Monday, November 18, 2013

UnRecipe: Still Clinging to Summer (Fruit)

Autumn never fails to catch me by surprise every year. Even though we're in the thick of it, Thanksgiving is upon us, I'm still like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix going: Whoa... It still feels like only yesterday, we were sweating through the last weeks of summer, noticing the early notes of fall starting to change the colors of leaves, and like a sledgehammer on the noggin' -- you're frantically trying to get the heater to work and desperate to find those sweaters you hid away when summer hit. I'm sure I'm not the only one -- even our food seems to be in an odd, out-of-sorts middle ground, as we had some long-lingering stone fruit and leftover berry jam from the sweltering days of July. I found myself looking in the fridge and freezer, realizing the last bites of summer were still staring at me, right in the face.

Preserved summer - blueberry ice cream on a cold autumn day - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I admit, I was a little burned out from all the stone fruit this season. Not sure why, I just wasn't feelin' it, yo. I was getting inundated by plums of all sizes and varying degrees of sweet and bitterness. The late harvest nectarines were pulled too early, so they were crunchy, but somewhat flavorless. The fruit was piling up and I wasn't that excited about any of it, so I did what any food blogger would do: make a cobbler. No matter how over or underripe, fruit thrown into a cobbler is great. It's the baking equivalent of duct tape; a magic fix. I took all the fruit I had -- plums, peaches and nectarines -- seeded and rough-chopped everything, left the skins on, and tossed with some sugar, a splash of vanilla extract, flour and a mix of spices. I went with nutmeg, cinnamon and a dash of cardamom. Cobblers are great for UnRecipe desserts -- no need to really measure much; you just want to lightly coat the fruit in enough flavor and some flour to help soak up the fruit juice that will inevitably run off while it bakes. I made a crust of par-cooked steel-cut oats, some whole wheat flour, more sugar and cinnamon, and some cooking oil and an egg to help bind it into a thick cake batter. The topping wasn't as crumbly as a typical cobbler, but it set up nicely as a crust, with the steel-cut oats giving it some nice texture. It immediately becomes a fall, cold-weather food, once the fruit gets made into a cobbler. It's like the dessert equivalent of taking your sweaters out of storage.

The no-fuss summer cobbler - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It was nice to use the oven again. I pretty much avoided the oven for most of summer -- it was just too warm to cook! But the instant Fall hit -- and I do mean instant -- I didn't have to think twice about cranking up the oven and using the stove for long-simmering recipes again. I do feel like I'm back in my comfort element again, making all my favorite foods, but it's also a transition in things you took for granted. Light, for one thing, is becoming something I chase for photographing things. The pictures have a moody, dusky shadow now. The days are growing short. Photos are a bit blue-ish from the overcast clouds or stormcloud skies that could last for days, giving food on a plate a bit of a melancholy look.

You can't help but notice the in-between stages of summer and fall. The last flowering plants with their lingering blooms, and the bees frantically getting those last bits of pollen before everything disappeared. I felt that urgency to use-it-or-lose-it with the last of the blueberry jam I had made when I overbought blueberries. It was a wonderful, sweet, syrupy jam, intense with color. I thought the best way to let the berries linger a while longer was to mix the last of the jam into ice cream. The midnight-blue jam turned the ice cream a grape-soda purple. I added swirls of the jam to the churned ice cream, so that there were big jammy bites of blueberry.

This post, much like those final fruits of summer, is a swan song to what was a very memorable season, and one we'll look forward to hopefully repeating next year!

The lingering sights and bites of summer - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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