Is there anything better than a hand-written recipe?
When my mom got married, her father’s co-workers gave her a bunch of handwritten recipes that she still has. And here on Eliza Island, where we’re on our last full day of summer vacation (which we’re lucky to have, considering what’s going on in the world), it’s not just the crab cake recipes that are handwritten. The dessert recipes are handwritten too.
Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you have to admit it sounds good. I got the idea from the New York Times Cooking newsletter; Kim Severson was guest writing it for the day and she mentioned a trick she learned from our mutual friend Bill Addison who learned it from Nancy Silverton (how’s that for a game of telephone?). The trick is this: when making a cobbler or a crisp, brown some butter, scrape in the seeds from a vanilla bean and then stir the whole mixture in with the fruit. As far as ideas go, this is right up there with E = mc2. (How do you get the 2 up there? Where’s Einstein when you need him?)
It’s time to face facts: summer’s almost over. At least summer in the sense of kids not being in school (most of them have already gone back) and summer blockbusters (I didn’t want to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” but someone told me there’s a talking tree in it so now I do) and summer clothing adorning the mannequins at your local mall (now it’s all stuff for fall). Still, if you live in L.A., summer’s not going anywhere. There’s very little weather-wise here that distinguishes June from July from August from September from October and so forth. Sure, it gets a little chillier as the months go by, but summer never abruptly ends the way it does in other places. Which is why this cobbler is something most of you need to make right away before you’re facing a pile of fallen leaves and why I get to make it for a few months longer than you. Be very jealous.
When Chef Diep Tran sang the praises of Arkansas Black apples on L.A. Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, there was no lack of enthusiasm: “The Arkansas Black’s siren song starts out bright and tart, then blooms with notes of nutmeg, coriander, vanilla and anise the longer it sits in cellar.” She points out that the apple is called the “Snow White” apple because of its “white flesh and ebony skin.” By the time I finished reading her post, I knew that if I ever saw Arkansas Black apples I would have to buy them. And sure enough, a week or two later, at the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, I found them in a bin. I felt like I won the lottery.
Most food blogs and websites have inundated you with Thanksgiving recipes for WEEKS and here I am, the day before Thanksgiving, offering you up a recipe for cobbler. But maybe you’re still figuring out dessert? And maybe you haven’t heard about Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving book yet? If the latter is true, you better hurry out and score yourself a copy. What the former New York Times restaurant critic has written is pretty much the essential Thanksgiving cookbook. It’s full of good advice and smart, straight-forward recipes for turkey (roasted, brined, deep-fried, smoked), cranberry sauce, the works. My eye, of course, went straight to dessert where a pear cobbler caught my fancy. And last weekend I served it for dessert at a dinner party, to lots of acclaim.
Peter Meehan recently ranted about hectoring food snobs, the ones who make you feel bad for putting milk in your coffee (something he witnessed at an elite coffee shop) or who mock you for not knowing your various kinds of meat (hogget, anyone?) It’s with a sense of subtle restraint, then, that I gently prod you (I’m not hectoring, I swear) to make your way to a farmer’s market this autumn to buy some apples.
Not because it’ll make you a better person (it won’t) or because it’ll elevate your foodie status (whatever that might be), but because farmer’s market apples just taste better than supermarket apples. All you have to do to experience the difference is taste.
I used to be very confused about seasonal food. I understood the basic idea–that you should buy food when it’s in season, at its peak–but what I didn’t understand is that because most supermarkets in America stock these “seasonal” foods all-year round (tomatoes and watermelon in winter), the only real way to experience seasonal food is by going to farmer’s markets.
Isn’t the internet great? On that same trip to the farmer’s market (see Green Garlic Soup) I bought a bunch of rhubarb and a carton of strawberries. After having that soup for dinner, I wanted to make a strawberry rhubarb cobbler, only I didn’t have a recipe. Enter the internet. I Googled “Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler” and what was the fourth result? My friend Elise’s recipe. And guess what? As you can see by the picture above, it’s a pretty fantastic recipe. You can read the recipe here. The only substitution I made was, because I didn’t have any tapioca (and it was too late to go get some), I just used an equal amount of corn starch. That worked fine. Hot out of the oven and topped with a scoop of David Lebovitz’s vanilla bean ice cream (which I had in the fridge), springtime desserts don’t get much better. But you better act fast: strawberry and rhubarb season’s almost over. Get thee to the farmer’s market!