Just Peachy

August 30, 2009

GRILLED PEACHES
Grilled Peaches
Grilling is one of those quintessential summer activities here in the USA. So are things like lawn-mowing, going to waterparks, and watching mind-numbing action flicks. But this is a food blog, so let’s stick to the grilling.

I just learned how to operate the grill this summer. When I’m not singeing off my eyebrows igniting the damn thing, I really enjoy cooking on it. While many associate grills with meat (or Lil’ John and T-Pain, but that’s a totally different story), there are plenty of other things that can be grilled. Grilling veggies, in my opinion, is an infinitely better method than steaming. The vegetable slices gain that recognizably robust flavor that we associate with grilling. I’ve grilled eggplant, squash, red pepper, portabello mushrooms, zucchini and others. Hell, I don’t even like squash and I ate that like nobody’s business.

Last year around this time, I read an article in GQ about grilling. Normally I’d be wary of recipes from a magazine that plugs designer jeans with price tags that rival the GDP of some third world countries, but the close-up photo of the juicy peach with those grill lines looked so amazing that it was love at first sight.

Fast-forward one year. My grilling addiction is in full swing, and I stumble across that old GQ issue. Suddenly I’m reminded of the peaches, so I immediately schlep over to the grocery store in search of some perfect fuzzy-wuzzies. After washing them and padding them dry, I halved the peaches.
Freestone Peaches
The recipe calls for a brown sugar glaze, which I sort of winged. In a saucepan, I heated three tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar until it began to boil. I then threw in a dash of cinnamon, a little salt, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

The grilling was pretty easy. I heated up the grill to high-medium and painted both sides of the peaches with the brown sugar/butter glaze. They went in flesh-side down; after three minutes, I flipped them onto their skins for another three. You do not want these babies to char or get mushy. When a fork pierces the flesh easily (like a baked potato), you’ll know it’s done.

I served the halves immediately, and spread the remaining brown sugar syrup on the peaches with a little ice cream. It was truly heavenly.

Grillz

Recipe

Grilled Peaches (serves 4 if you give each person a half, I served an entire peach to two people)

Adapted from GQ June 2008

Ingredients

Two Peaches, washed, padded dry, and cut in half (keep skin on)
3 tablespoons butter (salted preferably, but unsalted is fine—just add a pinch of salt)
1½ tablespoons of brown sugar (light or dark, whichever)
Pinch of ground cinnamon, add more if necessary
A few drops of vanilla extract, to taste

Heat grill to medium, and oil the rack in order to keep peaches from sticking (and also to achieve those awesome grill lines)
Heat butter and brown sugar in saucepan and after butter begins to brown, take off heat and add cinnamon and vanilla. Brush both sides of the peaches with this mixture. Place peaches flesh-side down on grill and cook for three minutes, then flip to other side.

NOTE: Using those metal tongs makes this a whole lot easier.


Kumquats Revisited

August 18, 2009

OM-NOM-NOM

Yumsies

Yes, I’m sure you’re sick and tired of hearing about Kumquats. But I have some great news that I’m just dying to share! So I was thinking of ways to use up that delicious kumquat-flavored simple syrup from the candying process. I had a cup and a half of the stuff, and no idea of how to use it up. Then, as I was eating some of the leftover Olive Oil Ice Cream, it came to me. Kumquat sorbet! But it gets better! I had some of the kumquat infused vodka leftover! Perfect—kumquat  vodka sorbet.

I didn’t really have a recipe, but a quick glance at a couple of sorbet recipes gave me a nice base to work off of.

Unsurprisingly, all the recipes I came across required juice of the choice fruit. While I did have kumquat flavored components, there was no doubt that I needed to somehow get “kumquat juice.” The fact that people somehow manage to extract juice from blueberries and pomegranates for all those absurdly expensive health drinks gave me hope. I decided to throw a bunch of ‘quats with a little water in a food processor, strain the mixture, and hope for the best. Lo and behold, it worked! I should’ve used a few more kumquats, but in the end the flavor worked out alright.

"Drainage! Drainage, Eli you boy, Drainage!"The vodka serves two purposes. First is flavor, and the second is consistency. The alcohol in Vodka keeps it from freezing, and by adding it to the sorbet, we manage to achieve a nice soft sorbet, as opposed to a bunch of flavored ice. I probably could’ve used a little less vodka (maybe a quarter cup), but it ended up working out just fine. Mine was a little on the soft side, but I find that this homemade stuff gets pretty hard in the freezer, so hopefully this can actually hold up. You can add a little more water to the recipe if this is a big concern. I garnished the dessert with the kumquats that had been sitting in the bottom of the vodka these past four weeks.tastes good

Kumquat Vodka Sorbet (serves six as a dessert, 12 if it’s used as a small intermezzo)

1½ cups water
about two fistfuls of kumquats (approx. quarter pound)
1/3 cup of kumquat infused vodka, chilled in freezer
1 cup of kumquat flavored simple syrup

Pour a half cup of water in a food processor with the kumquats. Process for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is a liquid. Pour contents through a strainer into a bowl. Mix in the remaining water and the syrup in until blended. Churn this mixture in an ice cream maker until it’s a slush, and then add the chilled vodka. Continue churning until thick. Place the sorbet in a separate bowl and place in freezer if not solid enough.

