Seahorse v. Barnacle

Courtesy of Happyplace.com

If nothing else went right for you this barnacle of a Monday, please accept my sincerest condolences, and then spend a few minutes scrolling through this.  Might as well scroll through it even if your Monday was smooth sailing. It’s funny either way.

Tomorrow, exit the bed from the other side, tie your shoelaces in reverse order, and do some counter/cabinet cleaning to conjure up something interesting to pack for lunch.  This recipe for Avocado Tomato Crackers was inspired one Saturday when I couldn’t peel backside off couch for long enough to visit the grocery store or one of three great lunch places within a three-block radius.  Blame it on this incredible book or laziness, but the meal was a happy result.


Mash half of an avocado with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread onto a good thickish cracker (like Wasa brand) or toasted bread. Add sliced tomato, sprinkle on a little more salt, then layer on some thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar (or not if you’re going vegan – the avocado makes this hefty enough without the dairy). Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of whatever herb you’ve got – dill was great, but I imagine parsley and chives would be equally delicious. Easy, quick, and filling – just the thing to help you square those shoulders and face the rest of the day, be it barnacle or seahorse.

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4th Generation Fruit Cobbler

Just returned from a weeklong Texas trip, so recaps and reviews are in order.  To start things off, here’s a recipe for my version of my mom’s version of my Mema’s version of my granny’s version of fruit cobbler.  So ultimately it’s a modified 4th generation Hoelscher-Becker recipe from (clap-clap-clap-clap) deep in the heart of Texas. Everyone in the family has their own distinct recollections of the making and consumption of the cobbler, but they all like to reference the crunchy, butterscotch-y edge pieces, a result of pouring the wet batter into the melted butter.

I asked my sisters for some of their related memories.  Here’s what they conjured up –

S:
Gooey plips snuggle
Plops
Scarlet turned golden
Tickles my nose
And my memories of
Pumpkin carvings
Fireworks versus arrowheads
Cowboy hats and edelweiss
My insides grin
The recipe unfolds
In my own kitchen
Black and white checkered
linoleum floor
I know what to do
I will keep this alive
This beautiful cobbler
Sigh: an Oath
I’ll pass this along
Yes
I’ll pass this along

M: On the rare occasions Mom would make cobbler, I remember smelling it from my room. I’d leave my homework and follow the smell down the stairs and into the kitchen. Usually the only light on in the kitchen while it was cooking was the light above the stove. Opening the oven while something is cooking in this family is strictly forbidden so whilst peering into the oven one had to cup their hands around their eyes and squint to see the golden cobbler baking. And of course the lightbulb in the oven was always out so the suspense built until the tart-sweet treasure was pulled out… It wasn’t so much that the cobbler tasted delicious – I think I’ve always enjoyed it because it’s been handed down and I like thinking about mom eating it when she was my age or Granny cooking it for Mema. I always imagine them in the same dim glow similar to the lighting in the kitchen when I’d creep down to check to see if the cobbler was ready yet. 


4th Generation Fruit Cobbler**

Approx. 3 cups roughly chopped fresh fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, raspberries, blueberries, etc). You can supplement with frozen fruit (raspberries, blueberries, and peaches work best)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar (could use a little less or a little more depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the stick of butter in an oven-safe ceramic or glass cake pan and put in the oven to melt while you chop the fruit.  Once the butter has melted, remove about a half of it to a mixing bowl. (Take care in doing this – hot pan, hot butter!  Alternately, you could melt half the stick of butter in the baking pan in the oven, and half in the mixing bowl in the microwave.  The main point of this is to leave half a stick of melting butter in the baking pan).

Once butter in the mixing bowl has cooled a little, add the milk, vanilla, and sugar, and mix with a whisk until combined.  Then add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix until just combined.  The batter will be a bit like a loose pancake batter.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps.

Carefully scatter about a cup of the fruit in the baking pan with the butter.  Then pour in the batter.  Scoop the remaining fruit on top of the batter, aiming for even distribution.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown, fruit juices are bubbling at the sides, and the edges are crispy.  Enjoy very warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream with a little sea salt sprinkled on top.

**If you want to go uber-decadent, you can also make an oatmeal crumb topping, as shown in the photos. For this, cut 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter into 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats with 1 teaspoon of salt. Chill this mixture until you’re assembling the cobbler.  Sprinkle it on top of the last layer of fruit before popping the cobbler it in the oven. 

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

Before.

