Baked Apples

Lady Apples

These little apples work beautifully to create a sweet ending to any meal.  Their small size allows for a sweet treat without the unfortunate feeling of excess or over-indulgence.  Any small apple can be used.  But, these and small empire apples are two of our favorites.  If you accidentally purchase some spongy apples or if you’re looking for a way to use a couple random strays, this hides their flaws and highlights their sweetness.

Baked Apples
makes 4

4 small apples, Empire or Lady Apples
fresh cranberries
sultanas or other raisins
splash of brandy or rum
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash apples carefully.  Remove the core without breaking through the bottom.   Place in a small baking dish.  Stuff each apple with a couple cranberries and raisins.  Splash each apple with brandy or rum.  Then, combine sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves in a small bowl.  Sprinkle mixture over your apples.  Then, add just enough water to cover the bottom of your baking dish.  Bake for 35-45 minutes.  Apples should be tender, not mushy.  If you want softer apples, cook them longer.

Serve warm.  Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or both.

Berkeley Tie Dye Tomatoes

Pink Berkeley Tie Dye?

These were rich, juicy, and delicious.  So, after eating these tomatoes, I’ve spent a little bit of time attempting to identify them.  Is this a Pink Berkeley Tie Dye?

Or…

…Is this a Berkeley Tie Dye?  Or, is this a Large Barred Boar Beefsteak Tomato.  (Yes, that’s really the name of a tomato.)  Or, are they both versions of Berkeley Tie Dye?  I’m just not sure.  Both are ribbed, pleated, convoluted, or lobed.

This beauty is lobed, too.  But, I’m pretty sure this is a Striped German.  After ripening for 3-4 days on one of our countertops in our temperature controlled home, this tomato turned a deep red on the bottom.  It was perfectly ripe, dark red, juicy, and bursting with savory tomato flavor.

We bought these tomatoes at Whole Foods for $7 a pound.  And, they were worth every penny.  Roughly, 75% ripe, they were quite firm at the time of purchase.  But, after 3-5 days each tomato slowly ripened at its own pace.  And, the flavor was very close to my home grown tomatoes.

Tomato Basil Salad
serves 1

1 small pink striped
Chinese Chives
Thai basil
sweet basil
black pepper

Slice or cube the tomato.  Sprinkle with chopped chives, basil and freshly ground black pepper.  Lightly drizzle vinaigrette on top.  Toss and garnish with additional chives, if you like.  Serve immediately with a wedge of toasted baguette.

My Current Favorite Vinaigrette

olive oil
tiny splash of roasted sesame oil
rice wine vinegar
about 1 heaping teaspoon chili garlic sauce
black pepper
fine sea salt, as you like it

Combine roughly equal parts of olive oil and vinegar.  Add a splash of sesame oil and a heaping teaspoon of chili garlic sauce.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Taste.  Add salt, as desired.

In Denial, Tomato On Grilled Baguette

Our tomato plants are some serious fighters this year.  Somehow, we’ve managed to pick a couple handfuls of Sun Gold cherries a week for the last few weeks.  In the back, those two beauties are courtesy of Whole Foods.   They appear to be some type of red zebra tomato or Pink Berkeley Tie Dye… maybe.  The outside was a deep pink with golden yellow stripes.  Inside, they were deep, dark red.  And, they were so incredibly delicious.  They were equally sweet and savory with a pure tomato flavor.  We loved the spicy bite of basil next to the super sweetness of these tomatoes.

It ain’t over til it’s over!

Tomato On Baguette
makes 1

6″ wedge of baguette
1 tomato
Thai basil leaves
Duke’s mayo
fine sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground

Lightly grill baguette.  Brush lightly with mayo.  Top with basil leaves and thick tomato slices.

In our house, there’s no such thing as tomato scraps.  We devour each and every last bite.

Brown Butter Rum Plum Cobbler

Plum compote or a chunky plum jam (like this) could easily be used in the place of fresh plums.  But, it will be very sweet.  A small spoonful served warm with vanilla ice cream would be best.

