Posts Tagged ‘spring’

the king of fruits

Of course, because it’s me, there was Easter dessert. And it was not themed, either — not in terms of cuisine or holiday animals. (Read: there were no decorative bunnies or spring chicks.) No, instead I made a very yummy, near-summery mango and raspberry crisp.

I came to mango late in life. My first memory of tasting one links with my first week of college in New York: I was walking up Broadway toward Union Square with an enormous group of other freshmen (freshmen always travel in packs, don’t you know) and there was a woman hawking mango flowers. She shoved a whole fruit onto a stick, and after whacking it with a machete (or so has morphed in my memory) for 20 seconds, the skin was peeled and the succulent, juicy fruit carved into petals. It was as big and sweet as cotton candy. A mango lollypop flower.

It seems like mangoes have been cropping up everywhere in the last couple months. “Everywhere,” like “twice in the New York Times,” but bear with me. The recipes are gorgeously enticing. There was a mango tres leches cake the beginning of the month: a white cake buoyed by with whipped egg whites, soaked with a heavy cream/coconut milk/condensed milk sauce, and topped with a mousse-like mango cream and pureed mangoes. I’ve been dying to make it… and with less than ten days to go, I suppose I’d better heave-ho! And then just yesterday, a parade of recipes showcasing the so-called king of fruits: ginger-orange-mango smoothies, shrimp and mango tacos, mango rice pudding…

Well, there will be a time for all that. (Mangoes peak in the next two months.) Sunday night was crisp time. We so enjoyed them, their rich sweetness only deepened and accentuated by the cooking time and oatmeal-nut topping. I know you will too.

Mango Crisp with Raspberries

(Adapted from Cusine at Home magazine)

Serves 2

  • 1/2 lb fresh or frozen mango, diced into 1-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups, or about two mangoes)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp quick cooking oats, or old fashioned oats pulsed in a food processor
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 4 tsp cold, cubed, unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Toss together mango, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, cornstarch, lime juice, and salt. Set aside.

Combine oats, 2 Tbsp sugar, and flour. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add walnuts and vanilla extract.

Divide mango mixture between two ovenproof ramekins or baking dishes. Sprinkle each with half the raspberries and top with oat mixture.

Bake until topping is golden and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

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wordless wednesday: pea salad

the calm before?

It took a little while, but the daffodils behind our holly hedges exploded into radioactively-yellow bloom this weekend. We were so happy to see them — an incontrovertible sign that spring is truly here, despite the waning/waxing temperatures and threats of severe thunderstorms/tornadoes. At eighty degrees and sunny (and, okay, very windy), it’s hard to believe any of those nasty evening forecasts and we are stubbornly planning on firing up the grill tonight. I mean, hopefully we can at least finish barbecuing the chicken before repairing to the basement, which (fun fact!) still has a turn-of-the-century coal room and is definitely not haunted. For the next six hours or until the winds change (whichever comes first), the afternoon is all about walking downtown, turning off the heater, and finally getting to wear shorts.

grill mates

Last night was our first grill of the year. And what a thrill it was. The weather (and the sun!) was perfect… well, if perfection includes a mid-weight coat, which it necessarily does in this picture. We mixed up an easy, bubbly drink or two and and the hot coals worked their magic on some brats and skewered summer squash. When your (grill) time comes, friends, remember that toasting the buns right before serving is a non-negotiable.

Once the food was gone and the coals had cooled to ashy nubs, B and I started bemoaning the fact that we won’t have a grill in New York this summer. But then he had a brainwave: Brooklyn’s Prospect Park offers a host of public, first-come, first-served barbecue and picnic areas. If you think we’re not already planning on staking a claim Sunday mornings for whole days of brats, burgers, corn on the cob, grilled tomato caprese, grilled peaches with gelato, or, you know, 101 other things — well, you’ve got another thing coming.

some sun love

I know it snowed yesterday up much of the East Coast (including my future grad school home! Good morning, Berkshires!), and it didn’t here, but I, in all my benevolent wisdom, didn’t think that precluded a little whining. With temperatures in the high 40’s since the official start of the season and, even more damningly, a persistently gray sky, it’s been hard to catch onto spring fever. I want that weird February heat wave back!

