Listen to Ina. She is wise. When the Barefoot Contessa says use a 10-inch glass pie pate, use a glass pie plate. When she says use fresh cranberries, use fresh cranberries. But you know me. I never listen.
Or more precisely, I don't always think ahead. I dive into recipes head first, often to find the culinary waters muddy, turbulent or shallow. With company arriving and frozen cranberries going begging, I made the best choices I could under less than perfect circumstances. So, when faced with using a 9-inch glass pie plate or a 10-inch ceramic pie plate, I pulled out the larger dish. When forced to choose between using frozen cranberries or producing no dessert at all, I opted for frozen fruit.
And while I stand by my decisions, I paid a price.
I'm not psychic but something tells me that before the winter is over, my copy of Jeanelle Mitchell's For the Love of Soup is going to be dog-eared, grease-splattered and a fought over. Sorry extended family, but you'll have to get your own copy. I can't imagine being without mine for long.
I first heard about this book more than a year ago from my beef-searing buddy, Heather Travis. One minute we were dissing salt-laden condensed soup, the next she was raving about a little recipe book I'd never heard of and begging me to find a copy. As luck would have it, Whitecap recently reissued the nearly decade-old title last month -- with a makeover to match its younger sister, For the Love of Salad.
Like its older sibling, For the Love of Soup isn't a photo-rich, high-maintenance bombshell you drool over but abandon after a few dishes. Instead, this quietly pretty book is the kind you bring home to the family.
Move over Julia Child and Paula Dean. I'm the Butter Queen today.
Now that the jack-o'-lanterns have been extinguished and the last of the waxy mini-chocolate bars have been gobbled, we can safely move onto thoughts of holiday baking. While I'm not ready to rummage in the basement for stockings and mistletoe, I am more than ready to plot the goodies I'll be baking in my recently renovated kitchen. And as I do, visions of shortbreads dance in my head.
Those who know me will vouch that I'm a huge shortbread fan, making variations that run from a classic 4-ingredient cookie to a savory Pecan Cheesie. So when I was offered the chance to post a butter giveaway, I couldn't say no. "Butter give away?" you ask in a mixture of awe and joy. Yes, butter give away. Who says dreams don't come true?
Don't say I didn't warn you. You are amongst the first to know. In fact, I haven't even had time to tell my parents yet, so no complaining about the short notice.
My news? On Sunday, November 7th at 1 pm, I'm hitting The Entertaining at...
The pears went bad so I called on the plums. The plums started to go so I... reached for the ice cream maker. I could have made preserves, but I had too few plums to make jam worthwhile. The fruit would have slipped from iffy to unusable by the time I had found the jars, sterilized them, heated the water bath, located the labels... No, I needed a quick fix. Plus, I'm still in the any-excuse-to-use-my-brand-spanking-new-food-processor stage.
The result of my plum panic is a palate cleansing sorbet -- the kind you get in fancy restaurants between courses. You won't want to sit down to a big bowl of this -- unless you've got a lot of chocolate sauce on hand. It's fresh, intense and if you don't rasp away too much of the orange pith, very smooth. It's ideal for a hot summer day. Of course, I created it just as the autumn winds whip in.
Had the pears held up I would likely be writing about broccoli or Swiss chard. Health food fans lament; pie lovers rejoice.
On Saturday, with guests arriving and the clock ticking loudly in my ears, I tossed my dessert plans into the garbage along with the perfect-on-the-outside, punky-on-the-inside pears. Unable to rest upon the laurels of a well-tested dessert, the pressure was on. With little on hand but plums and leftover ingredients from my recent stone-fruit baking exploits, I tossed components together like Dr. Frankenstein creating a new life from. All that was missing were lightning flashes and ominous organ chords.
The crust was the leftover pate sucree dough (which froze beautifully). I sprinkled in a layer of chocolate borrowed from the Pear Chocolate Tart, slathered on butterless frangipane lifted from the recent Peach, Apricot & Plum Galette and topped it all with a generous coating of sliced plums. Using the only egg left in the fridge I whisked in some cream for a custard to hold it all together.
Don't get me wrong, I like pancakes. But sometimes the expression "Flat as a pancake," describes my enthusiasm for this dish. Unadorned, they're pallid, uneven, and large-pored. This describes my skin without make-up. It's not something you should be serving guests before noon.
Oh, sure I can drizzle them with maple syrup, but sometimes you need to shake things up a bit. It's apple season and since I put apples in the pancakes, why not put apples on the pancakes as well. The results? A pan of goopy, butterscotchy fruit that cooked in the time it takes to make a supporting batch of flap jacks. So decadent and sweet, it's enough to make the maple syrup sulk.
Little Jack Horner's got nothing on me. What's he got? A corner, a thumb and a nursery rhyme no one understands. Me? I've got fresh plums and frangipane. That's right. You heard me. Frangipane. I know. It sounds like a resort cocktail, but it's really just fancy food talk for a filling made with ground almonds. And plums and almonds go together like boozy fruit-based cocktails and tiny paper umbrellas -- or sneaky little boys and pies -- so this was combination seemed obvious.
I had pastry left over from the annual Thanksgiving Concord Grape Pie -- enough to make a 6-inch tart. So, I got creative with the plums. Compared to the in-your-face-I'm-a-GRAPE pie, this one is subtle. But subtle's good.
Good enough to stick your thumb in.
I missed the last of the season's peaches on Saturday by THIS much. You can't see it but I'm holding my thumb and index finger about 4 inches apart. The universal translation for this gesture is one hour of time for each inch of empty air. I got to the Farmers' Market just after 10:00 AM and the grower told me the last few baskets of peaches went "first thing." Since the only 6 o'clock I'm acquainted with arrives at supper hour, I decided my plans for the peaches were just not meant to be.
So I grabbed some pears and plums and shuffled home to fill the peach void with something equally luscious but so different I wouldn't feel cheated. As I walked in the kitchen and slammed the door, the large butternut squash on the counter rolled over like a surrendering puppy. The answer was soup.
I admit it. I'm lazy and messy. Thee mere thought of forcing gobs of unruly stuffing into tall, wobbly-bottomed peppers is an open invitation to Murphy. But, I got smart, knocked the suckers on their side and stuffed them full without so much as an "oops." Anyone who's grappled with a towering stuffed pepper will thank me for this culinary cheat. There's no embarrassing spillage in the kitchen. And at the table? Hungry eaters can dig in without drafting a plan of attack that involves advanced physics and an extra limb. Nope. Just grab your knife and fork and dig in.
As a bonus, the shallow version cooks faster. Everybody wins. Except Murphy.
With fall in full swing and a bounty of big, sweet, inexpensive peppers at hand, I'm sharing my stuffed pepper tips with Kyle Christie (no relation). Tune in to Kitchener's CTV News at Noon if you can. There'll be not-so-deadly nightshades, oh-so sharp implements and the ever-present danger of spillage. And that's before I even reach the studio.