Brown Butter Rum Plum Cobbler
makes 1 large dish

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup rum
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
12 plums, quartered
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Continue to brown and swirl the butter until it’s a deep golden color and smells a bit nutty.  Remove from heat and add rum.  Swirl.  Pour the brown butter mixture into a deep casserole dish.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.  Stir to combine.  Pour in the cup of whole milk and stir until just combined.  Pour the batter into the baking dish over top of the butter mixture.

In a large bowl, combine plum slices, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
Spoon the plums and all their liquids evenly over top of the batter. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Top with whipped cream.

Sugar Plum Jam

Sugar Plums

Sometimes called Italian plums, or Damson, or Empress (though I believe there are differences between Damsons and Empress plums), they’re also called prune plums.

Sugar Plums, Sliced

Add sugar and freshly ground cinnamon.

Then, bring to a boil.

Stir religiously until the steam dissipates and the bubbles get big and glossy.

Then, let it set.

Sugar Plum Jam
makes about 2 cups

14-16 sugar plums, washed well and sliced
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place sliced plums in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add sugar and cinnamon.  Stir.  Then, bring to a  gentle boil.  Boil gently for about 15-18 minutes stirring very frequently.  NEVER leave the pot unattended!  (Never leave any pot unattended, actually.)  If your mixture is too hot, it could bubble over in mere seconds.  The molten lava that is jam will make an incredible mess.  And, it’s MOLTEN hot.  So, be careful.  Burns aren’t fun.

Serve warm with biscuits.  Or, let the jam sit and cool before placing in the fridge.

What a gorgeous color!

This is the texture before chilling.  It’s a bit like a thick compote. After chilling, it thickens up nicely.  Here, I’ve stored my jam very simply in a tall glass to take up minimum fridge space.  This scant 2 cups of jam remains after spooning generous quantities of our warm jam over buttered biscuits.

Devil Crabs

These are awesome.  And, they’re still a work in progress.  As you can see, the ones in back were a bit overcooked.  So, watch these carefully as you fry them.  Stale bánh mì make a pleasantly acceptable substitute for Cuban bread in a pinch.  I might even go so far as to try panko.  It’s just silly to wait for good Cuban bread to magically appear in Atlanta.  That’s very unlikely to happen any time soon.

Devil Crabs
Or, Cuban Style Deviled Crab

1/2 cup sofrito, or as desired
(Sautéed onions, tomatoes, celery, sweet red peppers)
1 cup crab meat
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup bread crumbs or as needed for shaping, made from Cuban bread

bread crumbs, made from Cuban bread, for rolling

Combine all ingredients, except crab meat.  Stir to combine.  Then, gently stir in crab meat.  Roll into croquettes or football shape.  Then, roll in bread crumbs.  Deep fry or pan fry.  Watch carefully.  The breadcrumbs tend to burn easily.

Allow to drain on uncoated parchment, the interior of a paper bag, or paper towels for about 5 minutes before serving.  Careful, they’ll still be hot!

Garden 2014 — A Look Back

The raspberry sprouts have graduated to full grown vines.  Hopefully, they’ll survive the winter.  Currently all of the raspberry and black berry bushes are still alive.  Optimistically, the Dwarf Elberta peach looks about half alive.  The Bonfire peach is on its last legs.  And, the Kadota fig tree is a giant question mark.  Sprouts shoot from the base.  But, it’s smaller this year than it was last year.   The moral of this story?  We should probably plan on planting three new fruit or nut trees next year.

The Contenders:

Paw Paw

mulberry

fig
(Panchee, Dalmatian, Conadria, or Kadota)

chestnut

pecan

And, it looks like I will probably need to replant some thyme.  Both the oregano and marjoram are crowding out my small patch of thyme.  And, I never plant enough basil.  Plant more basil!!!

Green Tea Smoothie
makes 1

1 scant cup ice
1 cup almond milk
1 heaping teaspoon matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- or -

1 scant cup ice
1 cup coconut milk
2-3 big pieces of mango
1 heaping teaspoon matcha green tea powder
pinch of cinnamon

Liquify in blender.  Pour into glass and enjoy.