Today, sunny and in the mid-50s, is a nice change of pace. I do mean that literally: going for a walk instead of curling up in our (admittedly, addictively fuzzy) couch throw. And in the interest of staying as sunny as the weather outside — and sharing the love — here’s what’s been keeping me chipper during the overcast, sputtering start to spring:

— A friend from high school and fellow Midwestern transplant recommended the online monthly Matchbook Mag to me on Wednesday, and I am officially addicted to it. It is the very definition of lovely. I couldn’t have been more flattered when this friend also attached the compliment, “I think of you every time I read it.”

— A beautiful essay on my favorite city, chock full of patisserie recommendations and neighborhood insight, that has me even more excited to return in (count ’em!) forty days. And forty nights.

— Three (three!) of my friends got engaged in the last month, and their excitement over all things romantic has proven contagious. I’ve found myself clicking over to BHLDN, Anthropologie’s new wedding line, and Green Wedding Shoes, a photography blog, rather accidentally and with unseemly regularity. Marriage is a ways off for me, but looking all those lacey, gorgeous things people dream up with chiffon and wildflowers? I’m into that. I’m all about advising knowledgeably.

— A totally tempting recipe for at-home fruit leather that’s getting an audition tomorrow. I think this is one of those “You know you’re a Midwesterner, when…” things, no? Who else makes their own fruit leather?

— Confession: when I was in grade school, I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley books. Sweet Valley Kids. Sweet Valley Twins. Sweet Valley Junior High. Sweet Valley High. I read all of them. I still have a signed copy of The Case of the Alien Princess which is, in case you didn’t know, a Super Snooper Edition of Sweet Valley Kids. In retrospect, it’s amazing I didn’t develop a complex about not being a blonde-haired, blue-eyed member of the Unicorn Club, but perfectly understandable that I have pined for a twin my entire life (even though we’d both be an Elizabeth, who is obviously the better twin). Which is all a long-winded way of saying that there is a new Sweet Valley book and it will be mine.

— Even though the clouds suggest otherwise, warmer temperatures are on their way in, which means the return of my favorite cocktail. I make it with one part gin, one part Pimm’s, three parts lemonade, and fill the remainder of the glass with 7-Up and ice. And float some cucumber slices on top. It’s the best.

— I listened to Adele’s new album nonstop when I was in London. It’s a hard habit to break, even though I’m a little afraid listening to it it here will overwrite my memory of strolling around Trafalgar Square, hatted and chilly, with this as my soundtrack. The other downside: she makes singing look too easy. I start to think I can do it, too. And that’s a scary thought.

Hope you’re having a terrific Saturday!

eatalian gelato

This afternoon, B and I visited Eataly, Mario Batali’s sprawling indoor Italian food market with stalls for cured meats, fresh pasta, all kinds of cheese and coffee, breads, intricate patisserie confections, pop-up restaurants, positively pornographic tableaux of basil leaves and cherry tomatoes — and, of course, gelato. What we came for. And I had to admit we arrived a little spoiled: on Wednesday, we’d popped into Grom while meandering around the West Village. Grom is a total Italian import: they have dozens of shops up and down the boot, plus a couple international locations (New York being one). So it is good. It’s all natural, no preservatives or weird coloring, organic when possible, and as a result, I would imagine, of this exacting quality control/ingredient sourcing and know-how, each flavor tastes like the truest iteration of itself. The chocolate is deep, with coffee undertones and only a little bitter, while the vanilla is incredibly mellow and luscious. The coffee gelato is like a strong pull of espresso. The best.

Which is all to say, we’re pretty tough customers, so watch out. (We’re kind of a big deal.) The length of Eataly’s gelato line certainly pointed to a large fan base. There were about a dozen flavors to choose from — traditional fruit flavors plus your typical chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, coffee and so on. B got the stracciatella, and I had vanilla with cookies crushed in it (name forgotten; sorry). And I loved how, unlike many gelaterias, they offered crunchy cones and not just plastic cups.

