roasted plums and oatmeal

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What a whirlwind of a month. It was everything I could have asked for and more. September did not disappoint.

There was a little bit of everything in September:  a glorious beach day at Stinson, which basically consisted of perfect weather, an amazing nap, and an easy picnic of banh mis from Saigon Sandwich, a few bottles of wine, a basket of figs and white peaches;  a Saturday devoted to drinking wine in Healdsburg with the best bunch of boys; my 32nd birthday (a last minute brunch at Foreign Cinema, the best freakin mezcal Michelada, fancy pants desserts from Craftsman and Wolves courtesy of Sara, and a super mellow afternoon admiring the City from Twin Peaks); and a really special, very moving wedding in the South Bay, which was like an unofficial college reunion and resulted in a hangover that had to be nursed with an egg mcmuffin, pool time, and a bath the morning after.

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It was such a busy-busy month that I didn’t really spend much leisure time in the kitchen. There were things I meant to do, but just never got around to, like making myself a birthday cake, and canning some Flavor King pluots. I was so bummed to find out that I had missed the last of the Flavor Kings. The good news is there are still a few varieties of plums lingering in the markets. I call them the stragglers. I went crazy with the plums this summer. I made a couple of batches of jam. I made crumbles. I ate one with breakfast every day for weeks. It was fantastic.

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I’ve been really into roasting the last of the plums. There is something so satisfying about roasted fruit – it’s like pie without the crust. It’s really nice with a big dollop of yogurt. But lately I’ve been throwing it on top of oatmeal and I can’t figure out why I never thought to do this in the past. This is what I call a transition dish – the last of the summer bounty, combined with cold weather fare. It makes me a bit wistful. This summer was perfect and part of me wants it to never end. But big pots of soup and cozy sweaters don’t sound so bad either.

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roasted plums and oatmeal 

makes 4 servings

4 plums, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving 

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional) 

1 cup steel cut oats, prepared according to package directions, or here

1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place plums cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on ripeness, until fruit is tender and just beginning to bubble. Divide the oatmeal and plums between four bowls. Drizzle with more honey if desired and top with pistachios.

apricot cream pops

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It’s super late in the season for apricots, but so long as they’re at the markets, I’ll be buying. I’ve probably mentioned that I have a teensy obsession with apricots. It is what it is.

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Back in June, I made my annual batch of apricot jam. And I must say it is my favorite of all the jams I’ve made this summer. I seriously contemplated a second batch, but instead opted to go the route of frozen treats. I love the idea of extending the life of seasonal produce and I’ve recently come to the realization that freezing is a wonderful alternative to canning. Rather than just freezing sliced apricots, I decided a frozen fruit bar needed to happen before the end of the season.

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This recipe comes from the People’s Pops. I became a fan after having their rhubarb cayenne pop the last time I was in New York. Since then, they’ve released a book, which I made sure to add to my collection.

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While I most definitely enjoy an all-fruit frozen fruit bar, I think everything gets just a little more exciting with a swirl of cream. Lately, I’ve been crazy about Straus Creamery heavy cream – it is some rich, flavorful stuff. It turns a cup of mediocre coffee into an event.  And a little goes a long way. So I couldn’t help but throw a few splashes of that Straus goodness into the mix. Apricots + cream + orange blossom water = perfection. Life is short, treat yo self.

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apricot cream pops 

from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, & Joel Horowitz

makes 10 pops

1-1/2 pounds apricots, halved and pitted 

2/3 cup cane sugar 

2/3 cup water

1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water 

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Pour about 1/2 inch of water into a heavy, nonreactive saucepan and add the apricots. Stew the apricots over medium heat until the skins and flesh have softened, 20-25 minutes.

While the apricots are cooking, combine the cane sugar with 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn of the heat and let cool. This makes 1 cup of simple syrup.

Using an emersion blender or food processor, puree the apricots, skins and all. Feel free to leave the puree somewhat chunky. You should have about 2-1/4 cups of puree.

