Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jam Session

As the summer winds down, so do the farmers’ market baskets brimming with peaches, plums and nectarines. One of the best ways to hang on to a little bit of summer during the cold, cruel winter months (forgetting for a moment that I live in South Florida) is by making homemade preserves. When I think of the best 

preserves I’ve ever tasted, I think of Frenchwoman Christine Ferber. Ferber has a small shop in the Alsatian village of Niedermorschwihr. She is the daughter of fourth-generation bakers and pastry-makers and as a child spent hours watching her father work. When it was time for her to do her apprenticeship, she couldn’t

find an Alsatian pastry master who would teach a woman, so she left home to spend three years in Brussels. When she returned, she devoted herself to her passion: creating the finest jams in the world by capturing the essence of natural fruit flavors. Her secrets? Precision and patience. She makes over 200 flavors of

jams and sells them to some of the finest restaurants in the world. Here are some of her intriguing flavor combinations:

            Strawberry with Black Pepper and Fresh Mint
            Peach with Lavender Honey
            Wild Blueberry with Pinot Noir and Licorice
            Pear with Jasmine Mandarin Tea
            Green Apple & Wild Prune Jelly
            Melon and Raspberry with Citrus Zest
            Raspberry and Litchi with Rose Water
            Rhubarb, Apples and Gewürtzraminer
            Spiced Green Walnut

You can find many of Ferber’s recipes in her book Mes Confitures (Michigan State University Press, 2002), or, if you prefer, you can buy her jam online from Borne Confections ( Following is a recipe I adapted from the book. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Frozen Strawberries-and-Cream Parfaits

It’s a beautiful day in South Florida. Hot, yes, but sunny and not terribly humid. I started this fine Sunday off playing tennis, and after about an hour of batting the ball around I resembled a half-drowned water rat (not a good look, in case you were unsure). But after a quick shower, I was revived and ready to whip up

something sweet and refreshing. Given the weather, granita came to mind, but I wanted something a little more indulgent – something more like a snowcone on steroids.  I ultimately decided to pair a fresh strawberry granita with vanilla ice cream in a simple parfait as a play on strawberries and cream. The result reminds

me of a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar, but, of course, much better (as it’s actually made with real ingredients). You can use homemade ice cream or a good quality store bought – I used Haagen Daaz, which I think is really excellent. Another good option for the granite flavor is orange (think creamsicle) or Campari Grapefruit, a more sophisticated combination.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Perfect Peach Pie

I must apologize for my neglect of this blog lately – I’ve been working feverishly on a new cookbook and find I don’t have as much time to devote to extra-curricular activities as I’d like. But there are occasions when I come across a beautiful ingredient, the look and fragrance of which compels me to make a

dessert and share it with you. Yesterday, I succumbed to a batch of fragrant peaches at the farmers’ market. One sniff and I was committed. Next thing I knew, I was rolling out pie dough, slicing peaches and laying down strips of dough to form a lattice top. Nothing says summer like a home-baked peach pie. Simple

as they are, pies take time to craft, but they are worth every bit of the effort that goes into them. For the pie crust, I chose to add a little whole wheat flour to give it an earthy note that complements the sweet peaches. A bit of white vinegar (undetectable in the finished pastry) make the crust tender, while a sprinkling of

demerara sugar gives it some crunch. For the filling, I decided not to peel the peaches; just sliced them and tossed them together with some lemon juice and zest, ground cinnamon and some finely chopped crystallized ginger. Quick-cooking tapioca thickens the juices in the finished pie. The crust gets a jump on

browning when it’s put in a 425 degree F oven for the first 15 minutes of baking. If you find it’s browning too quickly, simply tent some foil over the top for the remainder of baking. After it’s cooled, serve a slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato. Perfection.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Black & Blue (Berry) Crisps

Yesterday was a perfect summer day, all blue skies and gentle breeze. My sister was visiting from California for two short days, so we spent our time together laughing and talking and eating, really not doing too much of anything, just sitting in the sun and enjoying each others’ company. I think that’s what

summer’s all about – taking the time to enjoy life a bit and forgetting around all the minutiae that can clog up our lives. We reminisced about the good old days growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1970’s. My memories of those days are very happy, especially the ones associated with summer. We had a big raspberry

bush in the backyard, and I don’t think anything could ever be as delicious to me as the tart little berries we picked from it. To this day, that particular flavor evokes a flood of good memories. If you have access to freshly picked summer berries, count yourself lucky, and turn them into something simple and wonderful, like a

warm crisp. It couldn’t be simpler to make and when served with vanilla ice cream or gelato, as I did, it’s a 4-star dessert.

Black & Blue (Berry) Crisps

Makes 4 servings

1 pint blueberries
1 pint blackberries
1/3 cup (71 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (14 g) cornstarch
¼ cup (60 ml) tart cherry juice or water
2 teaspoons (8 g) finely grated lemon zest

Streusel Topping:
½ cup (66 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (162 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup (60 g) slivered almonds, toasted
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Prepare the berry mixture:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the berries, brown sugar, cornstarch, cherry juice (or water) and lemon zest. Divide the mixture among four 8-ounce ramekins or gratin dishes.

Make the topping:
3. In the bowl of a food process, pulse together the flour, brown sugar, almond and salt until the almonds are ground (but not finely ground). Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.

Bake the crisps:
4. Sprinkle the topping over the berry mixture in each ramekin. Bake the crisps on a baking sheet for 30 to 35 minutes, until the topping is browned and the mixture is bubbly.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
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