Articles in Fruit w/recipe

Apricot Tart with Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricots — the gorgeous, golden fruit that is blushed with pink by the early summer sun — arrived in Europe from the East, China, perhaps, or India. Later they made their way across the Atlantic to the New World in the pockets of 17th-century English settlers.

Apricots are now firmly established in continental climates on both sides of the pond — Mediterranean regions and California are noted producers — that offer the right combination of cold winters and intensely hot summers. Right now, in central Europe, my favorites are coming in from Switzerland’s Valais region, where they bask in the sunbaked foothills of the Alps on the southern side of the River Rhone.

Sometimes — though not reliably — apricots are fine to eat raw, with the advantage that the pit or stone comes away cleanly from the flesh. You don’t even need a knife: Just pull apart the two halves with a gentle tug, and the pit will come free.

All too often, though, they are either unripe or woolly. These are the ones to use in jam, or baked in a tart or baked in the oven with sugar and spice. You can compensate for their lack of ripeness by judicious sweetening, while woolliness works just fine in jam.

If your visit to the farmers market this week yielded an abundance of apricots, or you’ve been the lucky recipient of a tray of ripe fruit from a neighbor whose tree has fruited bountifully this month, turn them into jam, or bake them in a fragile pastry shell or poach them in juice with a scattering of fragrant cardamom seeds and serve them cold with ice cream.

Apricot Jam With Lavender

Apricot Jam with Lavender. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricot Jam With Lavender. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

This lightly set jam sings of summer. Apricots, especially if fully ripe, have little pectin of their own. For this reason, it’s best to use quick-setting jam sugar with added pectin, which ensures a good set in a shorter cooking time, thus preserving all the jam’s fresh fruitiness.  

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes to bring up to a boil plus 5 to 10 minutes fast boiling

Total time: 30 to 35 minutes

Yield: Makes eight 1-pound (450 gram) jars.

Ingredients

4 1/2 pounds (2 kilograms) apricots

3 pounds, 5 ounces (1.5 kilograms) quick-setting jam sugar with added pectin

Juice of 1 lemon

8 fresh lavender sprigs

Instructions

Put a saucer in the freezer for testing the jam later.

Cut apricots in half and remove the pits (stones). Cut in half again if very large.

Place apricots in a large preserving pan with the sugar, lemon juice and lavender sprigs. Stir to mix well and leave for a few hours or overnight until the juices run and the sugar is dissolved.

Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring. From the moment it reaches a vigorous boil, count 5 minutes (be careful it doesn’t boil over — reduce the heat a little if necessary). Then start testing for a set: Remove the saucer from the freezer, pour a little into the saucer, let it cool slightly and then draw your finger through the jam: A distinct channel should form, and remain formed. If it does, setting point has been reached; if not, give the jam a little longer — up to 5 minutes more — and test again.

Once the jam has reached setting point, transfer it into warm jam jars, cover tightly and label.

Apricot Tart With Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries

Fresh apricots are the perfect choice for a seasonal dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Fresh apricots are the perfect choice for a seasonal dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricots make plenty of juice when baked, so take a page out of the Swiss bakers’ books: Sprinkle a layer of ground nuts in the bottom of the pastry to give a waterproof layer, as well as great flavor and texture.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

2 pounds (1 kilogram) apricots

1 8-ounce (225 grams) ready-rolled round of puff pastry or pie crust, or 8 ounces (225 grams) puff pastry or pie crust

A little butter for the pan

3 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts

3 tablespoons granulated or light brown sugar or to taste

5 to 6 spays of redcurrants or a handful alpine strawberries for garnish

Icing sugar to dust the tart

Instructions

Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits (stones), then cut in half again if very large.

Lightly butter a 12-inch (30-centimeter) quiche pan with removable base

Unwrap the round of puff or pie crust (or roll out the puff pastry or pie crust to a circle slightly larger than the quiche pan) and lay it in the buttered pan, pressing it gently into the corners with lightly floured knuckles.

Prick the pastry bottom with a fork and sprinkle with the ground nuts.

Arrange the apricots tightly in the pan in concentric circles, facing upwards, setting them up pertly like little cocked ears.

Sprinkle the fruit with sugar.

Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tinged with gold and the pastry golden-brown.

Remove tart from the oven and set it on a rack. Let it cool.

To serve, remove the outer ring from the pan, leaving the tart on its base, and place the tart on a serving plate. Garnish with redcurrant sprays or alpine strawberries and shake some icing sugar on top through a sieve or tea strainer.