Garden Update — The Last Of The Tomatoes

Lemon Boy Ruled This Year

Juliet, I do love thee.

Juliet Takes Second Place

And, Sun Gold Cherries Drops To Third By a Nose

But, really, they’re all winners.

Something’s eating the tomato buds… some type of caterpillar.  So, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll have tomatoes.  Pretty little buds form and disappear a few days later.  It’s so frustrating.  There are still a handful of tomatoes and cherries on the vine.  But, the end is near.

This was a great way to test olive oil, too.

Tomato Snack

tomatoes, sliced
fennel bread
olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper

Grill bread.  Slice tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and plate.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Then, nibble and dip.

Who needs a tomato sandwich?

Roasted Sunchokes

Quick To Shrivel

By the time the third sunchoke hit the plate, they’d shriveled even more.

Love them or hate them?  Neither, but, they’re tasty.  And, I’d make them again.  Next time, I’d like to try some very young ones.  These are more like fussy teens.

So, what is a Jerusalum artichoke?  It’s the root of a species of native Eastern American sunflower.  And, it can also be found in Eastern Canada.  It’s known by many names.  To name a few, it’s commonly called a sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, and more.

Raw, the texture is hard and crisp.  It’s sort of like a cross between a super crisp jicama and a water chestnut with a touch something that is savory and a barely there nutty flavor.  Roasted, the texture is a bit like other moist root vegetables.  Similar to a roasted carrot or parsnip, only the dark golden roasted edges remain crisp.  The inside is moist and tender.  The flavor is reminiscent of a moist, sweet yukon gold potato crossed with a delicate touch of artichoke.  But, honestly, if I’m in the mood for something that tastes like artichoke without the fuss, I’d go for cardoons.  When it comes to vegetables, cardoons rock.

This root vegetable has a dark side, though.  So, I’ll offer fair warning.  While researching the time to roast my sunchokes.  I came across this article on Bon Appétit’s website.  Would you like the CliffsNotes version?  They’re also known as the “Fartichoke”.  And, they might cause an upset stomach, gas, and a laxative-like effect.  If you’re sensitive to fruits high in fructose like the apple.  You might want to try a small amount of roasted sunchoke to see how your body deals with the hard to digest starches.

For the ladies out there, they’re iron content is quite high.  In a 100 gram serving (That’s 3.5 ounces or a generous side dish serving), they have 3.4 mg of iron.That’s about triple of the amount of iron as a serving of broccoli.  And, they’re rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin C and a few of the Bs.

They do darken a little bit like a potato on cut edges.  But, they’re much easier to manage.  And, you have significantly longer handling time before it becomes an issue.

Roasted Sunchokes
serves 4-6
(Small servings are best.  Read above.)

1 lb sunchokes, well-washed
olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

If your sunchokes are small and young, quarter them.  If they’re larger, cut them into wedge shapes.  Toss in olive oil.  Then, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Toss to redistribute the olive oil.  Then, raise the temperature to 425 and continue to roast until tender in the center and gold brown on the edges.  That’s about another 30-45 minutes.  Toss in roasting pan at about the 45 minute mark, too.

Serve small portions with protein and veggies of your choice.

For what it’s worth, they didn’t bother my stomach at all.

Peach Jam

These peaches were so super ripe that I didn’t even bother to remove the skins.  After the 10-15 minute boil, the skins almost melted away completely.  And, the tiny bits of skin that remained were fine in the finished product.

Peach Jam
makes 1 large jar

4-5 peaches, roughly cut
2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine roughly cut peaches, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized sauce pan over moderate heat.  As needed, stir gently and allow to boil for about 10-15 minutes.  When its done, the jam will be thick and syrupy.  Let cool.  Then, pour into a large jar or bowl and refrigerate.

Spoon onto biscuits, toast, cake… or ice cream.

The skins also added a gorgeous color to this jam.