I’m falling in love all over again with my cast iron pan. Not that I fell OUT of love with it mind you, but I was rearranging my pots and pans in the cupboard and I came across my old friend. He was hidden in the back, but not completely forgotten. Comfortable like an old shoe, and familiar; the cast iron pan can do many jobs. He’s a Jack of all trades. Lately I’m in a phase of simplicity and easy recipes. That can all change on a weekly basis, but my old friend fits into my easy breezy lifestyle that I’m embracing this week. This is a recipe that comes together rather quickly and you’ll be singing the praises of your iron clad buddy as you spoon out warm strawberry oozy goodness to your family and friends. Have some vanilla ice cream at the ready….
Strawberry Apple Cobbler
1 1/2 lbs fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled (very large ones cut in half) otherwise kept whole
1 Cup sugar, divided
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 tsp vanilla, divided
1/2 Cup butter, divided
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Prepare the biscuit topping:
In a large bowl whisk the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut 1/4 cup of the butter into small cubes. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter until butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and stir gently until just combined. Set aside while preparing the filling.
In a 9 or 10 inch cast iron pan place the strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and vanilla and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and starting to thicken; about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the butter and the apples. Drop the biscuit topping in six equal portions over the hot filling, sprinkle biscuit portions with turbinado sugar and place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then serve warm. Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.
I always buy more plums than I think we’ll eat. I really like dark plums when they are almost too ripe as the insides turn a beautiful purple color. If you realize you’ve been a little over zealous in buying plums, this is a great way to use them up and turn them into a side dish for dinner. Try to find the type of plums where the stone comes out clean as they are easier to remove the pits. I was not as lucky- so I had to cut out the pits, either way they are still delicious. They are great along side grilled pork chops or roasted chicken.
Vanilla & Chinese Five Spice Roasted Plums
8 fresh ripe plums (mixture of red and black)
3 Tbsp. pomegranate juice or cranberry juice
3 Tbsp. clover honey
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut each plum in half and remove pits, place cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle plums with the spice. Mix together the juice, honey and vanilla and pour over plums. Toss plums to coat evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until soft. Serve warm or chilled as a side dish with chicken or pork or simply as a snack. Store plums along with juice in an airtight container in the fridge.
This time of year when the weather turns hot but you still want to entertain, the key is to keep things simple. You don’t want a heavy dessert. This frozen treat is very refreshing after a spicy meal or quite frankly just on a hot summer night. For an extra glamorous effect, freeze some pretty or decorative glasses to create a frosted effect. Right before serving, scoop the granita into the glasses, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt (the contrast of tang is amazing) and a mint sprig. Beautiful.
Note: For my Weight Watchers Friends, one serving equals 3 Points Plus
Honeydew Mint Granita
yield: about 6-7 servings
1 medium honeydew melon, seeded and chopped into cubes (about 4-5 Cups)
1/2 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup fresh lime juice
12 fresh mint leaves
Opitonal: Fresh mint leaves and Greek yogurt (vanilla or plain flavor)
1. In a food processor place the cubed honeydew melon, sugar, and lime juice. Puree until smooth. Add the mint and pulse until you can visibly see small flecks. Pour mixture into a square pan and place in the freezer. Once the mixture starts to freeze slightly, rake the mixture every 30 minutes with a fork until mixture is granular in appearance. Serve in glasses with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a mint sprig.
This recipe is an homage to my Mom as she loves mincemeat. Everyone knows how I love mini sweets, so when I saw this recipe in Donna Hay it definitely spoke to me. I found the original recipe interesting but I tweaked the recipe quite a bit by adding in additional flavors such as Holiday inspired spices and a bit of brandy. Oh yeah~ don’t forget the brandy. They are divine!