Transfer the apricot puree  to a bowl or measuring pitcher with a spout and add 3/4 cup of the simple syrup. Stir until the mixture is well incorporated. Taste the mixture – it should be sweet and slightly tart. Add the orange blossom water bit by bit, tasting as you go. It should be fragrant but not overpowering.

Pour 1 scant tablespoon of heavy cream into each of the ice pop molds, letting the cream run down the sides of the mold as you pour. Pour apricot mixture into the molds, leaving a little bit of room a the top for the mixture to expand. Inset sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. Unmold and transfer to plastic bags for storage or serve at once.

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white peach and purslane salad

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The only indication of summer in these parts is the bounty spilling out of the markets right now. It’s been a little foggy and cool the past few days here in the Bay. But we’ve got melons and tomatoes and corn and squash and all sorts of fantastic stonefruits to remind us that summer is in full swing. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been going a little overboard with my produce purchases.

As a result, there have been lots of salads happening here. A couple of weekends ago, I packed a picnic basket full of salads and a bottle of rosé and headed to the park to hang with friends and see the SF Symphony. Now that felt like summer.

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I tend to follow a simple formula when making salads for myself at home. Start with something green and leafy, add seasonal fruit (think figs, peaches, apricots, or cherries for summer), a little bit of cheese for protein and a savory element, toasted nuts or seeds for crunch, and a light vinaigrette to tie it all together.

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Purslane is a new-to-me green. I’d noticed it at the markets, but never thought much about it. So I recognized it instantly in a beet salad I ordered at dinner a few months ago and took quite a liking to it. It has a somewhat unusual texture – smooth, heavy-ish leaves with crisp stems. I picked some up at the market the next day and have been buying it weekly ever since. I did a little research on the interwebs and it turns out that purslane grows like weeds. Like it’s literally a weed. The forager in me loves this. As a matter of fact, I’m now convinced that I must grow my own. I’ll let you know how that goes.

So, a salad of purslane with perfect, juicy white peaches is kind of my obsession this season. I cannot get enough. Some toasted walnuts and crumbles of feta are excellent toppers.  So simple and so good.

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white peach and purslane salad

serves 2

2 heaping handfuls of purslane  (or your choice of greens – spinach, baby greens, etc.)

1 large ripe white peach, sliced

1/2 cup toasted walnuts 

1/4 cup crumbled feta (crumbled blue cheese is also nice)

2 -1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

In a large salad or mixing bowl, combine purslane and peach slices. Set aside.

Pour vinegar in a small bowl. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly add olive oil to the vinegar and continue until all oil has been added and the mixture is emulsified. Add additional salt or pepper to taste.

Pour vinaigrette over the purslane and peaches. Toss gently until leaves and fruit are lightly coated. Add walnuts and feta and give one more toss before dividing between salad plates. Serve immediately.

best of (a holiday round-up)

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Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

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granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

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vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

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fleur de sel caramels - I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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quince jam - My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

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rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

onion jam

As promised, onion jam to go with that fig tart.

I fell in love with onion jam at a sausage party. And seeing that in writing just now made me laugh out loud a little bit. Let me explain. When my best childhood friend turned thirty last year, there was a party in his honor and homemade sausage was the main attraction. It was a literal sausage party. Although, now that I think about it… I’m totally being a 14-year-old dude right now. My apologies!

Anyway, as I was saying, there was a very innocent looking jar of onion jam at this party, alongside the platters of grilled sausages. I had a feeling about that jam, and it did not disappoint. Onion jam is a sausage’s best friend.

Making onion jam requires little more than onions and patience. Onions, caramelized to max, are the perfect condiment – sweet and savory and super flavorful. You’ll want to put it on just about everything.

onion jam

from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce

makes 1 cup  **recipe can easily be doubled

2 pounds yellow onions, about 7-1/2 cups sliced 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste 

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 

Cut the stems off the onions. Slice each onion in half through the root end. Lay each onion half cut-side down and slice it, toward the root, into slices about 1/4-inch thick.