If you don’t have kumquat infused vodka or kumquat-flavored simple syrup (and you probably don’t), just throw in a couple extra fistfuls of kumquats. This should easily serve as a supplement.


Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

August 9, 2009

A Plea for Rhubarb

dun-dun-DUN!!!
Rhubarb gets a bad rep. Much like Crispin Glover or the new GI JOE movie, rhubarb is the victim of much undeserved derision and dislike. A lot of people claim to “not be fans of rhubarb,” but have never actually given it a chance. Perhaps it’s the name. The two syllables are not very appealing individually. The first bears a phonetic resemblance to the prefix “rheu,” which connotes some inflammatory disease. Barb is equally unlikable. Barb-wired fence, barbarian. Basically any barb is bad news bears in my book.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a root. Well, I think it’s a root. No, it’s got leaves, so it’s like a stem. It’s like celery in that way, I think. There’s another problem right there! It’s like celery! What is celery used for? It’s a crunchy filler or an anorexic staple. So people look at this thing and say, “Hey, it looks like a red piece of celery. And you make a dessert out of that?!? Gross!”

Let’s have a proper introduction, shall we? Rhubarb is the stalk of a plant, and when cooked, the rhubarb becomes a delightful, fruitlike thing. I sense that you are still a little hesitant. Well, let’s take it step by step. I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Pairing rhubarb with a universally loved fruit like strawberry oftentimes quells concerns.
finished product
The first step is to prep the rhubarb. After washing them off, I cut off either end and peeled them with a paring knife. Guiding the knife down the stalk toward you, you can easily skin the rhubarb. Try not to take off too much of the rhubarb when skinning it. I hope I explained that properly. Hold the knife as if you were skinning an apple (which I used to do all the time, since I hated apple skin as a kid). Cut the stalks into half inch slices.
Skins
Then quarter the strawberries. If they are really small ones, feel free to just halve them. I ended up with a bunch of Hulk strawberries, though.

Drawn and Quartered

Combine the sugar and mix it around so that all the pieces of fruit get coated. This allows the sugar to absorb the liquid of the fruit. If the liquid doesn’t make it out, the crisp will bubble over when cooked, and we don’t want that. So give it some time.

The crisp topping recipe is massive. You probably could halve it and be fine. I ended up with a bunch of crisp left, but I know that I’ll end up using it on some unsuspecting fruit in the near future.

The recipe itself comfortably feeds 12 or so people (it begs for a nice side of vanilla ice-cream). Originally, the crisp was made individual ramekins. It works equally well in a big brownie pan.
Cue "Better Together"
Filling
3 or 4 stalks Rhubarb, peeled (I had the Barry Bonds of rhubarbs, so I just used 3, but I know they all aren’t the same size)
1 lb of strawberries, quartered
1/3 cup of granulated sugar

-Peel Rhubarb, then cut into small (½-inch) pieces
-Quarter strawberries, and add this to the rhubarb in large mixing bowl
-Add granulated sugar and mix in order to coat all pieces
-Let this sit for at least 2 or 3 hours, as the strawberries and rhubarb need to release their liquid. The sugar absorbs a lot of their juices. Collect this syrup in a container, leaving the fruit behind.
drained fruit

Crumb topping

¼ teaspoon of baking powder
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 lb of light brown sugar (I’ve made this with dark as well, so no worries if you don’t have light)
½ lb (two sticks) of butter (partially melted)

-With hands, mix the dry ingredients together in large bowl, getting all the brown sugar blended (remove any of those hardened balls)
-Microwave the butter for about thirty seconds until it’s half liquid and half solid
-Mix this butter in with dry ingredients, blending with hands until the texture is that of wet sand. Lightly rub mixture in between palms, creating small crumbs or balls
-DO NOT OVERWORK IT; some bits of unadulterated butter can be nice
Mixing in the butter
Putting it together
Preheat oven to 350

-Densely pack an ungreased pan with filling
-Cover filling with crumb topping
-Place in oven and bake for approx. 35 minutes, until the fruit bubbles (Note, I like my rhubarb a little crunchy, but most people want it totally soft). An easy way to test it is to use a fork to prick a piece.
-Give it at least fifteen minutes or so to set in place before eating.
A serving of the crisp
So hopefully you can find it in your heart to accept rhubarb into your repertoire. It’s a really tasty plant. So give it a try! As for Crispin Glover, well…