Holiday Spice Fruit Mince Tassies
recipe: adapted from Donna Hay
yield: 20-24 mini muffin size tarts
1/2 Cup grated, peeled granny smith apple, (excess juice discarded)
1/4 Cup currants
1/4 Cup diced fine sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 Cup diced fine pitted dried dates
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp. diced fine candied orange peel (optional)
1/4 Cup orange juice
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. (25 gm) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. brandy
Confectioners sugar (for dusting on top)
* 1 recipe of my cream cheese press in crust (per below)
For Filling: In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and let sit to absorb all the flavors for at least one hour. Stir mixture a few times during soaking time. Make the crust while the filling is soaking.
Prepare the tassies: Lightly grease a 24 well mini muffin tin(s) and press in cream cheese press in crust by pinching off an inch of dough and rolling it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a circle about 2 1/2 inches big. Press the crust into the prepared tin. If crust gets too soft while working, let chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Fill each well to the top with mince meat filling. If desired: Top each tassie with a star cut out by pressing scraps of dough flat and using a small cutter. Brush each star and edges of crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350° F for 30-35 minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown. Let cool in tin for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove to cool completely over wire rack. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired before serving.
*Cream Cheese Press in Crust
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed at room temp
1 stick butter, cubed at room temp
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
In a large shallow bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and cubed cream cheese. Using a fork mix to combine into one cohesive mass. Knead gently into a ball to gather up any scrappy bits of dough. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Let me tell you about “Pineapple Bob”.
Well, that’s my secret name for him. Surely he has some eloquent proper Chinese name (which most likely I can’t pronounce anyway) so he will be forever known as pineapple Bob to me. I see him about everyday as I pass by on the street. He sets up ‘shop’ 2 blocks from our apartment. He sells beautiful sweet pineapples. I’m sure his mother is proud. No, seriously. Do something, and do it well would be the motto here.
Bob does pineapple. Bob has a blue truck. That’s all you need to know. It’s a beautiful thing.
Oh–and one more thing–Bob has a seriously sharp knife. Ssshing! Jump back Loretta!
You want a ripe juicy, fragrant pineapple? Bob is your man. No stupid goofy smelling or sharp thorny crown pulling needed by you. Thank God, no pineapple stress!! You are not at the Piggly Wiggly here. Just pluck one from the truck, hand it to Bob and it is bound to be awWeSomme.. 🎶. With his trusty BAD ASS cleaver Bob strips the rind clean off the pineapple for you right there in about 3.2 seconds. Don’t EVEN think about blinking. No joke. It’s like weird performance art (in a good way). The pineapple is left with the core intact and he places the whole shebang in a little plastic bag for you. (Depending on the type- most of the cores of pineapples here in Taiwan are softer and you can eat the core). God has given you a bonus fiber boost, so eat it. Yes siree Bob.
Taiwan is known for its pineapples (I’m told there are several varieties-more than 16 even). Some of the types of pineapple here include: the atemoya ice-cream-tree pineapple, winter honey pineapple, ice cream pineapple, fragrant apple pineapple, and perfume pineapple.
Originally, I was going to take all sorts of photos of different pineapples but I was starting to feel a bit like a fruit groupie with my camera, so I cut it down to A few. I’ve kind of become obsessed with scouting out all the different types of pineapples. In my travels I’ve seen short stubby types with really short crowns, mini pineapples, large pineapples with very long flexible soft crowns and everything in between.
I’m dedicating my post to the Taiwanese pineapple! and more importantly, to Bob. Rock on dude. Word.
Poached Vanilla Spiced Pineapple
recipe: John Barricelli (The Seasonal Baker)
2 Cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. whole white peppercorns
1 ripe pineapple
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar along with 2 cups water. Stir, then bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add the vanilla bean paste, star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns. Let steep for one hour. Set a fine strainer over a large bowl and strain the syrup, reserving the spices (to add back later). Return the syrup to a clean saucepan.
2. Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise and remove core [unless you live in Taiwan 🙂 ] Remove all outer prickly layer. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the pineapple to the syrup and simmer for 2-5 minutes until fruit is tender when pierced with a skewer. Pour the contents into a large bowl and allow contents to cool, about one hour. Add back in the spices for storage. Chill in the fridge for about 2-3 hours to become cold. Serve pineapple along side panna cotta, over ice cream or thick greek yogurt. BTW- A little bit of the syrup is amazing stirred into ice tea.
