A Cobbler Recipe for Cobbler People: Cherry and Apricot Cobbler

In this world there are pie people, tart people, and cobbler people.

Pie people, bless their souls, say things like “bless their souls.” They wear aprons and buy toilet paper at Sam’s club.

Tart people are a little edgier, but not much. Their hair is cropped and they wear wire-rimmed glasses. They don’t favor Yanni, but they don’t dislike him either. In Sex and the City terms, tart people are Miranda.

And then there are cobbler people. We’re the rustics, the hands-dirty type. We like finger painting and eating glue. We’re impatient. We don’t care what it looks like as long as it tastes good. We are cobbler people.

What I like about cobbler is that it is so easy. You make the fruit, you make the topping, and you’re done. It’s a great way, also, to try different fruits and to celebrate the season. Except cobbler people don’t say things like “celebrate the season.” Pie people say that.

A few days ago I spotted apricots and cherries at Whole Foods. Remember how I told you to keep your eyes out for what’s in season? This was one of those times. So tonight I scrambled over there, loaded up on ingredients, and came storming back ready to make my cobbler.

Here are my apricots:

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Here are my cherries:

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After washing the apricots and cherries, I began the pitting process. Pitting cherries is the pits. I tried various techniques, but ultimately relied on my fingers. It took a while. Here are the results:

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And here are the pits:

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And the Pips:

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Now you halve and pit the apricots. This wasn’t too hard, I used a paring knife:

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The recipe I used (from Epicurious) has you toss the fruit with sugar, cornstarch and (rather unconventionally) almond extract. After which I poured it into the baking dish:

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It baked for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. It came out smelling great:

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Meanwhile, I made the topping. This was easy too. First I whisked together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt:

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Then I cut up a stick of cold butter into squares. Notice how ingenious (and immodest) I am. I halved the butter lengthwise, flipped it over, halved it again (thus quartering it). Then I sliced down horizontally to get cubes:

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Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles “coarse meal.” I never get this instruction because I am none too familiar with coarse meal. I imagine, though, that coarse meal looks like this:

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Sam Neil, on the other hand, looks like this:

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Here’s where our recipe gets sloppy. You pour in 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 3/4 cup of whipping cream:

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Everything turns quite gloppy:

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The cobblers I usually make have crumby toppings; this one would turn out biscuity. It made the actual toppping process (glopping the batter on to the fruit) a bit more difficult. “Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfulls” says the recipe. I managed ok, and it looked like this:

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Then I baked for 40 minutes at 375 and it came out looking like this:

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Pretty huh?

Now from the side:

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Served us up a bowl:

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And it was quite delicious. I was worried for a bit. I thought the cherries wouldn’t be cherryey enough. That the apricots wouldn’t be tart enough. That the topping wouldn’t be crumby enough. But nothing to worry about: everything tasted bright and terrific. This is a good early summer recipe. That is if you’re a cobbler person. And who wouldn’t want to be a cobbler person? We’re the best.

Late Night Caramel Chocolate Pecan Ice Cream

When making ice cream it’s always good to keep in mind that the “batter” (if that’s what they call it) has to chill. So, for example, if you start your ice cream at 8:30 pm and the ice cream involves hot sticky caramel that needs to refrigerate to “cool,” don’t expect to be eating until after 11. And if after 11 your roommate drags you out for a night on the town, don’t expect ice cream until 2:56 am.

Tonight I was inspired to make the Barefoot Contessa’s Caramel Chocolate Pecan ice cream (a variation on the Turtle). I happened upon the recipe by accident: I was going to make her chicken chili, then I decided it would be wasted since my parents are coming in tomorrow for graduation and we’re eating every meal out. But then I saw the ice cream and said: I gotta make it.

This recipe is easy and delicious. I halved it because Barefoot’s recipes tend to yield 8000 times the amount you actually need. (Her Turkey Meatloaf requires like 15 lbs of turkey meat).

Anyway, begin by boiling sugar and water. (I won’t give amounts for copyright fears…are these unfounded? Anyone here go to law school?)

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She says wait until there’s a mahogany color which should happen in three to five minutes. Five minutes went by. Then six. Then seven. I began to grow afeared. But, luckily, the color quickly changed. I snapped a photo:

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Now you add 3 cups of cream. I like this recipe because there’s no milk. All cream. That’s my kind of ice cream.