Baked Apricots With Orange Juice and Cardamom Seeds

Baked Apricots with Orange Juice and Cardamom, Ice Cream and Chopped Pistachios, Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Baked Apricots with Orange Juice and Cardamom, Ice Cream and Chopped Pistachios, Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

If you find the apricots scored at the farmers market are a little tart or not especially well-flavored, here’s the way to go: Cut the fruit in half, bake them in orange juice with a sprinkling of sugar and some cardamom seeds, and serve well chilled with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and lightly sweetened crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Total time: 20 to 25 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

2 pounds (1 kilogram) apricots

1 cup (250 milliliters) orange, grapefruit or pink grapefruit juice

6 to 8 cardamom pods, split, seeds only

4 to 5 tablespoons brown sugar

Vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche for serving

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped green pistachios (optional, for garnish)

Instructions

Cut the apricots in half and discard the pits (stones).

Arrange them in one layer in a large ovenproof dish, cut sides down.

Pour on orange juice and sprinkle with cardamom seeds and sugar.

Heat oven to 425 F (220 C).

Bake the apricots until soft but not collapsed — 15 to 20 minutes depending on ripeness.

Remove from the oven.

Tip the juice into a shallow pan and boil down hard to reduce by half.

Pour reduced juice back over the apricots, let cool and then refrigerate.

To serve, arrange 3 to 5 apricot halves (depending on size) facedown in small bowls and spoon some juice over. Place a blob of crème fraiche or a scoop of ice cream in the middle and sprinkle with chopped pistachios if wished.

Main photo: Apricot Tart With Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

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Citrus fruits can help add flavor to everything from salads to dressings in winter, when many other fresh fruits are not in season. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

The orange trees outside the window are laden with fruit turning the colors of a sunset and pulling the branches down with their weight. The lemon tree is full of new buds awaiting a glimpse of sun before they burst open while baby lemons turn from green to yellow among the buds and last season’s fruit drops on the ground.

This is the season of citrus, and just about every corner of the U.S. has grapefruits, limes, lemons, tangerines and oranges in produce bins at farmers markets and grocery stores. The versatility of the different varieties makes it easy to include them in your daily diet in exciting and delicious ways. One of the best is to add the peeled, segmented fruit to salads or recipes.

How to segment a citrus fruit

Using a sharp knife, cut off the top and bottom of the fruit so it stands flat and stable on the cutting board. Carefully cut the skin off the flesh from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go, until all the skin and white pith is off the flesh. Then cut each segment from the membrane. Work over a bowl to catch all the juice for use in dressings, cocktails, smoothies or just to drink.

Oranges and tangerines

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines — with names like navel, Cara Cara, clementine and Satsuma — may be the most popular citrus fruits. For eating out of hand or squeezing for juice, these sweet, tasty citrus have no match.

  • Try them peeled in a smoothie for breakfast; I like to use three oranges or tangerines, a banana and a good handful of spinach, which dyes the smoothie emerald green.
  • Zest the skin and add a tablespoon to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for a zingy blast — there is nothing like the combo of chocolate with orange.
  • Add segments to raw spinach and thinly sliced red onion for a tangy salad. Toss with a quick dressing of rice vinegar, honey, a dash of sesame oil and olive oil, then top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Limes

One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Limes are one of nature’s seasonings and are absolute necessities for a well-stocked bar, in Southeast Asian cooking and as part of a gutsy margarita.

  • Add the juice to avocados, cilantro, salt and garlic for a creamy bowl of guacamole.
  • Stir coconut milk and lime juice with a good curry paste (I like Sukhi’s or Patak’s) then simmer briefly to make a sauce. Add cooked chicken, sliced fresh mango or peeled pears, peas and chopped sautéed onion for a quick chicken curry. Serve with steamed basmati rice and naan.
  • Make a marinade using the juice and zest of one lime with soy sauce, minced garlic, minced jalapeño and a drop or two of honey. Use on mild white fish, chicken, shrimp or skirt or flank steak cooked on the grill.

Grapefruit

These somewhat unwieldy fruits are too large to take in a lunch box, require a knife to cut or peel and have a surprisingly tart/sweet flavor, but what would winter be without this juicy fruit? In salads, dressings, juices, sodas and cocktails, both pink and yellow grapefruit add a tart/sweet smack of flavor. My favorite varieties are Oro Blanco and Melo Gold.

