Thursday, April 15, 2010

jelly jar bouquets, swiss chard, chickpeas, spring

The daffodils have come and gone, grape hyacinth taking their place along the drive. Lemon thyme and a handful of other hardy herbs (tarragon, lemon balm, mint, and sweet woodruff) are poking up through their bed. Enough were foraged to fill a jelly jar for the table and scent the hands that picked them.
After a busy weekend of house guests and a birthday party and a gorgeous full day of playing gardener in the dirt, I stood at the stove to simmer a tin of chickpeas in some aromatics and chiles, adding handfuls of ribboned chard and braising the greens for a time.
It seemed the thing to do - earthy and warm on a chilly and rainy spring evening; a simple exercise to ease in after birthday cakes and dirty dishes.
I love the bustle of cooking for a crowd, planning the menu, and seeing it all come together on the table, but somehow that sizzle of garlic and steam of greens cooked for just us two seemed equally satisfying.
Like putting your feet up at the end of the day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

in the oven

Currently in the oven:
Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp with Vanilla and Hazelnuts

For the topping:
(adapted from the recipe in Chez Panisse Fruit)

3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. white whole wheat flour
6 Tb. light brown sugar
2 Tb. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2/3 C. ground hazelnuts
12 Tb. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold, cut into small pieces

For the fruit:

4 C. rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed, and stalks cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 1/2 cups)
3/4 C. granulated sugar
1/2 a vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the topping:
In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugars, cinnamon, salt, and ground hazelnuts. Add the cold butter pieces and rub together between your fingers until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is distributed throughout in small bits. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the fruit mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and be sure to work the vanilla in evenly.

Place the fruit mixture in a baking dish (mine is roughly 12 x 8 x 2 1/2) and scatter the topping over the filling being sure to cover it entirely.

Bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling to the top.

Cool on a wire rack and serve slightly warm (with a bit of cream if you have it).
The scent is glorious.Happy Easter!