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BC says: “Careful when you add the cream, it’s going to bubble up!” And that it did. And then it forms a congealed mass, which BC also warns about. She says: “Don’t worry, it will melt. Put it back on the heat” (oh ya, you take it off the heat when you add the cream) “and stir til the caramel dissolves.”

[Remember when I made that burnt caramel ice cream? I threw away the congealed mass instead of dissolving it. That’s probably why it didn’t turn out so great.]

So I dissolved my congealed mass, poured it into a bowl, and refrigerated. Went out on the town.

When we got back, hours later, I chopped up artisinal milk chocolate from Whole Foods (which tastes amazing, by the way).

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Then I chopped up pecans that I had toasted earlier. (I like toasting pecans in my free time as well as butterfly painting and long walks on the beach).

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Now we add the cool caramel cream mix to the mixer:

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Let it go for 30 minutes while you check your e-mail and download wholesome pornography.

After 30 minutes, I’ll admit it was still soupy but that’s because it required post-mixing freezing:

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Now we add our pecans and chocolate:

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Serve up two soupy bowls to late night ice cream fans:

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Pack the rest away:

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Friends, this ice cream was delicious. In the game of “worth making” or “not worth making” this definitely ranks in the former category. It’s wonderfully sweet, rich, and choc full of textural goodness. Lauren complained that it was “too rich” but that’s because she abhors capitalism. Trust me, this is good stuff. And now, I’m afraid, I must slumber.

Decadent and Wildly Expensive Chocolate Ice Cream

The checkout woman at Whole Foods is psychic.

Last time I was there she said: “Are you a lawyer?”

And I said: “Well I’m a law student.”

And she said: “Ya, I can tell.”

I found this very insulting and I smacked her across the face.

“I knew you were going to do that,” she said.

The checkout woman at Whole Foods is psychic.

Tonight, while checking out, the same woman noticed a pattern in my purchases: cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla bean…

“Are you making ice cream?” she asked.

“Krikey!” I yelled. “You’ve done it again!”

She stared back at me, silently.

“Why don’t you just buy some ice cream,” she said cooly, “this stuff’s expensive.”

She was right. (Have I mentioned that she’s psychic?) The vanilla bean cost $6; the Shaffren Bargen(sp?) cocoa powder cost $7 (<--a big waste...I thought it would be noticably different, but it wasn't), and the cream and the milk and the Giradelli chocolate bars (which, actually, are relatively cheap) all added up. Plus there was the Bon Apetit and Saveur I picked up too. In any case, I responded: "Because there is glory in decadent homemade chocolate ice cream, woman!" And I smacked her again, just for good measure. When I got home, Lauren's eyes lit up with the news: "I'm making decadent chocolate ice cream." Lauren is a chocolate nut. This was right up her alley. "Mmmm," she said. "But it probably won't be ready til after midnight." "Ohhhh," she sighed. She'd be sleeping by then. I got started with the vanilla bean, the milk, and the cream. IMG_2.JPG

This simmers for thirty minutes and can I tell you that there is no smell greater than the smell of milk, cream and a vanilla bean simmering.

“What IS that?” asked Lauren’s friend Hillary.

“Milk, cream and a vanilla bean simmering,” I responded snippily.

“It smells wonderful!” She leaned over the pot and wafted the steam towards her face.

“Hey!” I cried out. “No wafting!” I smacked her to punctuate my point.

After that I beat together the cocoa, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract…

BEFORE JENNY CRAIG:

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AFTER:

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Then I poured out a cup of the hot creamy vanilla bean mixture and poured it into the chocolate mixture:

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Meanwhile, I chopped and added 8 oz of the Giardelli bittersweet chocolate to the remaining cream/milk/vanilla bean mixture:

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Here’s the chocolate-egg mixture after mixing:

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And here’s the Giardelli-cream-milk-vanilla-bean mixture after melting:

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Now the egg mixture goes into the cream mixture:

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And you cook it down until it resembles pudding:

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Pour into a bowl:

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Refrigerate for two hours while Lauren goes to sleep.

While waiting, I watched episode 7 of “Freaks and Geeks.” This is the best DVD set I have ever purchased. First of all, the show itself is brilliant. It walks the balance between incredibly funny and incredibly poignant so well. Each episode is so well crafted, it’s like a mini-play. And then the features on the DVD are phenmonal: loads of commentary tracks, deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, audition tapes. You could spend an entire lifetime going through all the material. But fortunately, two hours gives you enough time to let your ice cream batter refrigerate.

When ready, pour the cool mixture into the ice cream maker:

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Let it rip!

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I actually found this process disconcerting because the ice cream was so thick to begin with it was hard to tell when it went from pudding to ice cream. So I let it go for the requisite 30 minutes until it produced this:

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To call the finished product decadent is a profound understatement. This ice cream is so rich, you could use it to tar your roof. And so chocolatey! I couldn’t imagine an ice cream infused with more chocolate flavor. Which is not to say that I loved it: I’m not a chocolate fanatic, so it’s decadence is lost on me. When Lauren wakes up tomorrow, and a few hours after her breakfast, she’ll be the one to savor it’s splendor. I, instead, savored a few spoonfuls and returned here to write about it. My major gripe is the waste of the vanilla bean: you hardly taste it. Was it that important? The chocolate so dominates that it seems that it could have done without it. And saved me six bucks!

“I could have told you that,” says the Whole Foods checkout woman.

“What are you doing here?”

She smacks me across the face and leaves.

Toscanini’s Burnt-Caramel Ice Cream

Several days ago, in the comments section of my vanilla ice cream post, site reader McColl wrote: “The first ice cream recipe I tried was from a June 2000 Atlantic Monthly article by Corby Kummer (a great food writer) called Toscanini’s Burnt-Caramel Ice Cream. It’s still available on-line, I think. It is absolutely, I mean truly, amazing. (If I were the type of person to use exclamation marks freely, I would add several to the end of that sentence.) Plus it’s fun to burn.”

This immediately caught my attention. I searched and quickly found the article online. I printed it out and read it today while “writing” my “paper” for “school.” (Actually, I got a lot done: I’m on page 16!)

What follows is my story.

Continue Reading

Quiet, Disciplined Study and the Night of 1000 Sorbets

If there is one question I get asked more than any other it would have to be: “Why are you naked in our nursing home?”

But if there is another question I get asked more than any other, it is surely: “How do you manage your website and attend law school all at the same time?”

Tonight I provide a rare glimpse into the world of a third year law student-cum-international gourmet sensation.

The fact is, that balancing my many interests takes discipline. Cold, hard discipline. I began tonight at the kitchen table, away from the internet, focused on my 30-page paper due in a week.

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Lauren is out of town, and the apartment is mine. Cloistered in my academic hovel, I penetrated the issues of my paper like spermazoa invading an egg: my ideas bursting forth, creating life where there was no life before. (Although, some argue that life does not begin at conception. But I digress).

Suddenly, I heard voices.

“BLOOD! BLOOD! SPILL THE BLOOD!” a chorus of children sang out.

“No!” I shrieked. “Not again!”

But it was too late. I had no choice.

I ran to Whole Foods and picked up a bag of blood oranges. What else could I do?

I came back and poured sugar and water into a pot.

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I sliced a blood orange in half:

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I squeezed out a cup of juice:

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I photographed the carcasses:

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And then I poured the blood juice into the sugar water, adding a twist of lemon. I let it cool and then poured it into my gyrating ice cream maker:

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“BLOOD BLOOD SPILL THE BLOOD!” sang the children, and then I realized: the couple below me was watching The Lord of The Flies.* I stomped my foot and the voices ceased.

*(This is the second in a series of what will become an annoying array of Lord of the Flies jokes.)

I peered down into the swishy mess:

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What pretty colors!

I looked over my shoulder and saw my books. “One second!” I said, as I watched the liquidy syrup turn into sorbet.

Before I knew it, it was done:

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Look at that funky color! It’s like phosphoresent pink. And the taste! Mmm. This was right up my alley. Tart, sweet, citrusy. Loved it. I put the rest away for safekeeping:

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And then I returned to my studies.

Academic achievement is based on hard work and focus. As Jefferson said, I believe: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 90% persperation, and 9% sorbet.”

“What?”

“You heard me,” said Jefferson. “9% sorbet.”

“I just made sorbet,” I replied.

“You did, it’s true,” he said thoughtfully, scratching his chin. “But did you make Lemon Thyme sorbet?”

I saw his point. I immediately ran down to Whole Foods and purchased a bag of lemons and some Thyme.

“There ya go my boy!” said Jefferson. “Now hop to it!”

I grated some lemon peel:

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I squeezed some lemon juice:

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I bundled up some Thyme:

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And I steeped it all in boiling sugar water:

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I strained what I steeped:

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And after cleaning the blood off the ice cream maker, I poured it in:

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“Excellent!” said Jefferson, but another pawn was in play.

“What the HELL are you doing?” said my mother from her place in my conscience.

“Nothing.”

“Two sorbets in one night?! Are you out of your mind?!”

“Well,” I mumbled, “it seemed like a good idea.”

“I’ll show you a good idea!” She waved her wand and ZAP, the machine turned hot.

“MOTHER NO!!!”

But it was too late. The sorbet wouldn’t freeze:

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The machine spun round and round to no avail.

I sadly poured the liquid out into a bowl and covered with saran wrap:

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I put it in the fridge and cleaned and refroze the ice cream maker bowl. We would have another go tomorrow.

I turned back to the table where my books lay. I sat myself down and churned out a page. One out of thirty: it’s a start.

And now you know how it is that I do what I do. It’s not an easy life, I’ll tell ya.

Paradise Gained: Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

“Oh hear’st thou rather pure ethereal stream,

Whose fountain who shall tell? before the sun,

Before the heavens thou wert, and at the voice

of God, as with a mantle didst invest

The rising world of waters dark and deep,

Won from the void and formless infinite.”

– John Milton, “Paradise Lost”

Tonight I tasted heaven. Honestly; I can’t even describe to you how good this ice cream was. It was unlike any ice cream I’ve had before; even the best ice cream in the best restaurants with the best pastry chefs. This was silky and buttery and luscious. It felt like sex in silk pajamas on a cloud with Yoko Ono. Well, not with Yoko Ono. Oh my God, this ice cream was so good.

The recipe is listed in the Premium Ice Cream chapter of the ice cream cookbook that came with my ice cream maker. The ingredients cost an insane amount: almost $15. That’s like five cones at Ben & Jerry’s. But one scoop of this rich, creamy, velvety ice cream would send Ben and Jerry heading for the hills.

It began with a vanilla bean.

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The recipe said the vanilla bean should measure six inches, and mine did:

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[Julia Child reminds us: “It’s not the size of your vanilla bean, it’s how you use it.”]

Slice the vanilla bean in half:

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Scrape up its seeds on the back of your knife:

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Now prepare the cream and milk:

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1.5 cups cream, 1.5 cups milk goes into a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and the pod.

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Bring to a medium boil, then reduce to a simmer.

MEANWHILE, back in Gotham, Bruce Wayne prepares the eggs.

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We want two whole eggs and three egg yolks. [“But what do I do with the egg whites?” whines Bruce. “See the meringue post beneath this, you dummy!”]

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[Edited to add: “Add Sugar!!! 3/4ths a cup!”]

Now mix until pale yellow and thick, about two minutes:

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After the cream, milk, and vanilla simmers for 30 minutes, pour out a cup into a measuring glass:

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Slowly pour the hot liquid into the mixing egg mixture:

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Let that mix for a moment, and then pour the mixture mixture into the original mixture: [How’s that for clear direction?]:

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Mix over medium low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon:

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Pour into a bowl:

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Cover with saran wrap (directly on the custard):

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Refrigerate for hours.

Go to dinner, eat salad, sing a song about it.

Then, get your ice cream maker ready. Pull the freezer bowl out of the freezer. Shake to make sure there’s no liquid. Put in place.

Then remove the bowl of custardy vanilla goodness from the fridge. Prepare to pour:

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Pour:

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Next time, pour from something with better precision.

Watch your ice cream churn:

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Follow Jeremy’s advise in the comments and scrape down the sides now and then.

Let twenty minutes go by.

Doesn’t that smell amazing?

And then:

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Behold its stiffness! Behold its glory!

