Category Archives: Breakfast

Plum Clafoutis

pints of plums at the farmers market in brooklyn

Every year of my conscious life I mourn the last delicious peach of the season. The chin dribbling peach, the fuzzy skinned peach, the tart-and-sweet-at-the-same-time peach, the misshapen doughnut peach. The smell of a perfect white peach! I feel dizzy with pleasure. But once I have had that fateful bite of a mealy peach, sometime in September, I know the book is closed until the following July. The good news is… there are plums.

plums at fort greene farmer's market

At the Fort Greene farmer’s market here in Brooklyn this weekend, piles of plums announced “We are faking out autumn!” Purple like a queen’s velvet cape, pert and tart and full of flavor, plums are the latecomers to the summer party of irresistible fruits. They’re called prunes in France. They are best cooked (or dried, like the prunes we can buy in a bright box all year, known to promote good digestion).

sexy purple plums

I made a few versions of Plum Clafoutis before settling on this recipe. The classic clafoutis (French, bien sur) is made with unpitted cherries. Basically a batter poured over fruit, I’ve always found it a little on the eggy side. I prefer crispy things. So to add texture, I frothed up the egg whites, folding them into the batter. Next time, I will scatter almond slivers on top before baking, to add more crunch.

plum clafoutis recipe prep

In Ottolenghi’s cookbook (an absolute must-have and just published in the US), the recipe suggests making little mini-clafoutis, in ramekins. That sounds lovely, but I wanted this to be a fast and easy dessert. Minimal fuss. Maximum Can-I-Pretend-It’s-Summer-For-A-Few-More-Weeks. Please?

baked plum clafoutis

plum clafoutis for breakfast

 

Plum Clafoutis

Serves 8

Butter to grease pan
1¾ pounds small, firm-ripe plums
3 eggs separated
6 tablespoons sugar
½ vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup flour
pinch of salt
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Generously grease a 9” tart pan (or pie plate, or cake tin). The pan should be at least 1½” deep. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cut plums lengthwise into 6 wedges each, discarding pits and stems. Reserve 1 cup of cut plums and scatter the remaining plums on the bottom of the greased pan.

In a medium bowl, using a whisk or an electric beater, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and creamy. Slit the vanilla bean in half longwise and scrape the seeds into the egg yolk mixture. Blend in with the vanilla extract and cream. Stir in the flour.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff (but not granular or dry) peaks. Fold beaten whites into the batter. Pour batter over the cut plums. Scatter reserved plums on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top.

 

Comments Off on Plum Clafoutis

Filed under Breakfast, dessert, fall, Recipes, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

firm ripe tomatoes for slow roasting

I haven’t put away the sandals and sundresses yet. The markets still burst with zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. We took the subway out to Rockaway Beach a few days ago for an early evening swim. It’s imminent — the Halloween icons, the sweater weather, the short days. But I refuse to let go of summer.

halved tomatoes on a sheet pan for roasting

Making slow-roasted tomatoes extends the vibe. These plump, sweet-sour treats explode in your mouth with concentrated flavor, transporting you to a summer day in one bite. They can be tossed with a salad, served with grilled meat, scattered with pasta and herbs, or popped into a lunch box. I love them on bruschetta, garlic rubbed toast smeared with ricotta and basil leaves.

sprinkle cut tomatoes with sugar, salt and pepper

My cousins Betsy and Bobby live in the Yorkshire Dales (photo below), about a five hour drive north of London. I visited them in August and was served a most delicious salad of slow roasted tomatoes with croutons, black olives and red onions. Most of it came from their beautiful garden out back.

walking in the yorkshire dales, UK

If you can find them, roast a mix of yellow and red tomatoes to increase the visual appeal. Use cherry tomatoes if you wish; just decrease the cooking time by an hour or so. Dusting them with a mixture of sugar, salt and black pepper before they go in the oven exaggerates their natural sweetness while keeping them on the savory side.

Summer in northern England doesn’t immediately evoke images of just-picked, ripe tomatoes. I imagine Betsy roasts tomatoes regularly and stores them in jars with olive oil, treasuring them into the fall long after the leaves have turned. Thanks to her, I will do the same.

 

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Makes 24 halves, enough to serve 8 as a side dish

12 plum tomatoes, firm-ripe
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper*

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature it will go, 250˚ or 275˚ F. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Arrange cut side up, in a single layer, on a rimmed sheet pan. Mix together sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle tomatoes liberally with sugar mix. Bake for about 4 hours – or more – until tomatoes have collapsed and shriveled, caramelized but not burnt. Eat warm or room temperature. Store for about a week in the fridge, or in a sealed jar covered in olive oil, which preserves them up to a month. You can also freeze them.

* Do you have a good pepper grinder? What does that even mean? Being the house guest of several lovely, kind, adorable friends this summer has provided me with the opportunity of bringing a pepper grinder house present. Selfishly, it’s because I cannot live without the use of my sturdy, workhorse grinder. But also, because everyone – even novice or non-cooks – should have one in their kitchen. This is one I can safely recommend. Look for the Peugeot label on the underside (the business end).

