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    Happy 2019! It's a new year--time for a restorative. Me? Bok choy broth with tofu for lunch. The purple tinge is not your hangover talking to you--I added purple and gold "black" carrots to the bowl and it got a little Rose Parade on me.

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    Copyright 2008-2019Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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Happy 4th!

rawblueberrypie-2pounder-med

The raw blueberry pie right before we cut into it.

If you have to do a pie in the middle of summer, say, if you’re bringing something to a Fourth of July outing, this might be the kind you want. It only takes a few minutes to put together (other than picking over the blueberries to make sure you’re not leaving any stems in). And Trader Joe’s is selling two-pound containers of blueberries for a moderate price, about $6, at least in southern California. That’s enough for a pretty big pie. So I got two boxes for my daughter’s birthday party last week and discovered that just one box was about a third more than my old newspaper recipe called for. Well…we can always use a few blueberries around the house! And the pie ingredients are so simple it’s not hard to scale up a bit and still have it work out nicely. Very nicely, in fact.

The syrup you start the filling with can be boiled up in a minute or so in the microwave, so you don’t have to heat up your house or stand over a stove. Then you just stir in the starch slurry and some lime juice to thicken it, and start folding in the raw berries. When they’re all in, you pour it into the crust and let it cool until set.

And I’m not sure you actually have to run an oven for a graham cracker crust, although I did for about 10 minutes–I think it makes the sugars melt a bit with the butter, so the resulting caramel, if you can call it that, binds the crumbs together and then hardens slightly when it cools and the crust stays crisp a little longer. But maybe that’s just fantasy. If you want to keep the oven off, you’ve got my vote. If you want to buy a frozen graham cracker crust-lined pie tin (or two; with this amount of filling you could probably do 2 standard smaller pies), that’s your call too.

I don’t usually buy graham crackers at all, but for this I think it’s worth doing the crust at home–it takes maybe 2-3 minutes to grind up enough for a crust and press it into a pan, and it’s a little more versatile than the commercial versions. I can put in a bit less sugar and butter than the standard crust recipes do, skip the salt, throw in a little almond meal if I feel like it, and add a couple of pinches of cinnamon and ginger to spice things up. Leftover crackers are handy for making impromptu ice cream sandwiches, if you can keep your kids away from them until you’re ready to do that.

Here’s my scaled-up version for a two-pound box (909 g. approximately) of fresh blueberries. That’s about 300 grams more blueberries than the old 4-cup recipe I copied from my mother-in-law, so it needs somewhat more in the way of crust and sugar, but not actually that much more–go by taste and be conservative. This version is sweet but fresh, which is the joy of keeping most of the blueberries raw. It won’t make you feel like you’ve just eaten half a jar of jam. Continue reading

Unappreciated apricots, oversweetened fruit

summer fruitsIt’s late May, and a food writer’s fancy turns to the first crops of summer fruit to hit the farmers’ markets. That’s strawberries and apricots in Los Angeles, and maybe some cherries too. We hunger all year for the fragile, flavorful stone fruits and berries to come back; even frozen bags of berries lack a great deal when compared with fresh blackberries at the height of their season.

As for apricots, the last two weeks have been nearly astonishing. My local Armenian greengrocers have been getting in beautiful ones with firm, juicy flesh and an astonishing tang, much better than the mushy bland ones I remember from a childhood summer spent up in British Columbia’s orchard country (their cherries were pretty good though…) And although these apricots are fairly reasonable for Los Angeles at under $2/lb., the price still makes them worth eating carefully, which for me means eating them out of hand and no other way. No recipes, no distractions, no competition–I’m hoarding mine.

Which is why I wonder at the food magazines and newspaper dining sections this week–several have baked apricots on the menu, and all seem to douse said apricots with cups (sometimes plural) of sugar and butter. And it’s true that baking or microwaving can rescue really bland stone fruit. But it doesn’t require tons of sugar or butter, just heat to intensify the flavor.

For really good summer fruits in season, do you really want to drown out their native freshness and tang with a ton of generic sweetening? Do you really want to cook them at all? Because heating will intensify the base flavors at the expense of the fragile, perfumed complexity that you’ve waited for all year. Otherwise, you’d be just as happy with canned peaches, even in the summertime.

I feel at least as strongly about blackberries and raspberries. When I was a student in Virginia I used to go down to the woods–or the train tracks–in the summer and pick salad bowls full of berries from the brambles. I wasn’t alone, either–dedicated bikers and even a few runners could be seen hauling lidded bowls around with them. I picked up my share of scratches, but it always seemed worth it.

Out here, the cultivated blackberries and raspberries are bigger, the flavors deeper and sweeter because California gets so much sun. When we can get them at a good price, which this week they were, there’s nothing like eating them fresh one by one. You can be happy eating just a few at a time and concentrating on the flavor. Sugar would throw the experience–it would be like adding sugar to your glass at a wine tasting.

And on the other hand, fruit pies not made from a can are their own kind of once-a-year experience. So can you combine the freshness of raw summer fruit with the pleasure of good baking? Continue reading

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