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a crisp of stone fruits

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peaches, nectarines,

apricots, cherries, plums

sublime in their ecstasy dancing,

sweating sweet sunny juices of summer

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What is it about stone fruits that makes them so amiable and easy-going? Such contented things. Never any squabbling. Never an ego out of control. No matter which of them is in the bunch, it’s in all ways pure sweet harmony.

I’ve made this crisp  in many combinations and it always tastes … well, sort of perfect. This time it was with a crowd of them all – some just slightly under-ripe, holding their shape while adding a bit of tartness, other dripping their ripe sweet juices over the cutting board onto the counter. The addition of bing cherries (though no more than a good fragrant handful) colored the entire dish with the blush of magenta. Here is a dessert, baked but simple, without secrets or special formulas, and full of summer’s freshness and freedoms.

Crisp Topping

  • 3 T. unsalted butter, broken into several pieces  (see NOTE)
  • 3 T. walnut oil
  • ½ to ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

NOTE: instead of using a combination of butter and walnut oil, you could simply use 6 T. butter. Or all walnut oil.  Or 3 T. butter & 3 T. coconut oil. Such freedom.

Either using your fingers and kneading together the ingredients or using the paddle attachment of your mixer, work the ingredients together until you have a mixture resembling coarse crumbs. Set aside.

The following recipe will fill a 2½-quart gratin dish. On this occasion, I separated the recipe into 3 separate baking dishes, baking them all together, but only serving one. The others will be gently reheated for serving later – perhaps even for some special breakfast, served alongside cold Greek yogurt drizzled in honey.

A Crisp of Assorted Stone Fruits

  • 3 pounds (about 1.5 kg) assorted stone fruits
  • ¼ cup sugar (nice with vanilla bean scented sugar if you have it)
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

When selecting fruits, a combination of ripe and slightly under-ripe fruits work to produce the most balanced flavors.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Wash fruit, remove stones and pits. Cut cherries in halves, all other fruits in approximately ½-inch slices. Mix the sugar with all the spices and then sprinkle over the fruit. Toss together and tumble into buttered baking dish (or dishes) of your choice. ( See below for baking times.)

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wrapping up

Furniture and cabinets are shrouded in plastic, floors draped in folds of color-splattered canvas. Things a bit messy here, friends. Final painting has begun!

Only a few days remaining in this project of ours and then I’ll resume a more normal posting schedule here. I’ve appreciated so much your understanding and continued support even though I’d go missing for days and days on end. I’ll try to get a simple summer dessert out later today, but know better than to promise.

Again, I ‘m very grateful that you take time to visit me here, amidst the mess and real-lifeness. I SO appreciate your company!

May  your day be light and breezy! See you soon!

♥Spree

noodled & tangled Thai salad

Oh what a tangled web we weave

when first we practice to conceive

a noodled salad of garden things

kitty-kimboed together,  dressed with zing!

Once scattered with nuts it’s declared as  g o o d

Pray tell – who then shall make it – for

clearly, easily, anyone could!

~

by Wilma Shakespoon

~

Today’s Wegetable Vednesday offering:

An entire vegetarian meal, loaded with raw fresh vegetable goodness, textured and colorful, brimming with citrusy, nutty & Thai chili flavors, tossed into a bed of cushiony yakisoba noodles.

This recipe can be endlessly adapted to whatever is fresh and overflowing from your garden, or whatever inspires you at the produce stand. (Maybe you’ll add slivers of sweet or snow peas, or thinly sliced cabbage or radishes. Or you might decide to even replace the cherry tomatoes with red grapes. You could also add cubes of fried tofu or cooked chicken breast  if it pleases you.)  The dressing you will love,  just as it is.

Noodled & Tangled Thai Salad

Serves 4 as a meal

Simply cut the vegetables into sticks as thin and long as you can, or use a mandolin which will make quick & neat work of it.

  • 1 package of yakisoba noodles
  • 1½ cups very thinly sliced matchstick carrots (or grated into long slivers)
  • 1½ cups zucchini (prepared as carrots above)
  • ½ red bell pepper, cut into match-sticks
  • ½ – 1 cup Jicama (grated into long pieces)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half if large)
  • 4 tbsp (¼ cup) Peanut Lime Dressing  (recipe follows)
Garnish:
  • ½ English cucumber thinly sliced or thinly matchsticked
  • chopped toasted unsalted peanuts
  • lime wedges
  • chopped or torn cilantro

Prepare the noodles as you like – if dry, you can either boil and simply strain, or strain and then quickly stir fry in a touch of oil (sesame or coconut are good…just go light.)  OR, if you’re using pre-cooked Yakisoba noodles, quickly stir fry. Noodles can be warm or room temperature or chilled. All are equally good.

Place cooked noodles in a large, shallow serving bowl or platter.

Pile the carrot, zucchini, jicama, red bell pepper and cherry tomatoes (and/or any other vegetables) on top the noodles and drizzle with dressing. Toss.

Garnish with the cucumber, peanuts, lime, and cilantro.

You may want to drizzle with drops of sriracha sauce if you love the heat, and some might like an additional bit of tamari or soy. But most, including kids, will like it just as it is.