I apologize for the dark and a bit out of focus grainy photos below- I took them rather quickly flying by with my ipod as I was trying to be a bit inconspicuous…(I didn’t want Bob to think I was a weird pineapple nut job groupie).
“Pineapple Bob” getting ready to set up shop
This is another type of pineapple-(not from Bob’s truck) but notice how the crown looks different.
p.s. you might also like my recipe for Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes
I’m very intrigued by lychees. They are what I call “ugly pretty”. Pretty but in an ugly sort of way. Rough and a bit prickly on the outside, but glossy translucent dreamy white on the inside. Truth be told if you buy them in the can they really are ugly, so try to find them in Asian markets if you are lucky enough to live near an Asian market so you can appreciate their true beauty. The smell is something that you can’t really begin to describe. You have to smell one once in your life to appreciate the fragrance. They smell very floral. When you peel back the leathery prickly skin they are so incredibly juicy that it is hard to peel one without getting juice all over you. This batter works well with very ripe bananas also, so if you can’t find lychees try the banana chunks. Either way they are delicious.
Lychee and Banana Fritters
1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup sugar + more for rolling
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil + more for frying
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Lg. egg
1-2 very ripe bananas, cut into 1 inch chunks
10 lychees, peeled, pitted, and cut in half (fresh or canned)
1. In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup whisk the wet ingredients; vegetable oil through the egg. Make a well and pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a fork to combine. Blot the lychees dry with paper towels. Drop both of the fruit pieces into the batter and stir to coat the fruit. Prepare a separate small bowl with granulated sugar to roll the fritters in once out of the fryer.
2. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan to 340 degrees F. Using a tablespoon scoop batter covered fruit and carefully spoon into the oil (using another spoon to scrape off into oil works best). Note the batter will be very wet and it may seem like a lot of the batter drips off–that is fine–just do the best you can. You will have irregular shaped fritters. Fry the fritters for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the oil and immediately roll in granulated sugar and let cool on paper towel lined plate.
First of all, I want to thank all my readers for coming back each week to read my blog. Second, I want to inform my wonderful blog family that I (We- The Husband, Son and thee) have moved. MOVED as in FAR AWAY from California. We moved to the “beautiful island” of Formosa known as Taiwan.
Taiwan is my husband’s birthplace-just so you know I’m not totally
crazy baked moving to a foreign country (only half crazy baked). I will continue to post my treats and you might notice a slight tropical or Asian flare sometimes with the choices I bring to my recipes, but American style treats will continue to be a large presence on my blog.
By request from my friends and family-I am also going to try to post more pictures (other than just food porn), so you can enjoy my discovery of Taipei/Taiwan along with me. I am having such a blast discovering all the amazing food and especially the fruit here in Taiwan. I cannot get enough of the fruit. To kick off my most recent fascination of mangos, I chose this recipe from Donna Hay.
Last week I bought some ripe mangos at the out-door market here in my neighborhood and they were so amazingly sweet I had to go back for more this week. Did I mention I love the fruit here?! I keep telling my friends back in the States that the fruit here in Taiwan is so freaking amazing, and I have to admit I never had a mango that tasted so good until I moved here. The mangos here have a flesh that is soft and silky and not fibrous at all. The bananas in this recipe are there more for the creamy texture that they bring to the party rather than the taste, so restrain yourself from using bananas that are overripe as that is not what is required in this recipe.
Banana-Mango Frozen Yogurt
recipe: Donna Hay
yield: 4-6 servings
1 Cup thick plain yogurt, cold
2 ripe (not overipe) bananas
3 ripe mangos
1. Cut the bananas and mangos and place in ziplock bags. Freeze until firm-about 3 hours.
2. Place the yogurt first in a Vitamix or blender. Top with the frozen fruit and process until smooth. You may serve at that point which will give you a more soft serve texture. To continue until firm, place the finished frozen yogurt in an air-tight freezer safe container and freeze until firm.