Heat a 5-to 7-quart heavy bottomed pot over a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and heat until it’s shimmering. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Saute the onions for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have lost their gloss, the bottom of the pan is getting dark in areas, and the edges on the onions are beginning to brown. Turn the flame to low, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.

Uncover the pan, stir the onions, scrape any dark flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 1 hour more. Stir the onions occasionally, especially toward the end of cooking time, to prevent burning. The onions are ready when the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark, translucent, and jammy. Stir in the vinegar and allow to cool. The onion jam will keep int he refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 month.

boozy rhubarb fool

I have an unexplainable fascination with rhubarb. Perhaps I spent time on the English countryside in a previous life. Whatever the reason, I always make sure to get my hands on some rhubarb this time of year.  So far this season, I’ve made two different batches of rhubarb jam – one with kumquats, one with cherries. But what I really wanted was a fool.

Rhubarb fool is one of those quintessentially English desserts. It’s very simple, featuring stewed rhubarb and softly whipped cream. It’s just what you want to eat in the summer. It’s light. It’s just sweet enough to satisfy a craving, but not so sweet that you feel sluggish afterwards.

This particular fool, or pud as the author calls it, features a few splashes of Pernod and brandy. Pernod is an anise flavored liqueur, similar in taste to absinthe but with a fraction of the alcohol content. It provides a bit of mystique to the rhubarb without being overpowering. What I was most pleasantly surprised by was the toasted breadcrumbs that serve as a topping for this fool. Crunchy, buttery, and just a bit sugary, it’s the perfect contrast to the delicate whipped cream and tangy rhubarb. You’ll want to put those crumbs on everything. And you should.

boozy rhubarb fool

adapted from Thomasina Miers via delicious magazine

serves 6-8

2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

zest and juice of 1 lemon, or 1/2 orange

3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons

1-2 tablespoons brandy to taste

1-2 tablespoons Pernod or other pastis to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup stale breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Add the rhubarb, vanilla seeds and pod, and lemon or orange juice to a large pot over medium heat. Cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the fruit has softened. Add 3/4 cup sugar, brandy, and Pernod and gently stir. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Set aside rhubarb to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the breadcrumbs in the butter along with a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon sugar, stirring constantly for five minutes or until the crumbs are golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

To assemble:

Whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form.

Layer the rhubarb and whipped cream alternately in eight 6-8 ounce glasses or jars or one large glass bowl. Begin with a layer of rhubarb, followed by a layer of whipped cream, followed by a second layer of rhubarb, and top with whipped cream. Finish with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a few strips of zest. Serve immediately.

*note: The rhubarb and breadcrumbs may be prepared a day in advance. Refrigerate the rhubarb until ready to assemble. Store the breadcrumbs in an airtight container in a dry place. You will need to whip the cream and zest the lemon/orange just before assembling.

strawberry-blood orange marmalade

Okay you guys. Get out your canning jars. I’ve got a treat for you. For months, I’d been meaning to make a batch of marmalade, it just never happened. On multiple occasions I went out and bought all of the ingredients, only to realize that I didn’t have quite enough time to devote to a two day project. I also didn’t really feel like dealing with my canner. And now that citrus at the market is becoming less abundant with every passing week, I figured that I had missed my marmalade-making window for the year. This made me sad.

And then something fantastic happened. While I was at the market on Saturday, I picked up my usual kale and carrots and few baskets of strawberries. My original plan for the strawberries was a roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream. But as I was making the rounds, I noticed that one of the vendors had blood oranges, which was surprising considering how late in the season it is. Almost immediately, my wheels started turning and a recipe from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook popped into my head: late season blood oranges + early season strawberries = strawberry blood orange marmalade. I couldn’t wait to go home and get started.

I’ve got nothing but love for the The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I’ve been a fan of Blue Chair Fruit Company ever since the first time I stopped by their booth at the Grand Lake farmers’ market. I think it might’ve been the vintage scalloped cake stands on which they display their jams that first caught my attention, but their unique flavor combinations is what won me over. The book is chock full of gorgeous photos and important jam-making information. Just about every single recipe sounds too good to resist, like rhubarb-kumquat jam and fig jam with sherry & fennel. And there are more than a dozen different marmalade variations to choose from.