  • To make a healthy winter salad, mix segments of grapefruit and slices of ripe avocado with a mix of arugula and spinach, shavings of fennel and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds over the top. Make a dressing with the grapefruit juice saved from segmenting, balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey and olive oil.
  • For a quick snack, cut a grapefruit into medium-size wedges and eat, pulling the sections off the skin. Stand over the sink or the juice will dribble down your front.
  • For a warming winter cocktail, shake vodka and ice with grapefruit and lime juices in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glasses and fill with pomegranate soda. Add a couple of cubes of ice and enjoy.

Lemons

Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemons are the most versatile of citrus fruits, used year-round and the world over. For squeezing on fish, adding the juice to marinades, dressings, curd, iced tea and cocktails, or zesting the skin into gremolata, baked goods and even pasta, every part of the lemon can be put to good use.

  • For a salad dressing that can be your go-to, whisk the juice of half a lemon, chopped garlic to taste, a dab of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion.
  • Pile the zest of one lemon, a handful of parsley, ½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary needles, 1 large clove garlic and salt and pepper on a cutting board. Finely chop all ingredients together into a paste. Mix with a little olive oil and spread on halibut, albacore tuna, chicken or pork then grill over coals or sear in a hot pan, lower heat and cook to desired doneness. It’s a heavenly smell!
  • Combine lemon juice, a pinch of zest, honey and a knob of peeled fresh ginger in a teacup. Fill with boiling water and steep 2 minutes then sip for cough and cold relief.

Tools for citrus fruits

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Pictured above are must-have tools for working with citrus fruits. A handled microplane grater is perfect for zesting citrus quickly and easily. Before microplanes were born, we had the most pathetic zesting tools, now this guy makes it painless.

A small wooden reamer is what I use to juice limes and lemons, it squeezes out every drop. The large juicing reamer is good for any citrus fruit and traps the seeds as well. It also snaps onto measuring cups or bowls for easy catchment of juice.

Main photo: Citrus fruits can help add flavor to everything from salads to dressings in winter, when many other fresh fruits are not in season. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

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Green and yellow plantains at Carniceria Mimi in Canas, Costa Rica. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

I was intimidated by plantains. Having eaten them in Latin American restaurants, I knew they were good when served with roast chicken, rice and beans. But seeing them in the market, I had no idea how to cook them. A trip to Costa Rica changed all that when a chef demonstrated how plantains are easy to prepare and delicious.

Like bananas, their sweet cousins, plantains are naturally fibrous and a good source of potassium.

Although they look like large bananas, they are not edible unless cooked. Primarily starchy, especially when green, plantains also have a stiff, bark-like peel. Delightfully easy to cook, plantains are used to create delicious side dishes.

Available all year round and grown primarily in the southern hemisphere, plantains are cooked in a great many ways — steamed, deep fried, sautéed, boiled, baked and grilled. The same fruit is prepared differently when it is green than when it is yellow or black. The first time I visited a Mexican market in Los Angeles, I noticed bunches of very large bananas with mottled yellow and black skin. I thought the blackened fruit was spoiled. In point of fact, when the peel turns yellow and then black, the starches in the fruit have begun to convert to sugars.

Plantains, yellow or black, will never be as sweet as a banana, but when cooked in this ripened state, they produce a deliciously caramelized side dish or dessert.

In his kitchen at Villa Buena Onda, an upscale boutique hotel on the Pacific Coast in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Provence, Chef Gabriel Navarette demonstrated in a cooking video how easy it is to prepare plantains. In fact, they are so easy to cook, now that I am home, I make them all the time.

Chef Gabriel Navarette with a plate of patacones. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Chef Gabriel Navarette with a plate of patacones. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

The only difficulty with cooking plantains is finding a market that sells them. Not available in supermarkets in many U.S. cities, markets serving the Spanish-speaking community will have plantains. Seek them out because besides selling plantains, the markets will also be a good source of mangoes, papayas, tomatillos, chayote, fresh chilies, Latin spices and a good selection of dried beans and rice.

Navarette demonstrated how to prepare plantains three ways. He stuffed green plantains with cheese and baked them in the oven. He flattened green plantains and fried them twice to make patacones, thick, crispy chips served with pico de gallo, black beans, guacamole or ceviche. And, he caramelized yellow plantains to serve alongside black beans and rice on the wonderful Costa Rican dish called casado, which always has a protein such as chicken, fish, pork or beef.

Villa Buena Onda, or VBO as it is known locally, is an intimate destination. With only eight rooms, the hotel fells like a private home with a personal chef. The price of the room includes all three meals. Navarette and his fellow chefs make each dish to order.

Navarette studied at Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje, a prominent school training professionals in many fields. He worked in resort and hotel kitchens, moving up the ranks from server to line cook, then as a sous chef and finally as the head chef at VBO for the past eight years.

Cooked yellow plantains. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Cooked yellow plantains. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

What attracted me to his food, as well as that of his cousin Diego Chavarria on the weekend and Rosa Balmaceda in the morning, was that each dish tasted home cooked but was plated in the most beautiful, five-star way.

Aided by César Allonso Carballo to translate, Navarette was happy to show me how to cook plantains. I was amazed at how easy they are to cook.

Cooking yellow plantains to use as a side dish or dessert is the essence of simplicity. Simply peel each plantain, heat a half-inch of safflower or corn oil in a carbon steel or cast iron pan over a medium flame, cut the plantain into rounds or in half lengthwise and then cut into 5-inch long sections, fry on either side until lightly browned, drain on paper towels and serve. All that can be done in five to eight minutes and the result is delicious.

The crisp and savory patacones are slightly more complicated to prepare but not much more so.

Patacones from the kitchen of Villa Buena Onda

Yellow or black plantains should not be used to make patacones because they are too soft.

In the restaurant, Navarette uses a deep fryer to cook plantains. That is fast and easy so he can keep up with the orders, but I discovered at home that by using a carbon steel pan I was able to achieve the same result using less oil with an easier clean up.

The oil may be reused by straining out cooked bits and storing in a refrigerated, air-tight container.

Enjoy the patacones with an ice-cold beer and, as the Costa Ricans say, Pura vida! Life is good because everything is OK.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 green plantains, washed

1 cup corn or safflower oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste (optional)

Directions

1. Cut the ends off each green plantain. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut along the length of the tough peel being careful not to cut the flesh of the plantain. Pry off the peel and discard.

2. Preheat oil in a deep fryer to 350 F or a half-inch of oil in a large sauté pan over a medium flame.

3. Cut each plantain into 5 or 6 equal sized rounds.

4. Place the rounds into the deep fryer for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. In the sauté pan, turn frequently for even cooking, which should take about 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Remove, drain on paper towels and allow to cool.

6. Prepare one round at a time. Put the round on a prep surface. Place a sturdy plate on top of the round. Press firmly in the middle of the plate until the plantain round flattens, then do all the other rounds.

7. Place the flattened plantains back into the deep fryer for 2 minutes, or 4 minutes in the oil in a sauté pan as before. Turn as necessary in order to cook until lightly browned on all sides.

8. Remove from the oil, place on paper towels to drain and cool.

9. Season with sea salt and black pepper (optional).

10. Serve at room temperature with sides of black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream or ceviche or all four so guests can mix and match.

Main photo: Green and yellow plantains at Carniceria Mimi in Canas, Costa Rica. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

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Olive Cunzate. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

With the considerable help of family and friends, we finished in record time the olive harvest on our Tuscan farmlet high up in the hills behind Cortona, Italy.

It was not the best harvest we’ve ever had, though the yield, at 12.8 percent, was high. Translated into real terms, that means that for every 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of our plump, shiny, black Leccino olives that went into the press at the Landi mill on the road to Arezzo, we got back almost 13 kilos (28.6 pounds) of oil. And that meant we were blessed with a little more than 70 liters of fine, fresh, blissfully spicy and fragrant oil with a hint of lush fruitiness that will emerge more fully in the coming months.

Celebrating the harvest

Fresh olive oil. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Fresh olive oil. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Back home with our treasure, we broke open the champagne, Franciacorta and prosecco for a bubbly salute, and of course we toasted thick slices of bread in the fireplace, rubbing them with cut cloves of garlic and lavishing the new oil on top for the original bruschetta (called fettunta around Florence). We also made bean-and-farro soup, traditional for the harvest, and garnished it with a healthy glug of new oil and tossed pasta in new oil with chopped garlic and broken chilis in the family favorite ajo-ojo-peperoncino (garlic-oil-hot red peppers), and we had a wonderful olive salad (see recipe below) made by our friend chef Salvatore Denaro with green olives he had cured earlier in the season.

