September 6, 2012
looking back the summer through fruits & sweets
Almost as soon as August turned into September, the cool air seemed to have mostly replaced the intense heat up here in the mountains. We had a few cold rains, and the days are getting shorter by day. Suddenly hot tea and soups are gaining their appeal back. Although it can still be hot in the sun and cicadas are doing their best to make some noise, overall, we can tell the summer has come to its end.
So if you can bear with me and have some time to spare, let me take you along for a look back on what the bounty of summer brought to us, by first going back to the beginning of July...
And some of them were cooked up and whipped into a cool dessert.
Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, 2010), the second of a two-volume series of Mr. Slater's stories and recipes inspired by his vegetable and fruit garden. I got the books just before the summer, and this was one of the first recipes I tried from more than handfuls I'd bookmarked, many of which in this fruit volume, Tender II (known as Ripe in the US market).
grumbled before, raspberries sold in Japan are virtually all imported, and invariably expensive. So it came as a surprise, or almost a shock, when I found punnets of locally-grown raspberries at a green market in my neighborhood. They were tiny, but fresher than any raspberry we'd buy imported, and tasted just as good, perhaps a touch more tart.
I threw quite a few of them into my breakfast bowl of cereal, but even more found their way into desserts.
Second week of July came with stone fruits...
Once we got home with a basket full of apricots (and some more), the first thing I did was this:
And one morning we picked apricots near us, then on the next we went away to pick fresh berries...
So now we had seemingly a house full of fresh apricots and berries, most of which were on the perishable side. I couldn't be happier, but did have to come up with ways to use them up while they were still good.
I mentioned before.
Anyhow, served with homemade 'ricotta', this made one simple but fine treat.
Another fresh-and-pureed-berries mix (sort of):
cranachan, a traditional Scottish pudding that comprises of whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and toasted oats. I was introduced to this charming dessert by Nigel Slater in his book Tender II, but here I used another recipe - also his, but found elsewhere. I liked it better as it uses whiskey and honey in the cream, which seemed more traditional.
That being said, I must confess that I used Japanese whiskey (not Scotch) and locally-produced multiflower honey (not heather), in addition to replacing half of the cream in the recipe with strained (thickened) whole-milk yogurt, which most likely isn't traditional, but not too uncommon apparently; I saw more than a few yogurt-based cranachan recipes on the Internet.
But perhaps, a largest portion of my fresh berries ended up here:
Nigella Lawson [US Edition; Hyperion, 2001]). Tarts (and tartlets) must be one of the finest forms of serving fresh berries.
Or many other fruits for that matter, fresh or cooked...
Bea, who is one of the most talented people I'm lucky to have come to know through blogging.
In fact, I seemed to have been bitten by a tart-making bug this summer and made so many of them, I decided to do a separate post just for those fruit tarts; so here in this entry, I'll mostly feature non-tart sweets, which there are still many.
And yes, remember I also had a lot of apricots?
Alongside the cake was apricot compote - or lemon verbena-scented apricots, to be precise.
peach and blueberries, which I'm sure will be just as nice.
More apricot-berry goodies...
David Lebovitz (Ten Speed Press, 2010), which also has many wonderful fruit- and non-fruit-based recipes.
What I found interesting about this recipe is that it uses cornmeal in the topping (thus called "polenta topping"), and it worked really well with the juicy fruits (which in the original recipe are apples, pears, and grappa-soaked raisins). You can find a very similar version of his polenta topping recipe here.
And where did the last of the fresh raspberries go?
throw just about any fresh berry (or other fruit) into my glass of sparkling wine, you see.
...And then, what happened to other berries and currants that we picked?
original recipe has a lot of vodka in it, making it a bit slushy. But here I replaced much of the spirit with water and made it as a regular sorbet. I think this is meant to be made with sour green gooseberries, but the sweeter purple kind still made a mouth-puckeringly tart sorbet. Talk about refreshing.
And then, this:
Now these guys need to be cooked for us to enjoy them, and my entire small bowlful was a saucepan-bound.
