"Summer, summer fruits, it wouldn't be summer without 'em..." That was a TV ad campaign not too many years ago about, well, summer fruits! It's a cheesy jingle, but I am a big believer in summer fruits. The ads referred mostly to stone fruits... plums, peaches, apricots, and my favorite, nectarines. I am always ecstatic when they appear in stores in late spring and early summer. I practically buy them by the dozen! Well, it's that time of year. Nectarines are in abundance at my local Hannaford. A few days ago, I got brave and went for the white fleshed nectarines as my first of the season. I've heard that they're sweeter, juicier, and lower in acid than the yellow ones, but I've always been a bit too nervous to stray from what I know. They were labelled as "tree-ripened" and "ready to eat," but that's always a bit misleading. I like my stone fruits slightly soft and heavy with juice. These ones clearly needed a few days. As I was packing my lunch last night, I checked on them... I opened the bag and was greeted by the sweetest perfume I've smelled in ages. A quick squeeze told me it was time to put one of those gems in my lunch box.
Snack time rolled around late this morning, and I opened my lunch box. Again, there was that perfume. It really transcends description. I couldn't wait to taste it! After quick trip to the break room to rinse the nectarine, I was on my way back to my desk... and Nirvana. One bite was all it took... I was hooked. I have never had a sweeter, juicier piece of fruit in all my life. It was so good, I had to have another one for supper... along with my other favorite late spring fruit, fresh cherries. There aren't enough fresh cherries on the planet for me. The season is far too short. I've bought several pounds of them in the past two weeks. Well chilled, they were a juicy, refreshing snack for my stuffy head when I was sick last week. Now that I'm feeling better, they're just plain good.
Now, you ask, what are those swirly little toasts on the plate with my fruit? Those are Wasa brand Rusks that came home from Paris with me in April (thanks to Clotilde, of Chocolate and Zucchini fame, for her post that motivated me to look for them while I was there!). They're very hard to describe... I guess the closest thing we have to them are Melba toasts, but the rusks aren't as hard as Melbas. They're lighter and crispier. These ones are malt flavor, so they have that sweet, almost fizzy taste you may know from malted milkshakes or malted milk balls. The rusks are meant to be dipped in coffee, tea, or the hot beverage of your choosing, but I just like them straight up. The funniest thing about my acquisition of them is that I scoured every grocery store I passed in Paris looking for them, and finally found them on one of my last days there in a seedy little convenience store just around the corner from the apartment Kevin and I had sublet! The quest paid off. I really like them. And best of all, they've kept for two whole months already! I guess it's hard for something to go stale when it's essentially supposed to be that way. But in a good way.
I just ran out of cherries... I think I need a few more before I settle down for the night... =)
OK, so my first attempt at food photography isn't anything to write home about... but let me tell you about the subject of the above photo...
One of my favorite cookbooks, dorky as the title may sound, is "Oat Cuisine" by Bobbie Hinman. It works oats, or oat bran, or oat groats into every recipe imaginable. Yes, it's nauseatingly healthy. =) But it has some great bread recipes. One I tried a few weeks ago is called "Applesauce Cornbread." It was fine, but not too exciting... a little bland in fact. Here's the recipe as it's published in the book:
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal 1/2 cup oat bran
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup skim milk
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 375.
Lightly oil a 6x10 inch baking pan, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Mix well.
In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Beat with a fork or wire whisk until blended. Add to dry mixture, mixing just until all ingredients are moistened.
Place mixture in prepared pan.
Bake 25 minutes, until firm.
Cool in pan on rack.
Here is my spin on the recipe:
I used 5/8 cup fine cornmeal and 1/8 cup coarse cornmeal.
I used one whole egg instead of two egg whites -- I'm not quite as obsessive about fat and cholesterol as the author!
I used 1 1/2% milk, because that's what I had in the fridge.
When the ingredients were almost mixed, I added one cup of frozen raspberries, and then finished mixing.
I made muffins instead of a loaf. Using an ice-cream scoop to measure the batter into a muffin tin lined with papers, I got 10 muffins.
I rarely time anything I cook, but I would guess these took 20 - 25 minutes to bake at 350. My muffin tin is dark, and I hate dark brown baked goods, so I always reduce baking temps by 25 degrees.
Kevin and I were very pleased with the results. The muffins are a bit denser and moister than your usual bakery muffin. The oat bran adds a bit of chewiness and texture. The coarse cornmeal adds crunch. The raspberries add a nice tartness. The cinnamon is a subtle, but noticeable flavor in the background. And this was our Sunday morning breakfast.