Denaro is Sicilian, though he has lived in Umbria for most of his adult life. He remains Sicilian through and through, and it was he who introduced me to the old Sicilian idea that you must harvest olives to cure before the Feast of San Francesco on Oct. 3. “Later on,” he explained, “they’re too full of oil.”

So, in keeping with tradition, his were quick-cured green olives, olive schiacciate, or smashed olives, cured in a salt brine with bunches of wild fennel, then tossed in this salad, which makes a terrific antipasto as well as a great accompaniment for any kind of roast or grilled meat, or even in one of those Sicilian fish platters where a whole fish has been roasted in a combination of tomatoes, olives, capers and other tasty things.

Olive Cunzate

Olives before harvest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Olives before harvest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: None, although the olives benefit from resting about 30 minutes before serving

Total time: 15 minutes, plus resting time

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups olive cunzate

Even in Sicily, cured olives are often dressed up (“cunzate”) to present as an antipasto salad. Try this with the plain green olives you buy from a supermarket bin, but taste them first (despite the sign that says “No snacking”) to make sure they have good flavor. And do not even contemplate using the kind of green olives in a jar that come stuffed with pimientos or the like.

This treatment will bring ordinary supermarket olives to life in a whole new way. You can do it ahead of time, too, and let the olives marinate in the mixture for a day or two, even up to a week, before serving. Keep the salad on hand for healthy holiday snacking along with bowls of almonds you’ve blanched and toasted in olive oil in a 350 F oven.

Ingredients

About 8 ounces brine-packed green olives, with their pits

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Sicilian

1 small fresh green or red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 medium stalk celery, coarsely chopped

2 or 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon wine vinegar (optional)

Sea salt to taste (optional)

1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Pinch of dried Sicilian or Greek oregano

Directions

1. Rinse the olives in a colander, tossing gently under running water. If you wish, remove the pits, but the olives themselves should remain as whole as possible. Some brine-cured olives have vinegar added to the brine to give a tart flavor. Taste an olive to see how salty and/or tart they are, then decide whether to add vinegar and/or salt to your marinade.

2. Transfer the olives to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss gently. Reserve the remaining tablespoon of oil to use at the end if necessary.

3. Add the chili pepper, celery, garlic and parsley and toss again. If the original brine for the olives was not perceptibly tart, add a teaspoon of good wine vinegar, along with a sprinkling of sea salt if necessary.

4. Let the olives sit, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, then taste. Adjust the mixture at this point, adding more or less of the ingredients mentioned. If the mixture seems too dry, add the remaining olive oil. At this point, you may cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two or three days.

5. When ready to serve, bring the olives in their marinade back up to room temperature. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the minced parsley and oregano, crumbling the oregano with your fingers to bring out the flavor. Taste an olive and adjust the seasoning once more, adding a little more vinegar and/or salt as needed.

Note: Denaro is a purist, but some Sicilians toss into the mix a few thin curls of lemon or orange zest or even a few pieces of fresh orange or lemon segments, the outer membrane carefully cut away.

Main image: Olive Cunzate. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Harmon Jenkins

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Summer recipes are a good chance for kids to learn some simple cooking techniques and help out in the kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Summer break gives kids more time to spend in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s just too hot to be near the stove. These seven no-cook recipes require no heat sources, but they still teach some kitchen skills with delicious results.

From gazpacho to watermelon sandwiches, these are recipes that celebrate the flavors of summer. Kids might need some adult help with cutting and blending, but, since there’s no cooking involved, they can do most of the work themselves.

And to make it even cooler? Eat outside, preferably with a nice summer breeze.

More Zester Daily stories on kids and cooking:

» 7 healthy on-the-go snacks kids can help make
» Kids eat smart? There’s a trick to family dinner
» 5 stone fruit dishes kick summer into high gear
» 8 dishes that taste best on a picnic blanket

Main photo: Summer recipes are a good chance for kids to learn some simple cooking techniques and help out in the kitchen. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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Layers of berries and whipped cream make a refreshing summer dessert. Credit: Thinkstock

I’ve reached that point of summer where the mere thought of flipping on the oven and heating up the kitchen to bake cookies, pies or cakes makes me sweat.

Rather than risk turning into a puddle over the next picnic or potluck party dish, I’ve shifted into low gear and started whisking, rather than cooking, my summertime treats.