 

Comments Off on Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Filed under Appetizer, Breakfast, fall, Lunch, pasta, Recipes, Salad, summer, vegan, vegetarian

Pear Cranberry Crisp

pear cranberry crisp using bosc pears

 

On the eve of America’s greatest food holiday, Thanksgiving, I am tasked with making a fruit dessert for the family spread. As I’m not a pumpkin pie person (texture problem), nor one to deny people their right to butter (life is too short), I chose to make a crisp. Pears and cranberries will be deployed. Both are fruit stars of the season and locally grown to boot.

Also called a crumble, a cobbler, or “Apple Brown Betty” by my mother’s generation (who made it with bread), a crisp should be just that. Crispy on top, melting and yielding inside. It can be as sweet as you like, or even salty if that’s your thing. Think salted caramels. Or our local ice cream shop’s genius flavor, “Salted Crack Caramel,” made with saltines. Use the fruit at hand. Apples, rhubarb, quince, figs, cranberries, figs. Berries in summer.

As soon as the weather gets cool enough to warrant wearing wool, I mix up a batch of the crisp topping, decant to Ziploc plastic baggies and freeze for instant use when dessert must be summoned. Homemade fast food. Sometimes, you just want to eat crisp! Peel and cut up whatever fall fruit you have around, toss with a little sugar and spice, sprinkle over your frozen topping and bake. Presto, a warm dessert that comforts instantly.

Or breakfast. Cold crisp with a spoonful of yogurt makes a perfect morning food, especially if you add oats to the topping for extra nutrition and rib-sticking. Home cook wonder woman Deb Perelman has a brand new cookbook out with the ideal recipe.

Happy and delicious Thanksgiving to you, dear reader. Ever grateful, Nan

 

Pear Cranberry Pecan Crisp

Serves 8-10

For topping:
2/3 cup pecans, toasted for 6 minutes in 375˚F oven
1 1/3 cups flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks/6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ¼” pieces

For the filling:
4 lbs pears (Bosc or Bartlett), peeled, cored and cut into 1” chunks
1½ cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.

Mix the dry topping ingredients together in a bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture comes together and has a crumbly, but not sandy texture. Or use a food processor and pulse a few times until you get the crumbly texture. Chill until ready to use. Topping can be made ahead and refrigerated for about a week, or frozen up to 2 months.

Mix pears, cranberries, sugar, flour and cinnamon in large bowl. Transfer to dish. Crumble topping over fruit. Bake until fruit is tender and topping is lightly browned, about 1¼ hours. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.

 

Comments Off on Pear Cranberry Crisp

Filed under Breakfast, dessert, fall, Recipes, vegetarian

Blueberry Muffins

We grew up with her. Tattered, stained and dog-eared. Always at hand. We shoved her aside when food fashions changed. And yet, who among us didn’t need her from time to time, like a trusted friend?

I’m talking about The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. This week, Marion Cunningham died. She revised the cookbook in the late 1970s, updating a classic for new generations of home cooks. I read her obituary with a tug of nostalgia. Most of my first cooking experiences included Fannie.

the fannie farmer cookbook

 

Edited by the legendary Judith Jones, best known for bringing us Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Cunningham’s cookbook champions everyday cooking. In her preface, she urges us to rediscover the pleasure of cooking from scratch: “Every meal should be a small celebration.” I love this ethos.

If you don’t already own a copy – or didn’t inherit one as I did from my grandmother, complete with sidebar pencil scratchings such as “Add capers,” or “Made for dinner 8/12/82. Good.” – then get one. Not that you necessarily want to make a Cheese Ball, Cocktail Frankfurters in Pastry, or even Tuna Noodle Casserole. Yes, this is true Americana. It’s the un-gourmet.

muffin tins

 

There are countless workhorse staples in this cookbook that you will turn to again and again. The first chapter, “About the Kitchen,” is an excellent primer for every home cook, full of advice on pantry basics and equipment. As you cook your way through The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, you can annotate the margins, bake cookies with an eight year-old, and hand down your copy when the time comes.

fresh blueberries

 

In honor of Marion Cunningham, I made blueberry muffins this morning. Blueberries abound in the market now, cheap and plentiful. My inner gourmet wanted to amp it up and add whole wheat flour and cornmeal for texture and health. But in deference to the master, and for my own Proustian event, I followed the recipe almost to the letter. Our house enjoyed them for breakfast. By lunch, they were all gone. Thank you, Ms. Cunningham.

simple but good blueberry muffins

 

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1979 edition

Makes 12 muffins

If you want to eat these hot out of the oven for breakfast but feel daunted by the prospect of such an early morning endeavor, make these the night before and keep covered, unbaked, in the fridge. Replace ½ cup of the white flour with whole wheat and/or cornmeal if you like things more gritty. I couldn’t resist adding lemon zest because I like things sour. Use frozen blueberries if you can’t get fresh. No need to thaw them first.

2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar, plus more for dusting
Zest of one lemon, grated or chopped fine
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup (1/4 liter) milk
¼ cup (4 tablespoons/60 grams) melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter muffin tins or use paper liners. Mix 1¾ cups of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Add the remaining ¼ cup of flour on the blueberries, gently turning to coat. Carefully fold in the blueberries into the batter. Spoon into the muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each muffin. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

 

Comments Off on Blueberry Muffins

Filed under Breakfast, muffins, Recipes