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.
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.
It’s August and you have no excuse: tomatoes and peaches are calling. Not the ones with little stickers on them at the supermarket, but the superior, positively bursting-with-summer ones you’ll find at your farmer’s market. “Ugh, but do I really have to go to a farmer’s market?” If that’s you, listen up: yes you do. And I’m going to walk you through it, tell you what to buy, in order to make an incredible Summer Farmer’s Market Feast for six. Are you ready? Let’s do it.
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.
You may recall that the worst meal I’ve ever cooked for people in my life was the meal I cooked for my friends Alex and Raife in March of 2007 (see here). Rereading that post, I don’t think it was as awful as I remember it being; but the pressure was high because Alex, one of my closest friends from college, had never experienced my cooking (she’d only seen me defrost California Pizza Kitchen pizzas when we lived together) and I wanted to impress her. Well, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
Luckily, Alex has a birthday. And now she lives in New York and so does our friend Raife who was also there at that disastrous dinner. So to celebrate Alex’s birthday, which was in October, I invited them both over for a gigantic do-over. How did I fare?
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!