Syllabub

Syllabub. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Syllabub. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Topping my roster of simple desserts that can be effortlessly whipped together is syllabub. The name syllabub may conjure up visions of windswept sand dunes, dusty camels and “Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights.” As exotic as it sounds, this sweet comes not from the sun-drenched desert but instead from Britain.

Whip syllabub until soft, velvety peaks form. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Whip syllabub until soft, velvety peaks form. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

In 16th-century England, syllabub was a frothy beverage made of milk and sweet wine or cider. Because people liked the foamy head more than the liquid itself, syllabub eventually discarded its drink status and took on the role of a creamy dessert.

What makes syllabub an ideal summer treat is its simplicity. You can assemble it in a few minutes with either a whisk or an electric hand mixer. Just beat 1 cup of chilled whipping cream, a quarter cup of sauternes, muscatel or other sweet wine and the same amount of sugar together until soft velvety peaks form. Once you see those gentle mounds, you’ve got your syllabub.

To vary the taste, you can replace the wine with flavored rums or liqueurs or fruit juice. To keep its romantic desert image intact, present your syllabub in colorful North African tea glasses.

Fool

Blackberry fool. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Blackberry fool. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Another easy English favorite is the fool. As simple as its name sounds, the fool consists of mashed raw or cooked fruit folded into homemade whipped cream.

In the United Kingdom, fools usually contain gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb or plums. I find the bold look and piquant flavor of blackberries work extremely well here. When spooned into dainty etched glasses, fools become an elegant last course, one that leaves guests talking for days about your ethereal creation.

Fruit and cream

Blueberries and cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Blueberries and cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

If you choose not to swirl mashed fruit through your whipped cream, then you’ll have the next offering, fruit and cream. Yet another straightforward treat, fruit and cream consists of alternating bands of fresh or cooked fruit and lightly flavored whipped cream. Berries, particularly blueberries or elderberries, taste fabulous in this recipe.

When making the whipped cream for this and for fools, you should beat the cream until stiff, glossy peaks form. The whipped cream in these two confections should possess a firmer consistency than that of a syllabub. Because the bands of white and purple — or red or blue or whatever color fruit you choose to use — look so beautiful together, I also serve this repast in a clear tea or juice glass.

Coconut cream

Coconut cream topped with kiwi. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Coconut cream topped with kiwi. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Reminiscent of the syllabub, coconut creams feature yogurt, shredded coconut and cream of coconut. Don’t confuse cream of coconut with its thinner, less flavorful relation, coconut milk. You will find both in the international aisle of most grocery stores and in Latin American, Asian and Caribbean markets.

To make coconut creams, whisk together 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons sweetened, shredded coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream of coconut and an equal amount of sifted confectioner’s sugar. Divide the coconut creams among four small bowls or glasses and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When you’re ready to serve the coconut creams, top each with a sprinkling of fresh diced kiwis, chopped pistachios or almonds, or grated bittersweet chocolate.

Gelée

Gelée. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Gelée. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Searching for an uncomplicated, dairy-free dessert? Look no further than the gelée. A gelatin-based treat, gelée frequently features champagne, Madeira or other sparkling or fortified wines.

To some, this may sound suspiciously similar to a Jell-O shot. How often, though, do you see that frat house staple served in a filigreed glass or garnished with a spice-infused sauce? Further distancing gelée from college fare is the inclusion of whole or pureed fruit.

Of these effortless goodies, gelée will require the most time. Even so, the moment that you shut the refrigerator door, your work ends. To make a gelée, whisk together 2 .25-ounce packets gelatin, 1/3 cup water, 1 cup wine, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds fresh fruit and 1/3 cup sugar. Pour the concoction into small bowls or glasses and refrigerate it for a minimum of three hours before serving.

During the final sultry days of summer, spare yourself the kitchen heat and whip together some of these quick, cool sweets.

Blackberry Fool

Prep time: 25 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups blackberries

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Place the blackberries, 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Allow the berries to macerate for 15 minutes, stirring periodically, until they release some of their juices.

2. Put half the berries in the bowl of a blender or food processor and purée. Pour the purée over the whole berries and stir the mixture together.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks take shape.

4. At this point, fold in the berries. Because I prefer a dryer fool, I strain off and reserve most of the juice and just add the berries and strained purée to the whipped cream. I later drizzle the juice over the individual servings of fool.

5. If you’re serving this right away, spoon equal amounts of fool into 4 bowls. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate the fool until ready to serve. Note that when refrigerated, the fool will keep its shape for 2 to 3 hours. Make and serve accordingly.