What literally sealed the deal for me was the book’s recommended oven processing. No ginormous kettles of boiling water required. Just a warm oven and a stash of jars is all you need to get your jam on. And a really excellent recipe doesn’t hurt either.

This is the prettiest batch of preserves I have ever made. The combination of strawberry juice and blood orange pulp produces the most beautiful garnet hued marmalade. Imagine your favorite orange marmalade and your favorite strawberry jam hooking up. It’s everything you love about the two – sweet strawberry jelly and that sticky, chewy, slightly bitter orange peel goodness. And there’s a hint of rosemary, which makes it extra special.

strawberry-blood orange marmalade

from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

makes six or seven 8-ounce jars

2-1/4 pounds hulled strawberries

1-1/2 pounds seeded Moro blood oranges, halved crosswise, each half cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced crosswise medium-thin

2 sprigs rosemary, 8-inches long 

2 pounds 10 ounces white cane sugar

2 to 4 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

Day 1

First, prepare the strawberry juice: Place the strawberries in a medium stainless-steel kettle and add enough water to just cover the tops of the fruit. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the fruit for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the berries are brown and shapeless and the liquid has become syrupy.

Strain the strawberry juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium-fine-mesh strainer suspended over a heatproof storage container or nonreactive saucepan. Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to drip overnight.

While the strawberries are cooking, place the orange slices in a separate nonreactive saucepan with water to reach 1 inch above the tops. Cover tightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2

Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later. Rinse the rosemary under cold water, pat dry between two clean kitchen towels, and set aside.

Bring the pan with the orange slices to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium, and cook, covered, at a lively simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender. If necessary, add more water during cooking; the fruit should remain submerged throughout the cooking process.

While the orange slices are cooking, remove the plastic wrap from the stawberries and their juice and discard the berries. Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.

When the orange slices are ready, place them in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, cooked strawberry juice, and 2 ounces lemon juice, stirring well. Taste, and slowly add a little more lemon juice if necessary. You should be able to taste the lemon juice, but it should not be overpowering. Keep adding lemon juice only until you are just able to detect its tartness in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle. If your kettle is smaller than 11 quarts, cook the mixture in two batches.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 35 minutes, but may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan. Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will begin foaming. Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once is starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula. As it gets close to being done, stir it slowly every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat a tiny bit if necessary. The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens and its bubbles become very small.

To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. It should look shiny, with tiny bubbles throughout. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should neither be warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the marmalade runs; if it does not run, and if its top layer has thickened to a jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.

When the marmalade has finished cooking, turn off the heat but do not stir. Using a stainless steel spoon, skim off any surface foam and discard. Place the rosemary into the mixture and let it steep for a few minutes off the heat. Stir and carefully taste the marmalade. Remove the sprigs or leave them in for another moment or two, keeping in mind that their flavor will be slightly milder once the marmalade has cooled. Using tongs, discard the rosemary. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shelf life – 1 year.

To process jars in the oven:

Place clean jars upright and clean unused lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250F oven. Leave in the oven for a minimum of 30 minutes to ensure that they are heated through. Remove them from the oven right when you need to fill them. After filling the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth . put the lids on, being careful to screw the rings on just until they are snug. Place the jars back in the oven for 15 minutes to ensure that they are completely sterilized. They will seal as they cool.

Upon removing your filled jars from the oven, place them 1-inch apart on a drying rack to set overnight at room temperature. Do not jiggle or disturb them during this time. As the preserves cool, you may hear a few little pops as the lids seal. Before putting your preserves away, be sure to feel the top of each lid to verify that it has sealed; it should be curving in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator for safekeeping.

vanilla quince jam

As of today, just one day until Christmas, I have made 2 pounds of granola, canned 18 jars of apple butter, and individually wrapped 64 salted caramels for the holidays. And it’s only just begun.