FINALLY -- the long-promised post about last Friday's dinner and movie (I know you've just been aflutter with anticipation). =)
There's a town just north of Bangor called Orono. It's a college town. Since every college town has to have at least one brewpub (depending on the size of the school!), there's a little place in Orono, not far from campus, called the Bearbrew Pub. I've heard a lot about, especially from Derrick (you may remember him as my co-inventor of the Limeburner), but I've never made any grand effort to go there. There's a great pub in Bangor, which is a bit closer to my home, so it's never really been a priority. Last Friday, however, Kevin and I decided to see the new Harry Potter movie in a small theater close to Orono. We thought we'd make an evening of it and have dinner at the Bearbrew first. It's a fairly small place with a great second-story deck -- and we love to eat outside! There is, of course, Bearbrew microbrew beer on tap, along with a fairly extensive drink list. The food is typical of such a place -- burgers, sandwiches, pasta, etc. But what I really find to be unique about the Bearbrew is its vegetarian-friendly offerings. Several of the appetizers are veg-friendly: hot artichoke dip, cheese quesadillas, a big, soft pretzel with your choice of dips, and our favorite -- samosas! Samosas are an Indian dish -- potatoes, peas, onions, and curry wrapped up in dough and deep fried. The Bearbrew's samosas are a bit different -- they're made with wonton wrappers instead of a bready dough. They're served with raita, a yogurt dip with diced cucumbers and onions. Yum!
For entrees, vegetarians can choose from such meals as veggie burgers, a veggie & hummus wrap, a pasta dish or two, and falafel. Yes, it's foreign. Middle Eastern, in fact. Most people look at me pretty funny when I mention it. As you may have guessed, it's hard to come by in greater Bangor, Maine, so I was ecstatic to see it on the Bearbrew's menu. I am a falafel junkie. Falafel itself is a patty made from ground chickpeas, onions, bread crumbs, and spices. The patty is traditionally deep-fried, but I have recipes that call for it to be baked. Maybe someday I'll get around to actually making my own... but I digress. The Bearbrew serves its falafel patties in a pita pocket with green-leaf lettuce, cucumber slices, tomatoes, and more of that yummy raita. I was a little nervous about trying it because frankly, I'm a falafel snob. I usually only eat it in Paris. Yes, Paris. France. There's a big Jewish population in Paris, and therefore, lots of Middle Eastern food. Next time you're surfing the 'net, do a search for "L'as du Fallafel (the French use two "Ls" in the middle)." Loosely translated, that's "the ace of falafel," and rightfully so. But again, I digress. The Bearbrew's falafel pleasantly surprised me. The presentation is completely different from that of the Jewish places in Paris, but just as good. The raita really pulls the whole dish together. Needless to say, I highly recommend it...
... but I can't say the same for "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Now, I've read all five books several times through, and seen the first two movies at least as many times. The books are great, and the movies are pretty damn good. Kevin has read the books even more times than I have. Apparently Alfonso Cuaron read a different version of the book. Maybe the Spanish version didn't translate to the same storyline as the English version...? All I know is that when the movie was over, the first thing I said to Kevin was, "what book was that based on?" A lot of plot points were changed pretty drastically. A lot of what I thought to be important details were left out. My other question was "does Cuaron think we didn't see the first two movies?" I know, different directors have different styles... but the differences between Columbus' films and this one were just too drastic for a series. I want to see some consistency. For example, the school and its grounds should probably look the same from film to film. Cuaron tried to make the school grounds look a bit too much like Middle Earth. And the Whomping Willow should probably be "tamed" the same way in each. And Fred & George Weasley probably shouldn't look so much like Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber in the third installment, when they were so clever in the first two. I don't want to give too much away, though. If you haven't read the books, you'll probably think "Azkaban" is fine. But this is supposed to be a food blog, not a movie review blog. And I'm not very happy with my writing today, so I think I'm done. For now. =)
This site has been up for about a week and a half so far. According to my hit counter and my calculations, people other than my mother and I are actually checking the site on a regular basis (yay!). If you are one of those people, and feel so inclined, would you please send a note by clicking on the "Talk to Me!" link at the bottom of any post? I've only told a few friends about the site, so I'm curious to see if the people I've told are reading it, or if other people are just stumbling upon it somehow. Thanks!
Duh... I found a free image hosting site... I just wasn't searching for the right terms this morning, I guess. I found it shortly after this morning's post. So now, you should all be able to see my header graphic. Please let me know (either way)!
I feel a bit better today... I'm coughing a lot now, but it's not bad as long as I don't get too active. And -- even better -- the heat is supposed to break overnight! Yay! I know, it's only been two days, but that's two days too long for northern New England, as far as I'm concerned (it's 90 right now, with a heat index of 94). So between the cooler temperatures and the waning of the Killer Cold from hell, I should be back to (almost) normal and cooking within a couple of days! I'm still thinking about cornbread... =)