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Friday, October 22, 2010

Fruit Crisp

I may love chocolate, but I'm also a fiend for fruit. Make that baked fruit with a crispy topping and you just can't go wrong. This particular dish can be made with almost any type or combination of fruit. In this instance, I used plums because I got a little excited when I saw plums first get down to a dollar a pound for the season and bought more than I could eat before they started getting wrinkly. Plums made a fantastic crisp, but blueberries, peaches, ooooooo, blueberries and peaches! Raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears. You see where I'm going with this, don't you? The sky's the limit.

I used the standard large purple plums found in the grocery store, but I also really enjoy the smaller prune plums (Stanley is the most common variety). The amount of sugar you use to sweeten the fruit will vary with how tart your fruit is. You may want to taste as you go to be sure it is right. As I said, these plums were starting to get a little wrinkly and were quite sweet from sitting on the counter for a while, so I only used a little sugar.

Prepare the fruit as necessary to be able to cut it into half-inch pieces. Be sure to take out any offending seeds or pits. Some fruit you'll want to peel (like peaches or apples), but most won't need it. Plums do not need to be peeled. In fact, most of the flavor and color come from the peel, so make sure you leave it on there!

After the fruit is cut, mix it with a little sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. The lemon juice not only helps to keep the fruit's color at its best, but it also gives a subtle flavor boost. Divide the fruit mixture among your dish or dishes. I like to make mine in single serving ramekins, but you could do it all together in one dish, if you like.

Prepare the topping by mixing together the flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Give each dish a nice little mound of it.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour or until the top is nicely browned and bubbly fruit can be seen around the edges. Baking time will vary depending on the dish size you used. Be sure to let them cool for a bit before serving or someone is liable to burn their tongue right off! These little guys are wonderful served warm plain or with a little ice cream or served cold right out of the refrigerator... for breakfast!

Fruit Crisp
Yield: 8 standard ramekins or 1 9x9 casserole

3 cups of chopped fruit
1 TBS lemon juice
sugar to taste (1/4 cup to 1 cup, depending on the fruit)
1 TBS cornstarch

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut in pieces
dash cinnamon

Prepare the fruit by seeding, pitting, and/or peeling, as necessary. Add the lemon juice. Stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and then add the remaining sugar to taste. Be sure to do your tasting before adding the cornstarch, which tastes chalky before it is cooked. Once the sweetness is how you want it, add the cornstarch and stir until no white lumps remain. Evenly divide the fruit mixture into the ramekins or pour into the casserole dish.

In a small bowl or food processor, mix the topping ingredients together, cutting the butter in until it is in small pieces and evenly distributed in the flour and sugar. Mound the topping over the fruit evenly.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the top is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbly at the edges. Baking time will vary with the dish size you use. Let cool before serving. Is good served warm, at room temperature, or cold. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sauteed Spinach

You have to try this dish! Even if you are not a big fan of cooked spinach or greens, you must give this one a try. I made this dish up the other day on the fly when I suddenly needed a vegetable dish for a luncheon I was hosting. It turned out so well that I made it again that evening for dinner. Here's the most amazing thing. My husband? He said he liked the spinach dish even better than the pasta we were having, which was his favorite pasta carbonara.

There is so much flavor in this dish you will be amazed it is so full of vitamins and nutrients. I actually would recommend caramelizing the shallots (or onions) more than is shown in this picture. I was in a little bit of a hurry when I made the dish for this picture (although it still tasted great). The more caramelized the onions, the more flavor the end result will have.

While this dish takes around twenty minutes total because of the caramelization, it is very low maintenance. Start the onions and go work on other dinner preparations before taking one minute to finish the spinach dish at the last second.

Sauteed Spinach
Yield: 4-6 servings

2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS minced garlic
½ cup sliced shallots
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cracked pepper
8-10 ounces fresh spinach
2 tsp lemon juice

Saute the garlic and shallots in the olive oil over medium high heat until they just start to brown. Add the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let the shallots caramelize over medium-low heat for 10-20 minutes, until they are nicely browned and sweet. Increase the heat to medium and add the spinach and lemon, tossing until the spinach is just wilted. Add more salt to taste, as needed.
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