There are pies to be made. A playlist is in the works. Did I mention that I have yet to wrap a single gift?

The one thing I did manage to take care of in advance was preserving. I’ve decided that preserves are my gift of choice this year. I am 100% ready to distribute some jam. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for you.

Quince jam. Quince has become one of those things I’ve become obsessed with in recent years. It started with the quince paste, otherwise known as membrillo, that I used to buy from the cheese section at Bi-Rite market. It was such a great addition to any cheese plate; I was inspired me to make my own.

I’ll never forget the first time I bought quince. It was just days before Christmas and I had planned to make membrillo. I woke up Christmas Eve morning, ready to make quince paste only to discover that my bag of quince was nowhere to be found. Because someone, who shall remain unnamed, had mistaken my bruised quince for rotting fruit and threw them away. A tantrum ensued, followed by a begrudged trek out to Rainbow Grocery to buy more quince (for some reason, Berkeley Bowl had stopped carrying quince that Christmas). It was a rough scene that Christmas Eve morning. But the membrillo was a hit.

This year, instead of making membrillo, I thought I’d make quince jam since it’s easier to divvy up. As it cooks, the pale flesh of the quince becomes a gorgeous rosy color and fills your kitchen with the most incredible aroma – sweet, amazingly floral, a hint of citrus. As with most jams, this particular jam is really nice spread on toast, but it’s even better with a thin slice of manchego. And if you really feel like living on the edge this holiday season, you can slather it on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Merriest of holidays to you and yours!

vanilla quince jam

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes about 5 half pints

6 cups packed, grated quince, (discard cores, leave peel on), about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)

4-1/4 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp lemon zest

1 vanilla bean, split

4 cups sugar

Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.

Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully ladle the quince into a food mill to puree. Return the processed quince to the saucepan.

Add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.

Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly.

To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for at least 8 hours.

three citrus marmalade (and reasons to be grateful)

When the house next door (which has been vacant for a year) goes up in flames in the wee hours of the morning, it’s pretty scary.  When your own kitchen fills with smoke because flames are bursting from the kitchen windows next door, it’s really scary. Like round-up-the-pets-and-pack-up-your-valuables scary. Like pray-to-all-higher-powers-that-an-ember-does-not-jump-onto-your-roof scary. I’ve never in my life felt my heart pound so hard inside my chest. I can still feel an echo of that pounding.

And I am extremely grateful. I am grateful for the roof over my head. More now than ever in my life. I am grateful that I am constantly surrounded by family and friends. I am grateful for my cats and my dog, who make me smile and feel safe when I sleep at night. I am grateful for my life. I am grateful to be here.

On a much lighter brighter note, I’m grateful for all the babies who are making their way into this world. And for the lovely little fella who arrived just the other day, belonging to my cousin and her hubby. Congrats, ladies and gents!

I’m also grateful for this marmalade, which for a couple of hours helped to take my mind off all the craziness that has been swirling around the past few days. Marmalade always reminds me of Paddington Bear, who I believe would have approved of this gem. It’s a three citrus marmalade made of blood orange, pink grapefruit, and Meyer lemon, a sort of citrus trifecta if I do say so myself. This is everything I was dreaming of when this marmalade mission began – it has a very pronounced citrus flavor, a nice sticky consistency, and is just a tiny bit bitter. Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous. You’ll be grateful to have it to put on your toast in the morning.

three citrus marmalade

adapted from Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone

makes 4 or 5 half-pints

4 organic blood oranges *

2 organic Meyer lemons *

1 organic pink grapefruit *

5 cups sugar **

1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

*Feel free to change the ratio of citrus to your liking.

** The amount of sugar used is dependent on the amount of pulp your fruit yields.

Peel the skin from the blood oranges with a pairing knife. Cut the rinds into matchstick-size pieces. Place peels in a large pot and cover with 4 cups o water. Set aside.

Grate the zest from the grapefruit and lemons and add to the pot with the orange peels. Cook over medium heat until the rinds are tender, about 25 minutes. Do not drain.