Main photo: Layers of berries and whipped cream make a refreshing summer dessert. Credit: Thinkstock

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Hungarian Cherry Pie, cseresznyès lepèny, served with whipped cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

You open an old cookbook and out flutters a fragile, stained piece of notepaper. On it there is some spidery handwriting in fading blue ink for a long-forgotten cookie from a long-forgotten aunt in a long-forgotten language. Or perhaps, like Budapest-born Tomi Komoly, you have a carefully bound journal filled with exquisitely rhythmic italic notations. Hastily scribbled or meticulously inscribed, old family recipes are a gift from the past. But bringing them back to life in modern kitchens can present today’s cook with some unexpected problems.

Unforeseen problems: handwriting, culinary shorthand

Tomi Komoly’s grandmother’s recipes were handwritten in old-fashioned German  and Hungarian. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Tomi Komoly’s grandmother’s recipes were handwritten in old-fashioned German and Hungarian. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

When Komoly, who now lives in the United Kingdom, took the task of painstakingly transcribing, testing and updating many of his Austro-Hungarian grandmother’s recipes, he encountered a number of unforeseen problems. Not least, the recipes were written in a narrow, cursive script in old-fashioned German and Hungarian often using the shorthand style of a culinary expert for whom the manuscript was more aide-memoire than intended manual. It took him more than six years to translate and edit — and enter the mindset of his late grandmother to identify the many details and techniques she would have assumed needed no explanation. Sometimes, with heirloom recipes, it is what is left out that is as important as what is included.

Concessions to modernity

Modern labor-saving devices such as food mixers or electric grinders -- unheard of in prewar Budapest -- can also have an effect on a recipe. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Modern labor-saving devices such as food mixers or electric grinders — unheard of in prewar Budapest — can also have an effect on a recipe. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

The aim of recipe rescuers is always to be as authentic as possible but, as Komoly found out, there have to be concessions to modernity. Today’s cooks may not have the stamina of their ancestors, but few would want to turn back every clock. As Komoly says, “Granny used to laboriously beat the egg whites with a little whisk or large fork, but I use a machine except for rising dough, which I prefer to feel by hand.” Ready-made noodles, dried yeast and strudel dough are also innovations that prove that progress can mean just that.

Advances in cooking equipment

Gugelhupf, or "Kuglof," made in a traditional mold with tapered sides and a funneled center. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Gugelhupf, or “Kuglof,” made in a traditional mold with tapered sides and a funneled center. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Technical advances can also affect the success of updating recipes: Even the material out of which cooking tins and utensils are made may alter cooking times, and when all the cooking and baking was done on a wood-fired, cast-iron stove with hot plates, as with Komoly’s family, oven temperatures and timings can be another source of error. As he says, “How do you interpret instructions such as ‘Do it on a high flame’ or ‘Bake until it is ready’?” In addition, in quite a few recipes I had to work out the sequence of adding ingredients by patient trial and error. Luckily, on the whole, Granny was very reliable, so I didn’t have too many disasters.”

Our kitchens today also boast luxuries unheard of in prewar Europe, or available to only a few, such as refrigeration. As Komoly recalled, “We would get great blocks of ice delivered, we never had a fridge. Or we would keep food in winter on the floor of the freezing, unheated bathroom.” Restoring old recipes in light of the “new” technology means you may have to expect new timings, new procedures, new methodology.

Account for changing ingredients, tastes

In baking, varying egg sizes can often make a difference in the end result. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

In baking, varying egg sizes can often make a difference in the end result. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Family recipes often are short on details, especially when orally transmitted, but even when written, many instructions can be vague to the uninitiated. Often, cooks would vary the way they cooked and baked according to whim, the weather and whether or not certain items were available.

“Although many recipes had quantities, in those days they didn’t specify things they would take for granted, such as the size of eggs. I came to the conclusion, for example, that over-egging a cake really doesn’t hurt too much,” Komoly said. “I’ve also had to play around with sugar quantities; there’s a massive difference in our tastes these days. I found I only needed about two-thirds of the original amount.”

Short on details

Fresh cherries are particularly popular in Austro-Hungarian baking. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Fresh cherries are particularly popular in Austro-Hungarian baking. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

A rose is a rose is a rose, but the saying does not always hold true. Take a cherry, for example. There are sweet ones, sour ones, red ones, black ones and unique regional varieties that add different dimensions to a dish. Fresh produce was usually a given: In Hungary, Komoly’s grandmother would assume the fruit and nuts were there for the taking from the family’s own trees, but a stale supermarket walnut or hazelnut can turn yesterday’s delight into today’s disaster.