Then I was going to make a cheesecake, but didn't for one reason or another... and had this instead:
I did last summer. Whatever you call it, it was delicious.
peppermint ice cream from Haagen-Dazs. This limited-edition flavor ice cream was fine but personally I prefer the supper minty, electric green homemade mint ice cream I made some years ago... gosh, I should be making it again!
Speaking of ice cream, I did make a rather interesting one. Any idea what the flavor is in this one?
I made blanc manger (and then ice cream) with loquat kernels, I was already thinking about trying the same with apricot kernels.
It took me a while before I actually got around doing it, but I saved apricot pits after using the flesh in other things, and cracked them up to collect the kernels.
And the last thing I made with fresh apricot (flesh, not pits) was this:
this recipe, these apricot pancakes with maple butter were great; the apricot chunks in the batter got soft as they cooked, acting as a sauce in the fluffy pancakes.
And as the brief apricot season passed by, other stone fruits started filling up the fruit isle of the grocery stores and green markets in late July and early August.
(Japanese, please) but in recent years the white nectarine has shot up on the list. I enjoy yellow ones, too, but the lusciously sweet white nectarines are irresistible. So much so, in fact, I couldn't help but pick up a bag every time I saw them at the store or the market, thinking "this could be the last one I see this summer".
Fortunately, they were around for weeks, so my breakfasts were heavy on nectarines for nearly a month.
Another fuss-free breakfast menu that is my favorite is fruit crumbles.
You can use any crumble topping recipe you like, but for fresh fruits I like a buckwheat and olive oil mixture, with a very little to no sugar added, flecked with finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Here I threw in a handful of rolled oats and that it was great too. Remember to serve it with extra topping - you'll need it!
last summer, and proved just as winning this summer.
While I prefer white nectarines (and peaches) uncooked, I think yellow nectarines are more enjoyable cooked. That said, they can be really pleasant served fresh, especially together with other fruits that are really sweet, or some cream.
original recipe uses peaches, which evidently are meant to be yellow peaches. Now fresh yellow peaches, especially the red-skinned, firm kind you see in the US, are not at all common in Japan, and I find the yellow nectarine to be the closest thing you could get. And it worked perfectly fine here.
And well, blackberries?
I traveled over an hour to pick raspberries and other not-so-common-in-Japan berries and currants, but then found a small farm that has blackberries (not raspberries) in an area a lot closer to where I'm at. Hooray!
They are one of the many blueberry farms that are open to the public in this area, but must be the only one that has blackberries.
The first thing I made with the just-picked blackberries were some tarts, and then this.
And I did eat a fair share of these blackberries as is, then eventually reached a conclusion that, unlike many other berries, I like blackberries better cooked. In one way or another.
made sweet corn ice cream before and we all loved it - it went really well with blueberries, and I was sure blackberries would be great too when I came across the recipe from this book.
this recipe for the sweet corn ice cream base, using honey as the sweetener. Worked great.
The ice-cream is tasty as is, but that much I had already expected. What exceeded my expectation was something that I had using it.
So I tried it, and loved it - we all did.
Another dish with layers of flavors and textures...
To tell the truth, I wasn't planning on making it all but the sorbet. But the umeshu blackberry compote sounded just so tempting I had to give it a try too. Then if I was to have the sorbet and compote, might as well I'd make the whole package, I figured.
And leftover white nectarine sorbet played a part in another treat.
mentioned before, and thought I'd make an ice cream float with it with the white nectarine sorbet. Throwing a scoop of good vanilla ice cream (Haagen-Dazs) and a few thin slices of white nectarine into the mix, I had white peach and nectarine ice cream float, which may look a bit of a mess here but tasted super good. Down in one!
And oh, did I tell you I've had a lot of peaches, in addition to nectarines?
Another peach compote, this time served warm...
And well, about the berry sauce; I must confess I used frozen berries and currants here, because 1) I'd already run out of all of my fresh raspberries and currants, and 2) even if I had had any left, I wouldn't have dared to cook them into a sauce. Luckily, frozen berried worked fine here.
a few years ago. This raspberry sorbet was just as simply to make, perhaps even more so as you don't need to pit the berries like you do with cherries.
the book's page on amazon.com.