There’s a folder crammed full of pages ripped from food and cooking magazines that is threatening to takeover the cookbook windowsill in our apartment. With every new issue of Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and Whole Living that passes through the door, the daunting folder grows.  Every few months I try to cull it down – there are only so many recipes one needs for molten chocolate this or shredded fried potato that – but still it grows. I’m collecting food blog pages in the same way. My favorites list is a scroll-mile long, getting longer. And yet I find myself going back to the same few recipes – one, mom’s version of my grandmother’s version of my great-grandmother’s version of fruit cobbler, with its coveted, chewy, caramelized end pieces, rough measurements and nary a cooking temperature on a scrap of doodle-heavy note paper; another – mom’s salmon croquettes; and a third – that essence of summer ratatouille from Good Food Matters. Two days ago we had a double whammy with ratatouille for dinner and cobbler (with a twist! brown sugar oatmeal topping) for dessert.

I was adding to the recipe folder just this week when I decided to throw the process for a loop and actually make something before adding it to the messy stack. Bon Appetit came to the rescue with this simple little recipe for smashed roasted potatoes. (And whaddya know, the adjacent recipe is for molten cakes…). A measly four ingredients (five for my adaptation), two of which are salt and pepper, hardly any hands-on time, one pan easy clean up, and miraculous dinner results? Perfect.  Eat these crispy, crunchy potatoes with whatever fresh vegetables you’ve been able to find – romano beans and corn on the cob for us.  I anticipate making them well into the fall and winter, when heating up the oven makes the place cozy as opposed to sauna-in-the-attic. (Romano beans – snip the stem off the beans, then sauté minced red onion in butter. Add the beans and saute briefly, turning to coat in the butter, and add salt and pepper.  Throw in a splash of water, then turn the head to low and cover the pot to steam. When tender, throw in fresh, chopped herbs – we had basil and thyme).

Smashed Roasted Potatoes
(Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2012)
Serves 2 people generously with leftovers (2 red potatoes each), or 4 people

4-6 palm-sized red potatoes, organic if possible (the recipe also suggests medium Yukon Gold, in which case 2-4 would suffice)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Handful of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub each potato, then wrap individually in foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender, approximately 45-60 minutes depending on size of potatoes.

Remove potatoes from oven, and bump up the heat to 500 degrees. Once potatoes have cooled enough to handle, unwrap them and arrange on same baking sheet. (We left ours in the foil, flattened out, but the Bon Appetit recipe says to remove them from the foil – your choice, but we liked the each pick-up/clean-up of leaving the foil underneath). Set another rimmed baking sheet over the unwrapped potatoes, rimmed side up, and press gently to smash the potatoes without breaking them apart too much. (I used the bottom of a thick plate to do this instead of a sheet pan). Season generously with salt and pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil. Carefully turn the potatoes to coat.

Put back in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Then drizzle with more olive oil, turn to coat, and continue roasting until crispy and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.  In the last three minutes of cooking time, sprinkle the cheese on the potatoes and return to the oven. Keep a close eye on them and pull as soon as the cheese starts to crisp.

For my next encounter with this recipe, I may bake the potatoes the day before to cut down the oven time and make this an after-work meal option.

After.

Radio Silence

Seems that little spark has dimmed down low but perhaps the act of putting down a word and then another and another will flare it up again. In the meantime, I could subsist on this band alone for weeks, and have been.  They’ve been around for a while but Hype Machine had one of their to-be-released-in-September songs up; the rest is my happy little history.  But until I ran into someone else who had heard them, no one could demonstrate how to pronounce the name. Men-o-meen-na? Mee-no-mee-na? Nope. You say it just like the muppets do below, which elevates the band another 25 rungs on my Great Band Name Ladder. (Warning: If you press play, please accept the inevitability of mind humming this for the rest of the day).

 

Tuesday’s farmers’ market yielded some very pretty but especially lip-puckering red currants.  They pair nicely with Menomena’s song “Tithe” and a little glass of chilled Sakonnet Winterwine  – not a Game of Thrones references but rather a RI dessert wine procured during last weekend’s happy little jaunt to a southern MA beach town.  It took only an hour to reach our friends’ summer rental, where we shared a vegetarian meal they prepped in a teensy tiny kitchen: potato salad, deviled eggs, sauteed swiss chard, green beans with dill, and lemonade with seltzer  – a reminder of how good summer bounty can be when cooked simply and well.  Then on to the beach, followed by a quick wine tasting. It was the best kind of spur-of-the-moment day trips – good food, great company, and beautiful surroundings – and one that was especially welcome after a week that had seen more downs than ups.  So here’s to going up.