Cooking vs. baking

Many heirloom recipes are imprecise in their instructions, dealing mostly in "handfuls" and "pinches." Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Many heirloom recipes are imprecise in their instructions, dealing mostly in “handfuls” and “pinches.” Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

There’s many a recipe handed down from generation to generation that involves good old-fashioned instructions such as “Take a pinch of this” or “Add some of that.” In many Italian-language cookbooks, recipes often include qv (quanto vale — how much you want) or qb (quanto basta — as much as it needs) in the instructions. The size of a “handful” may not matter too much in general cooking, but baking is more of an exact science than a free-form art.

A century of changes

Even basic ingredients, such as this widely used variety of Italian flour, can vary from era to era, country to country. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Even basic ingredients, such as this widely used variety of Italian flour, can vary from era to era, country to country. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Another problem, common to all who undertake the rescue and restoration of heritage recipes, are ingredients. Soft cheese, butter, flour, chocolate and so on may not always be the same as those used a century ago. Take flour, for example. Italian heritage recipes use different types of flour to those we are accustomed in the United States and United Kingdom. Komoly encountered the same difficulty, “The flour we used in Hungary was quite different, but most UK flour is highly refined. Eventually, I found that if I made a cake with a large percentage of flour, it was best to use a ‘strong’ Canadian flour.”

Komoly is also fortunate in that he can still recall helping his grandmother in the kitchen — always rewarded with a lick of the spoon or bowl — as well as being able to hold in his memory the taste of the end products.

Having survived the Holocaust, his grandmother, Vamos Kathe, relocated to Nairobi. Her recipe book was a precious reminder of a lost world, inscribed with the words, “With God’s Help.” He must have been listening.

Hungarian Cherry Pie (cseresznyès lepèny)

Recipe taken from “My Granny’s Gift: 55 Delicious Austro-Hungarian Dessert Recipes” by Tomi Komoly, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, 124 pages.

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes

Baking time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (15 grams) plain flour

9 tablespoons (125 grams) butter or margarine

1 whole egg

6 tablespoons (80 grams) superfine sugar

About 4 cups (500 grams) cherries, unpitted

4 egg whites

2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar

1 cup (70 to 80 grams) bread crumbs

Directions

1. Mix the flour, butter and egg with 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of the superfine sugar and roll out to about 1/4-inch (7 to 8 mm) thick and transfer into a 12-by-8-inch (30-by-20-cm) baking tray. Alternatively, just place in the middle of the tray and “pat” until it is spread evenly over the whole area.

2. Bake in a moderate oven 350 F (175 C) for 35 minutes. (It may take less time, so if it smells like it is burning, it may well be!)

3. Pit the cherries and drain the fruit of all excess juice and spread evenly after scattering the bread crumbs over the pastry. Sprinkle the remaining superfine sugar on top. (If the cherries are very sweet, then you may not need the extra sugar. CH)

4. Beat the 4 egg whites with the powdered sugar until very firm, spread over the cake, and bake for another 15 minutes or until lightly browned and semi-hardened. Allow to cool, cut into squares and serve with whipped cream.

5. Instead of the bread crumbs, ground walnuts or hazelnuts could also be used.

Main photo: Hungarian Cherry Pie, cseresznyès lepèny, served with whipped cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman 

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Chocolate-dipped Watermelon slices sprinkled with sea salt. Credit: Copyright 2015 Zester Media

Watermelon’s dribble-down-your-chin deliciousness adds an exclamation mark to any summer picnic. Memories of seed-spitting contests followed by a run through the sprinklers are the essence of childhood.

But there is so much more to love about watermelon. It is summer’s most versatile food. Dress it up or keep it simple. Soups, curries, salsas and salads; watermelon’s savory sweetness deserves a place at every meal. Let your imagination go!

Whether you use the fruit in cocktails, healthy smoothies or a simple Mexican agua fresca with watermelon juice and a squeeze of lime, drink in the goodness of watermelon.

Check out these 10 killer ideas; you will never see watermelon the same way again.

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Main photo: Chocolate-dipped Watermelon slices sprinkled with sea salt. Credit: Copyright 2015 Zester Media

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