Meanwhile, remove any excess pith from the reserved fruit. Cut the fruit in half along the equator and remove seeds with a pairing knife. Over a medium bowl, separate the sections of the fruit and squeeze the juice from the pulp. You can also use kitchen shears to assist with this process. Alternately, you can place all of the fruit into the bowl of a food processor and grind to a chunky pulp.

Measure the pulp and then add to the pot of cooled rinds. Let the mixture rest for 2 hours, covered in a cool place or the refrigerator.

Add an equal amount of sugar to the pulp and rinds. Add the butter. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. When the temperature reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer, the marmalade is ready.

While your marmalade is cooking, fill your canner with a rack and bring water to a boil. Sterilize 4 or 5 half-pint jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs. Simmer the lids in a small lot of of hot water.

When the jars are dry but still hot, pour in the marmalade, leaving 1/2 to 3/4- inch of headspace at the top of each jar.  Wipe the rims, set on the lids, and screw on the bands to fingertip tight.

Place the jars in the canner. Make sure there is at least 3-inches of water above the jars. Boil over high heat for 10 minutes. Turn of the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner . Allow the jars to sit, undisturbed, for 4 to 6 hours. You will hear a popping noise as the vacuum is created in the jars. Store in a cool, dark place or up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

pretty plum cake

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a panic when I realized that all of the apricots and plums and cherries I’ve been enjoying this summer will be a thing of the past come September. I just don’t know what I’ll do with myself, especially since I’ve been a little plum crazy this season. It started with the cherry plums in my backyard. Then there were the black plums that came from the newlyweds’ tree. And then this plum cake happened.

Let’s rewind to last summer, when we were all still happily flipping through the pages of Gourmet. I instantly fell in love with the plum kuchen that was featured in the August issue; it photographed beautifully. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to try out the recipe, but I swore up and down that I would get to it the following year. And finally, I did. A few weeks back, I had a bag of plums and a Sunday all to myself, so I dedicated the afternoon to the plum kuchen. And now this is the part of the story where I sadly report that I was a little disappointed with the results, which rarely happens with Gourmet recipes.

Because I’ve been such a busy lady this summer, the thought of a five hour coffee cake is not super appealing to me. And if a recipe is going to require five hours of my time from start to finish, it has to be phenomenal. The kuchen, in my opinion, was just okay. It was gorgeous and had a light, airy texture, but somehow it was lacking; there was no balance between the tang of the fruit and the barely sweetened dough. I could definitely see the appeal, it just wasn’t for me. What I wanted was something a bit sweeter and more cakey, and this was more bread-like. I will say, in defense of this kuchen, that my expectations might have been a little beyond reason, which can happen when you have to wait an entire year to test a recipe.

But I loved the idea of an upside down plum cake; it’s such a simple yet stunning summer treat. I’ve mentioned in the past that I tend to be a bit obsessive, and let me tell you, this cake was definitely a result of my craziness. I was determined to make it work. So I borrowed the cake base from a recipe that I’ve made several times,  swapped out a few ingredients and proceeded with caution. It took a little bit of experimenting and some serious consulting with my favorite cubicle mate and a few other trusted tasters, but I couldn’t be happier with the final product. The juice from the sweet-tart plums, when combined with the sugar and butter in the bottom of the pan, creates a really delicious, syrupy jelly as it bakes. I literally licked the pan because that plum syrup is so tasty. And the cake was better than I could have imagined: sweet, tangy, a tiny bit buttery, a little caramelized on the edges. And absolutely pretty and pink. Sometimes, magic really happens in this kitchen.

pretty plum cake

inspired by Gourmet

serves 8

4 small firm-ripe plums, halved and pitted

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle the bottom with 1/3 cup sugar. Cut plums and into 1/4-inch slices and arrange in the pan in one layer. Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 3/4 cup sugar and vegetable oil until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is well combined. Add vanilla and milk. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly over the plums with an offset spatula. Bake until cake is golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then invert and unmold onto a rack to cool completely.