In point of fact, I think Grom’s pure, intense flavors make it the better gelato. But both places are so wonderful, so at-the-top-of-their-game, that you really can’t go wrong with either. And lest we forget, Eataly’s shop lives inside a wonderful Italian market/eatery, and it’s hard to discount the delight of munching on a cone of bacio gelato while picking up fresh tortellini, mozzerella (made on site!) and a fistful of chocolates. Not that I’ve done this. A girl can dream. Barring that, have your sweet across the street in Madison Square Park. When we had ours, it was seventy degrees out — there are truly no better days.

quiche redux, and the melting of our world

It’s no secret that I’m not much for winters. I, who am always cold to begin with and whose body reliably, constantly aches from bracing against bitter wind three months out of the year (four to five months, here) — no, I could really leave it all behind. But this weekend’s thaw has reminded me that without the bone-chilling chatter of below-freezing weeks, forty degrees wouldn’t feel so decidedly springlike. Seventy degrees? What a sauna! It’s forty-one outside, and I have been skipping around in a skirt and flats, never mind the pools of melted snow. Windows down. Summer scarf. An awesome new coat that I previously imagined for 50 or 60 degree days, but on this side of winter feels decidedly appropriate for 30’s and 40’s.


Last night, we went to dinner at Hearth and we walked there. The first time we were able to do that in 2010 was my birthday — which is over a month and a half away! I took out the trash this afternoon — a task normally grudgingly performed by Billy on Monday mornings, and sometimes skipped altogether when temperatures are particularly mean — simply because it’s so gorgeous out. I do hope this thaw, early and incredibly welcome, is a permanent one. (Psst. A high of 55 on Thursday!!!)



And with this jolly spirit, we capered over to a delicious Sunday brunch at Rob and Jill’s house. It was lovely and fresh and baked and reminded me (since I’m all about being reminded of things today) of how great brunch is, how it’s the most wonderful meal of our time, how we don’t get enough of it, how we should do this every week, amiright? Macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, incredibly light orange-scented scones, cheesy potato gratin, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, piles of thick-cut bacon, and this quiche I brought.

We’ve actually talked about this quiche before, but you would be forgiven for forgetting. It was perhaps my fourth entry ever and while the quiche was and is perfect — woodsy and warm, hearty and rich, cheesy, smooth, delicious even if you don’t like mushrooms (like me!) — the photos were not. (I hope these are better!) So here is is, once more in its delectable beauty, and I hope you make it for brunch next weekend. Your friends will thank you (and if your brunches are anything like mine, your friends’ sneaky puppies will too).

Wild Mushroom Quiche
(Slightly adapted from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook)

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp ice water, more as needed

The same as all pie crusts, described in detail here. To wit: process the flour, salt, and cold butter in a food processor until the butter is the size of large peas. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and pulse until the dough just holds together. Turn it out onto a sheet of wax paper, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. (If it cracks while rolling, it’s too cold; let it sit out a few more minutes.) Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough. Trim the edge to 2 inches, fold the overhang under, and crimp it decoratively. Freeze for ten minutes.

Line the shell with aluminum foil and weight it down with dedicated pie weights, dry beans, pennies, etc. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and set aside to cool.

(Not your style? Use a frozen crust; I have before, and the result remains wonderful.)

Filling

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup dried porcini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 oz fresh wild mushrooms (shiitake, chanterelles, oysters [shown above]), rinsed, dried, and sliced
  • 8 oz fresh cultivated mushrooms (those button mushrooms at the grocery store, the plain janes), wiped clean and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half (heavy cream is suggested, but this strikes me as gilding the lily)
  • 3/4 shredded mozzarella, smoked if you can get it
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano

Bring the cider to a boil and pour over the dried porcini in a small bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, wild, and fresh mushrooms and sautee for ten minutes. Add the porcini with their liquid, brandy, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered over low heat for 20 minutes. The liquid should be almost entirely evaporated away (as in the lower left photo, above); if it’s not, turn up the heat to help it along. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

Reset oven to 375 degrees.

Beat together eggs and half and half. Stir in the cheeses. Combine the egg and mushroom mixtures and pour into the pastry shell.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until quiche no longer jiggles. Cool 5-10 minutes and serve.