This dressing is delicious… Read more

green beans in summer

Keeping it simple, keeping it cool.

Fresh, crisp green beans, lightly and barely cooked then chilled. Drizzled with walnut oil. Scattered with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme leaves. Sprinkled with crunchy salt & crumbles of blue cheese. Served with anything off the grill or as one of a trio of summer salads. Simple and cool, like lemonade and a run through the sprinkler, just what we need, just as we need it.

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A few secrets to beautifully cooked green beans: 

Lots and lots of water…a big pot full of roiling, boiling water.

Lots of salt…way more than you think you’d need.

quick cooking.

And, unless you’re serving immediately, a good ice-cold bath & toweling off. (the beans, I mean … but it might be just what you need too.)

Why so much water? Because when you drop the beans in, the temperature will naturally drop and will need to return to a boil…that takes far less time the more water you have. Why so much salt? It helps lock in the color AND salted water boils at a higher temperature. (Don’t worry – very little of it will be left on the beans.) As quick a cooking as possible because the longer they’re in hot water the limper and paler they become and the more of their vitamins and minerals they’ll lose. Why the quick ice bath? If you don’t cool them immediately, they’ll continue cooking outside the pot, well beyond their perfect doneness. (Thank you Julia Childs – how to cook good green beans, one of the first things I learned from you as a young cook.)

As usual when presenting vegetables, I’ll leave quantities safely in your own able hands. Here are just a list of ingredients & a few guidelines.

Green Beans in Summer with Walnut Oil, Walnuts & Blue Cheese

Fresh, crisp brightly colored green beans

Walnut oil (so delicious! You won’t be sorry you picked some up if you haven’t already)

Walnuts

Coarse, crunchy salt (like Fleur gris or Maldon) – (See NOTE)

Blue cheese

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

~ ~ ~

NOTE on salt – if you enjoy salt, you’ll much prefer the crunchy little bits of a coarser, slower-dissolving kind in a dish like this. It adds another element & a distinctive texture to this simple dish.

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a tisket, a tasket

a tisket, a tasket,

a wee and leaky gasket…

or

how the get-away almost got away…

We still live in a construction zone. We’re into month three now of our remodel. This is the month (we believe, because we’re told) that all work will be done and our house returned to us for the remainder of the summer. This past weekend the Guinea Pig and I decided  that we’d pack up our dogs and a few clothes (from the four places they’re stored these days) and head over the mountain where we have a little vacation place. All around us are mountains there, a whole ring of them, surrounding wide meadows where horses graze. (No, they’re not our horses, but we “borrow” them to feed  our carrots and apples to and to nuzzle their noses.) On the other side of the Cascades, the sun makes an appearance at least 300 days a year (which to water-logged Portlanders like us is golden.) Aspens shimmer and quake and the sweet scent of sugar pine perfumes the air. (I am not kidding! It truly does!) We were so ready for this!

We arrive, the dogs do their happy dance to be there again. We breathe deep the air, and head inside.

Our arms filled with groceries for the long weekend, our feet step, unawares, into a pool of standing water in the kitchen.

a tisket, a tasket,

a wee and leaky gasket

Turns out that a simple little gasket that connects (I don’t know) 2 things that ought to stay connected had given way, and for two months (or longer) sprayed beneath our sink. Cabinets had swollen, counters had shifted and mold had set up house. Did we I cry? Did we he curse? No. Oddly enough. But the collective sigh was deep and long, and our spirits sank.

And then we got busy.

We called a plumber. We called our insurance company. We called a restoration contractor. We cut short our get-away and returned to the construction zone for some sorely needed R & R. Funny how quickly one’s perspectives can change.

~ ~ ~

I grew up spending a good (blessedly good!) part of my summers on my grandfather’s farm. Big Papa had a dairy, prize Brahma bull, guinea hens, chickens, shetland ponies, and a few horses. One beautiful painted pony, Billy, was mine. (I think Billy might have been my first true love.) I grew up roaming freely amidst milking barns, silos, tack rooms, hay lofts, tractors and the smells and sounds of farm animals. They are like heaven to me still.

Big Papa’s no longer with us, and we no longer have his farm to retreat to. But  farm is so much a part of the fibers I’m woven from that when I “lose” my way, all I have to do to find “home” again is go where the farms are.

Yesterday I grabbed my camera for a day’s outing outside Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge…wind-surfing capital of North America. That’s not why I go. Climb just outside town though, towards Mount Hood, along the cold and rushing Hood River,  and you’ll encounter countryside that looks like Alpine foothills, dotted with farms, old barns and fruit orchards. Apples, pears, cherries. And stacks of boxes where bees make honey.

When I head out on car trips like these, I’m seldom sure exactly where I’m going. But something certain pulls me along. When I climb out of the car, I’m breathing differently. My camera presses against my cheek and soon I’ve lost all sense of time. The clutter of thought evaporates. I’m like that girl again. Only this time, with a camera. (And without the skinned-up knees.)

Yesterday I met a lovely woman who grew up on this farm, Draper’s, with its cherry orchards and goats and profuse, overflowing flower beds. It’s her farm now, where she raised her three girls, and she invited me to share it. How did she know how badly I needed that? 

She knew. 🙂

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