Serve in a coffee mug:

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Watch your roommate’s eyes light up. Watch Katharine’s body quiver with contentment. Watch your cat chase a shoelace around the apartment.

Someday I want to make a list. The list will be called: “Things To Cook For People Who Don’t Cook To Convert Them Into People Who Cook.” These will entail dishes that are so jaw-droppingly good; so sensually gratifying that it will keep people up at night, craving their next opportunity to make it. This vanilla bean ice cream will surely make the list. It has me quoting Milton and lusting after Yoko Ono. It’s that good.

Marginal Meringues

While I was making my ice cream today (post to follow), I was left with three unused egg whites in a bowl. Not wanting to be wasteful, I channelled the late great Chief Joseph who reminded me that Native Americans eat every part of the buffalo. I, in turn, would eat every part of the egg. I would make meringues.

“Sissy,” said Chief Joseph.

I dumped the egg whites into the mixing bowl:

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I then followed a recipe I printed out on Epicurious. (The recipe called for two egg whites, so I found another recipe that called for three to figure out the proportion of sugar).

Anyway, I whipped until soft peaks formed:

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I took soft peak to mean that the whites dangled off the end of the mixing impliment without standing up on their own.

Then I added 7 Tbs of sugar (which turned out to be too much, I think) and mixed until hard peaks formed:

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Notice the elegant sheen.

Then you dollup a teaspoons worth into little kisses on a floured, buttered cookie sheet. I took teaspoon to mean mega Tablespoonfull and had complicated results because of that:

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See with the teaspoon scenario, they bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes. With the portions I used, they came out crazy gross. Like gooey gummy and disturbingly chewy. And definitely not cooked enough.

So I put them back in the oven at 200 degrees and cooked them for a half hour more. Then they came out basically good:

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I liked that they didn’t cost me anything. And I like that they’re not that bad for you: just egg whites and sugar.

“And don’t forget,” says Chief Joseph, “you conserved every part of the egg.”

“True,” I say.

“Sissy.”

You Will (Maybe) Make This Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

If there was no Lauren there’d be no Maybe.

She felt that the rhubarb was too prominent, that the fruit wasn’t cooked enough. But tell me this doesn’t look delicious:

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Here’s a good tip for all you aspiring gourmets out there: when you’re at the supermarket, pay attention to what’s in the produce section. Recently at Whole Foods I noticed prominent displays of strawberries and rhubarb. So tonight, when I was craving a diversion from my homework and the bread in the refrigerator, I typed in “Strawberry Rhubarb” at Epicurious and came up with this recipe (which, incidentally, has a 100% approval rating):

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COBBLER WITH CORNMEAL BISCUIT TOPPING.

My formula for a good recipe is as follows:

EASY TO DO + DELICIOUS RESULTS = GOOD RECIPE

This recipe was incredibly easy. My one mistake was with the rhubarb.

First, wash and dry the strawberries:

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Then wash and dry the rhubarb:

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Here’s where I made my mistake. Well, I’m not sure if it was a mistake. The recipe says to cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch thick slices. I found this confusing. I mean, are we talking width or length? Should I have cut it like celery?

I ended up making little rhubarb sticks of 1/2 an inch width:

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If I had to do it again, I’d go the celery route.

In any case, you put the rhubarb and strawberries in a bowl with flour, sugar and ground cloves. (I think the ground cloves make the recipe terrific; adds a lot of depth to the flavor):

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Pour into the pie dish:

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Now make the topping. There’s flour, sugar, butter, and corn meal:

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Mush it up with your fingers until it resembles course meal. Then add buttermilk and stir with fork:

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[I don’t know why I’m giving you these instructions. Just follow the Epicurious recipe!]

Pour the topping on the strawberry mixture:

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And bake at 400 degrees for what I think is 25 minutes. (Follow the recipe, dummy!)

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Doesn’t that look delicious?

Here’s what it looks like in the bowl:

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I think Lauren’s main complaint was that the fruit wasn’t cooked down enough. Someone on the Epicurious site makes the same point and suggests cooking the fruit first before adding the topping. I had never cooked with rhubarb before, so I didn’t know the difference. In any case, I think this is a perfect Springtime Sopranos-watching dessert. Unless you’re Lauren. In which case, the fruit wasn’t cooked down enough.