Posts tagged cookbooks

A Rustic Fruit Dessert

Usually after a prolonged absence from the blog I take a few minutes to explain where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. Well, this time is different, as I don’t have any excuses or stories to share. The simple and short explanation is that I got lazy, swept up in the easygoing vibe of summertime. I pushed the blog to the back burner and spent some quality time at the beach, computer be gone. But one look at the piles of fresh peaches and plums at the farmers’ market near my office last week quickly changed my attitude. The multiple baskets of tender stone fruit, bursting with their sweet, sticky juices, instantly awakened my urge for cooking, and yes, blogging.

cake

I knew exactly what I wanted to make with this summertime bounty. During one of those relaxing afternoons at the beach (as I sat under an umbrella with my toes buried in the sand, of course) I came across a gorgeous-looking recipe for a stone fruit tea cake in Gourmet magazine. Published from a new cookbook called Rustic Fruit Desserts, this recipe seemed perfect for me and this sunniest of seasons: simple, forgiving, and filled with ripe fruit. 

The key to this recipe is in the dough. Instead of a traditional pie dough, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and eggs are combined into a loose, almost cream-like mixture. No rolling or painful dough transport required here, as I carefully spread half of the sticky dough into an even layer across my tart pan. After tossing the peaches and plums on top, I dropped the remaining dough in tablespoon-size pieces across the mounds of fruit, wherever I found room. This liquidy batter doesn’t follow any rules, but that’s what being “rustic” is all about, right? A sprinkle of brown sugar, 40 minutes in the oven, and my cake emerged. Bits of pink plums and orange peaches peeked through browned cushions of cake, promising a sweet taste of the season.

slice

I brought the cake to a barbecue over the weekend, and all I can say is that if the rest of the recipes in Rustic Fruit Desserts are this good, then I have to run out and buy the book. Every bite revealed the inherent luscious nature of the fresh fruit, while the surrounding cake was light and airy in its own right. The recipe suggests serving this dessert with a dollop of cream, but we didn’t bother. Oh, and if you can’t tell, you don’t need to serve tea with this tea cake either. It is perfect on its own.

I didn’t change the recipe (except for substituting a sprinkling of turbinado sugar with brown sugar before baking), so I am not reprinting it here. You can access it in the August 2009 issue of Gourmet, on Gourmet’s website, or in the new cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts.

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A Pause

I apologize for the sudden pause in posting last week. I can’t say much about it except that real life has once again gotten in the way of my food-related thoughts and blogging. This time it crept up on me out of the blue. It could be the weird weather shifts—Will it ever stop raining?—or just a recent turn inward that has kept me from updating Artichoke Heart. Maybe it’s just a two-year itch. I can’t believe it, but mid-March marked the second anniversary of my little blog. Perhaps after two years I don’t have much left to say.

cookbook

In any case I’m hoping to get back in the groove soon. Yesterday I treated myself to David Tanis’s beautiful cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and I think it will provide me with the inspiration I’ve been lacking. I’ve heard about this book by one of Chez Panisse’s head chefs for the past few months, but a stroll through Williams-Sonoma gave me my first opportunity to thumb through it. Page after page of elegant photographs and seasonal, family-style recipes called to me, and I bought it. Now I just have to decide what to make first: spinach cake with herb salad or lobster risotto? I’ll let you know.

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Kitchens, Journals, and Pies…Oh my!

Many people enjoy browsing through cookbooks at the end of the day, preferring a few moments of culinary immersion before drifting off into sweet slumber. Unfortunately I have never been one of those people. Picking up any book at bedtime usually lasts only a few minutes before I yawn widely, close both my book and my eyes, and settle dreamily into my pillow.

But lately I’ve been staying awake a little longer. For the past few weeks Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries has provided me with pages of food-related comfort before turning off the bedside lamp.

Nigel Slater is an English food writer who favors a simple, straightforward style of cooking. The Kitchen Diaries, published in 2006, is basically a chronicle of what he cooked and ate for a year. Casual recipes favor a bunch of this and a knob of that instead of absolute, rigorous measurements, and are interlaced with the author’s observations on cooking, fresh produce, and daily cravings.

The book is broken down into months and days, providing an intimate look at Slater’s natural, understated approach to food. Lush photography of his seasonal and rustic dishes printed on off-white, uncoated paper contributes to the well-crafted and personal feel of the book. At night I find myself paging through the photographs, enjoying the almost-finished chocolate almond cake on one page, and the gorgeous roasted pumpkin with spicy tomato sauce on another.

End of Summer Peach Tart

I’m barely a third of the way through the book (I reached the month of April last night), so I feel a little strange writing about it now. But I imagine it will reside on my nightstand for some time as I read a few pages here and there. I’ve posted a photo of a free-form peach tart I made over the summer; I never wrote about it because I was embarrassed by its burned edges and lopsided folds of dough. But six months later, I still find myself thinking of those peaches baked at the height of the summer season, paired with one of my first homemade pie crusts. It was a simple and honest little pie. I think Nigel Slater would approve.

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