Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back on the Mac (and a Peach-Nectarine Galette)

So I guess we've learned that the way to get me to write blog posts regularly is to give me a MacBook (Hear that, Dan?). Well, I've been trying to cook a lot since we're about to go on vacation and I won't get my kitchen therapy for two whole weeks! I think this is what I miss most on vacation--the opportunity to cook or bake if I want to. Tonight I made a Peach Nectarine Galette: so much fun, and an easy (and healthier) alternative to pie, since it only has one crust.

You can find this recipe (with variations) in the July 2008 issue of Southern Living. They call it a tart--the French name is a galette, which I think just sounds better.

Peach-Nectarine Galette:

Parchment Paper, Cooking Spray
3/4 lb. peaches (not white fleshed), peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 lb. nectarines, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peach preserves
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. allspice (opt.)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (opt.)
1/2 (15 oz.) pkg. refrigerated pie crusts (1 crust)
1 T AP flour
1 lg. egg
1 T sugar

Vanilla Ice Cream (optional, but so good!)

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Stir together sliced fruit, sugar, preserves, vanilla, and spices. Set aside for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Unroll prepared piecrust on prepared baking sheet; roll into a 12-inch circle.

5. Drain fruit mixture over a bowl, reserving the liquid (this will become a sauce later). Toss fruit in the flour.

6. Mound fruit in the center of the crust, leaving a 2-3 inch border. Fold piecrust over the fruit, pressing to seal the folds. Leave an opening about 5 inches wide in the center.

7. Stir together 1 egg and 1 T of water. Brush over the edge of the piecrust. Sprinkle with the sugar. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the center is bubbling. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the galette on the parchment to a cooling rack. Cool for 20 minutes.

8. When ready to serve, bring the reserved liquid to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to boil, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Slice the galette and serve with ice cream. Drizzle with the sauce.

Variations: You can also use plums, cherries, blackberries, apricots, apples--any fruit you like that's in season in this galette. Just use 1 1/2 lbs. of fruit and the corresponding preserves. Also, adjust the spices based on what tastes good with the fruit, and adjust the amt. of sugar depending on the sweetness and ripeness of the fruit. Any of these galettes are great sprinkled with toasted nuts--pecans for the peach galette, almonds for the apricot or apple galette, maybe even pine nuts for the plum or blackberry galette. Have fun experimenting!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Food Lit. and MacBooks

I apologize for writing two posts in a row without recipes. I promise to post my new favorites, Almond Blueberry Cookies and Mexican Chocolate Bundt Cake, very soon. But right now, I am sitting at my parents' house, sans recipes, but with a gorgeous brand-new MacBook Pro that I just have to play with. I wish I could say it was mine, but unfortunately, no. My my father is being quite generous and trusting, and this keyboard feels like silk, so I apologize if this post is long. I can barely tear myself away.

I've been thinking a lot about food literature recently. I just finished teaching a writing class using Kingsolver's newest and Anthony Bourdain's Nasty Bits as primary texts. (We were supposed to read Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, but we had some bookstore trouble. As in they never ordered it.) My students overall really seemed to like it, though since we were using it to discuss writing, we had to talk more about structure and less about content than I would have liked. They were incredibly useful texts for a writing class--I think I may use them again for 101 this fall. But what else is out there? Most bookstores don't have food lit. sections (yet) but so many books exist that can be categorized like this: Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun is probably the most famous, but Ferenc Mate and Elizabeth Romer have written other novels/travelogues that are well-reviewed, as have many others. You could really do a great study of place-based writing if we looked at how often food lit. and travel lit. are conflated.

The thing is, while I want to read them all, I also want to make sure there is some distance between pleasure reading and school reading. But should there be? I pick a subject to study because I enjoy it. I love to read about food, but I don't ever want to dislike reading about food, which makes me want to limit my exposure to food lit.

And then of course, we also get into the "But is it good literature?" question that I hate but still feel compelled to ask. "For its genre, is it good?" is my usual solution. I mean, no, it may not be Moby Dick (which has so much about food, it's unbelievable!) but no one's asking for the mythical Great American Novel here--especially if it's set in Tuscany, where my recent obsession often finds me. And that very same "great" novel would not be good in a different genre, either. Don't let ridiculous "good v. bad lit." evaluations stop you from reading something you may enjoy. And I suppose I shouldn't let the fear that I might get tired of a genre stop me from reading it, either. It's always evolving and growing, and I'd rather enjoy myself right now instead of measuring out that enjoyment coffee spoons (reference, anyone?).

So my reading list for the summer will be the books I listed above--anything about vineyards, pasta, or torta della nonna. Maybe I'll move on to NOLA food lit. soon. Thanks for working this out with me.

Here's a recipe, for good measure:

6 frozen whole strawberries
1/2 small container low-fat strawberry yogurt
1/2 banana
splash OJ

Put all ingredients in a blender and puree. Drink your smoothie along with a piece of Sweet Vanilla Challah, toasted.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Return of a Revolution

Hi all. I know it's been a long time since I've posted--teaching and learning really takes a lot out of you! But now that class is slowing down--I'm entering the home stretch now--I want to tell y'all about a cookbook that is really changing the way I think about food, shopping, and reading.

With the critical acclaim of food (subject) writers such as Alice Waters (The Art of Simple Food), Barbara Kingsolver (Prodigal Summer; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), and Michael Pollan (The Botany of Desire; The Omnivore's Dilemma), Deborah Madison's 2002 cookbook, Local Flavors, has come to the forefront of a global "local food" movement promoted by groups such as Slow Food International. Subtitled "Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets," it is as much a travel narrative and seasonal memoir as it is a cookbook. Scattered among the recipes are short interludes describing what to expect at a farmer's market during a particular season, with a special emphasis on those unusual vegetables (or parts of vegetables) one rarely sees at the supermarket, such as pea shoots or green garlic. Each recipe is introduced by Madison's personal recommendations on ingredients, variations based on availability, or recollections of recipe development. Even the photography is as often of the foods on the market tables as of the finished dishes themselves, emphasizing the process of production over the expected final product. In short, Madison's book asks us to reconsider how we relate to our food by asking us to reevaluate how we view production, from recipe to plate. Like the writers who praise this book, Madison urges us to revise our worldviews by giving us a cooking text that is so much more than a collection of recipes. As she details her travels through America's farmers' markets, Madison illustrates the life of America's food culture, what we all have in common as well as the individuality of the way each locale experiences growing seasons and food traditions. She interprets farmers' markets--from the people to the signs to the food itself--for her eager readers, ready to change the world through dinner.

If you want to see this book in action, check out Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, another amazing, life-changing (but enjoyable!) read. Kingsolver and her family use Madison's book as a guide to their year of eating locally. When was the last time you thought about what foods were in season? We know what foods we tend to eat in particular seasons--peaches and watermelon in the summer, root vegetables in late fall and winter--but why do we link those foods with these seasons? Because somewhere in the recesses of our minds, we know how to eat seasonally. We need to trust ourselves, trust our food, and rebuild that relationship we've lost through years of "convenience."

Madison's book (paperback edition) costs about $26.00, and is worth every penny. Find a farmer's market near you--I bet there is one--and get out there and explore! Buy what looks beautiful, smells enticing, or seems just plain bizarre! I promise Madison will have an idea of what to do with it!

Let me know what you find!