And as the heat wound down a little, I got some more proper baking done...
Now how about some little cakes?
Sigrid, a Rome, Italy-based blogger-photographer friend of mine.
...Well, these particular batch I made on my own, here in Nagano. But back in March when I met her (and her adorable one-year-old girl, Lena) in Rome while traveling in Italy, Sigrid handed me a bag of the tea cakes as a little welcome gift - in addition to keeping my company, cooking me lunch, and making sure I was well looked after while in Italy, which I was. So personally these little cakes remind me a lot of Rome and my time in Italy.
here (in Italian; should you google translate it to read the recipe, just note that the amount of the milk is "1.5 dl" which is 150 ml or scant 2/3 cups, NOT "1.5 cups" as the translation says. yikes!). At any rate, I was glad I had blackberries (albeit frozen) so I could try and recreate them here.
And then, there was something else I wanted to make with blackberries.
Part of the reason I really wanted to make this cake was that I am digging its look ever since I saw it on the cover of an old issue of a once-discontinued, digitally-resurrected cooking magazine.
gourmet.com, but it's a simple and rich New York-style cheesecake with a crust packed with chopped almonds, and served with fresh blackberries tossed in a bit of sugar and chopped fresh mint leaves. We enjoyed it, but... I just wished I'd had fresh blackberries. Hopefully next year.
For now, we still have blueberries.
We usually go there a few times over the summer, between the end of July and the end of August. This year we started a bit late and couldn't make it there until mid August.
We ate them by the bowlful, cooked up a potful for a blueberry sauce, and froze bagfuls, and ate some more - in a few different ways.
Louisa Shafia (Ten Speed Press, 2009). Packed full of blueberries with just the right amount of cocoa and a dash of maple syrup, this got us through many of those hot summer days. You can find the recipe in my last post.
And then, this...
The blueberry cupcake recipe is from here, which has one interesting ingredient: potato. Yes, it's got mashed potato in the batter, which may sound odd but trust me, you don't taste potato in the cake; it just gives some moist texture and body to the cake, I suppose. The batter was easy to whip up, and the cake baked up fine.
this recipe, which uses whipped cream, because I wanted something that's not a butter cream. Basically, you just whip the cream, cream the cream cheese with sugar, and mix them together. Sounds simple, right? Except it didn't turn out right for me, at all - it was WAY too runny to pipe, even after I, now little panicking, put it in the fridge AND freezer. I then read the reviews and it became clear that I wasn't the only one having this problem; the key, apparently, was to whip your cream really stiff and keep it really cold.
So I ended up asking my folks to go pick up more cream and cheese, and making another batch all over again, this time whipping the cream in an ice-water bath. I also used confectioner's sugar. And this time, it worked! Phew.
Meanwhile, the first, failed batch of frosting tasted still good, and I couldn't bring myself to just toss it. But there was too much for me to lick clean, so I decided to 'recycle' it.
I did with peanut butter frosting last year. I don't measure ingredients but just adding a tablespoon of this and a handful of that, so the results are not guaranteed. But so far, it has proven to be a pretty good way, and definitely better than throwing the whole thing away.
And this, my friends, is much of what I've made with glorious summer fruits these past couple of months.
light flavored waters and more fruity drinks. Quite a lot of stuff, right? A bit overwhelming, even to me. But we were really lucky to have been able to enjoy so much of beautiful summer fruits.
I made in July, together with cherry cordial that I made in the same manner. I've also canned a jar of peach compote for later in the year. I think I'm now almost ready to move on to autumn - after savoring the last of the blueberries and peaches, that is. And oh, writing a fruit tart post, as well.
If you have made it this far, thanks for reading/seeing this insensitively long entry, and generally putting up with my terrible blogging habit. I hope you had a good summer and enjoyed all the good stuff that came along with it, and are now ready to welcome the new season. -cxx
posted by chika at: 9/06/2012 09:11:00 AM