you have leftover pesto, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you can freeze it.

When Mom got back Saturday afternoon she asked if there was any cooked food on hand. Nope. I told her I had eaten all of the leftovers. We ate bread, cheese, grapes (me) and tomatoes (her).

Painting Note: For more information on “Summer Breakfast” or “Cilantro Pesto with Green Beans” or any other original painting, please contact me here.