The Best Deal in Town!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remembrance of Things Past

No, not Proust's madeleines.  Squash and cake. 

Let me explain.  Haven't you eaten something wonderful in the past, and then wondered how you could make it again?  It's in the pantheon of lost memories and lost recipes.

I remember the first time I ate zucchini.  It was at a friend's house for dinner when I was 16.  The rest of the dinner I don't remember, but I had this incredible meltingly creamy, cheesy, salty vegetable I had never had in my life before.  I didn't even know what it was.  My mother was of the Bird's Eye-vegetable-from-the -freezer mode during the '70's, and basically fresh vegetables at home for us were carrots, green beans and corn on the cob.  It turns out it was zucchini simmered slowly and then with CheezWiz added, and I loved it.

Since then I've enjoyed zucchini and summer squashes in lots of (more sophisticated) ways.  But this recipe I just tried from Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing, though infinitely better than that first taste, brought back that softly cooked, but not overcooked, custard-like texture and freshness that captured my imagination way back when.  I used yellow globe squash and amethyst basil, but you can use any kind of each.  My adapted version follows. 

Slow Cooked Squash with Butter and Basil 

2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 - 4 cups yellow squash, in 1/2" cubes
10 leaves fresh basil, stacked, then rolled up like a cigar and thinly sliced ("chiffonade")

Melt 1 Tbl. butter in a skillet on low heat, stir in the onion and salt.  Cover and cook on low for about 5 - 8 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Stir in the remaining butter and the squash cubes.  Cook covered on low heat for 6 - 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash cubes are just soft but not mushy.  Taste to be sure.  Fold in the basil, mix until the basil wilts, and taste.  Add more salt if necessary. 

Now the cake.  Again, I was 16, and had just arrived in Switzerland.  We went back to a chaperone's house, and we hadn't eaten for hours.  So our host whipped up this fresh cherry, eggy, fragrant cake, and we had it for dinner.  Just cake, nothing else.  And it was spectacular.  For some reason, eggs and milk taste different in Europe, more flavorful, more 'real'.  Did you know Switzerland is known for their fruit, especially cherries? - think Kirschwasser and Black Forest Cherry Cake. 

I've never really found any recipe as good as that cake was, but I keep trying.  This one, adapted below from The Greenmarket Cookbook  by Joel Partraker and Joel Schwartz, was very good, even if it was not quite up to that first magical Swiss meal. 

Satisfied customer.

This recipe uses strawberries (I know - they're out of season, but I happened to have a box in the fridge), but you could substitue any fresh stone fruit (peach, nectarine, plum) or berry and it would work.  Quick, easy and delish.

Roasted Strawberry Clafouti

1 lb.,  or 3 - 4 cups strawberries, washed and hulled  (or other berries, or stone fruit pitted and cut in large wedges)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour

confectioner's sugar for dusting
Optional:  whipped cream or ice cream
Cover a sheet pan with foil.  Coat the fruit with the sugar, place on the pan.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  This concentrates the flavor of the fruit, and reduces the wateriness.

Butter a 9 or 10" glass pie plate or casserole.  With tongs, place the hot fruit in the dish. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the next 6 ingredients until well blended.  Sprinkle on the flour and mix just until combined.  Carefully pour over the hot fruit in the dish.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve with a little whipped cream or ice cream.

I stayed in Switzerland with a family for 10 weeks that summer, and the mom often made fruit tarts baked in great flat sheet pans that covered half the table for lunch. Again, nothing else, just dessert for lunch. Some were made with plums, others apricots, all gluttony producing. I'm still searching for a recipe comparable to those fruit tarts from long ago...more on that another time...

Remember that Cooking in the Moment, and The Greenmarket Cookbook, and countless other cookbook titles are here in the Library waiting for you. If we don't have something you want, we can put in on hold and have it brought in in about a week's time from our other member libraries.

Try this hold feature especially for new books - even if we only have the book in our ordering process, you can put a hold on it and be the first person to take it out after we process it. 

Enjoy cooking this weekend!

No comments: