Monday, August 12, 2013

Clafoutis aux cerises: summer, in dessert form

This post is dedicated to my friend Andrea, who happens to live in the middle of a cherry orchard. I think that's great for her since she is surrounded by the best summer fruit. Problem is, she lives across the country, in another country even, called Canada, which means that she isn't able to share these fruits with the likes of me.

Last week, Andrea sent me photos of helicopters hovering over the orchard to dry the cherries after a rain. She told me that if water sits on the stem part of cherries, they will split and the cherries will be unsellable, thus the copters and the hovering which blows the water off the cherries, drying the entire orchard in less than 5 minutes! Just reading of Andrea's abundance of cherries (she canned 45 quarts of juice last week!) made my mouth water. So, I bought some cherries at the grocery the other day (much less exciting/romantic than picking them from my orchard, but still an effective acquisition method for said fruit.)

They were dark red and sweet and crunchy like the best cherries can be. We ate a bowlful fresh and cold from the refrigerator. But I decided that they needed to be something more so I made a cherry clafoutis out of the rest of them.

Clafoutis is a French dessert that has fruit surrounded by a crepe-like batter and baked until puffy. It is homey and comforting and surprisingly easy to make. The recipe I use comes from James Peterson's Glorious French Food. It is a huge book that weighs about 7 pounds, but is concise and reliable. According to Peterson, the dessert is from in the region of France called Limousin whose most famous city is Limoges.

Set up and ready to pit some cherries

Years ago, while scouring the flea market at the Porte de Vanves in Paris, I spotted this cherry pitter among the used housewares for sale. This nifty little tool set me back about 8 euros, which was, I thought, pretty spendy for a gadget of such limited use. But it is priceless when making clafoutis...especially when I'm able to locate it among all the other nifty gadgets I've collected over the years!

Pitting in action

Life is a bowl of cherries, sans pits

I was a very gullible (read: stupid) child and someone once told me that if I swallowed a pit accidentally that the seed would grow into a tree inside me. Many a night of sleep was lost by the young Tal wondering where my organs would go if there was also a tree growing inside me. Please, think about the things you tell children, people!

My husband enjoys the cookbooks with photos of the individual steps in the process. I guess it is sort of a way he makes sure that he's doing the right thing as he makes the recipe. So, here are step-by-step photos of the making of cherry clafoutis:

Whisk together eggs, sugar , flour and milk. Add melted butter.

The hardest thing about this recipe is the one hour resting time for the batter.
(I made deviled eggs in the meantime, but that's for another post).

Spread cherries in buttered baking dish

Pour batter over cherries and bake for one more hour!

Your patience is rewarded....go ahead, take a bite out of summer!

In this photo, you can really see how much the batter puffs up, especially at the corners.
Like a souffle, it eventually does fall as it cools, which doesn't effect the taste, just the WOW factor.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anniversary dinner

We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday. Dinner was salad with flank steak, roasted sweet peppers and potatoes, red onion confit and shallot vinaigrette. The shallot vinaigrette is from a recipe in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I crushed a garlic clove with salt and some anchovy paste in the salad bowl before adding the greens and dressing. It gives it a bit more kick.

I love having salad as a meal. The potatoes over the top idea comes from a brasserie called La Marmite on the corner of our street in Paris. They throw roasted garlic potatoes over all the salads they serve. In the mornings, on the corner sidewalk, there are always sacks and sacks of potatoes delivered to the door of La Marmite.

Anniversary dinner salad, before

Anniversary dinner salad, mid-meal

I decided a few days ago to bake a plum galette (free-form tart) for our dessert. We got married at the justice of the peace and afterward, friends attending the wedding were invited back to our place for a bite to eat. Jean-Francois makes a lovely apple tart and I asked if he could also make a plum tart for the guests. He sort of looked at me funny, but did so anyway. It was hit. I made this tart with a base of breadcrumbs, brown sugar and pecans. The base helps to soak up the juices of the fruit and keeps the crust from getting soggy. Again, an idea from Linda McCartney's cookbook On Tour. Very tasty!

Red plum galette with pecan and brown sugar base

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pantry hummus

The main ingredients are readily available in the pantry and fridge.
After a whirl in the food processor, more garlic, oil and some sumac to taste.

This is a really basic hummus that is easy to whip up from pantry staples. Prepared hummus is readily available in the grocery, but $4 for 10 ounces is pricey considering how easy it is to make at home. A few years ago, Linda McCartney's On Tour vegetarian cookbook gave me the idea of adding avocado to my hummus. Her recipe includes yogurt, which I leave out. The avocado makes it creamy and a beautiful shade of green.

The magic ingredient that elevates this hummus from humdrum to yum yum....avocado!

Someone couldn't wait for me to take the beauty shot before digging in....