Pluot—Helluva Fruit

Mel Brooks had a routine where he interviewed “The 2000 Year Old Man.”  When he’s asked about the world’s greatest inventions he says something like  “The nectarine.  Half a peach, half a plum, a helluva fruit.”  Well, it turns out a nectarine is only a fuzzless peach but The Pluot is certainly in line for great inventions of the horticultural type–half a plum, half an apricot.  I bought some this week and they were wonderfully sweet with just a trace of a bitter note in the skin.  I especially liked the dark red ones and will hopefully find them again this week–pluot tart anyone?

Microwaved Corn–Who Knew?

This is a picture of an ear of corn in its infancy.  It will grow up to be royalty, christened either Silver King or Silver Queen.  And I will lust after it, but for some reason, I won’t buy it.  I love corn on the cob, it’s in season, why not indulge.  I realized today that’s it’s because I hate shucking it, trying to get all the silk off it and then waiting for the water to boil.  Well, today I discovered the miracle of corn on the cob cooked in the microwave.  Wrap the ear in damp paper towel, zap for 2 minutes (turning once) and then let sit for 5.  The husk and silk pull off with no effort and you’re left with a beautiful perfectly cooked ear of corn.  Add a little butter and salt (I admit I just rubbed the corn with the end of a stick of salted butter still in the wrapper) and eat.  Because it’s not watered down by boiling in the pot, and it cooks inside its own corn-flavored wrapper, the flavor is intense–sweet, clean and creamy.  Luckily for me my husband doesn’t really like corn on the cob, so I’ll be having the second ear a little later.  And I doubt I’ll ever boil corn again.

The Beauty of a Grey Day

I’m sure we can all agree this heat–and the humidity–have been close to unbearable the last couple weeks.  I had gotten into the routine of walking five mornings a week for a good half hour but gave up when the sun was blazing first thing.  So this morning I was delighted to tie on my walking shoes, slip my MP3 player in my waistband and head out the door.  It was misting lightly at first, but soon I was warm enough to take off my pullover and walk in my tank top.  Across Juniper and up Grand, then across Chestnut and back down 5th.  I was surprised how quickly I got back in the rhythm and even remembered the plot of the mystery I’d been listening to 10 days ago.  I’ve been thinking of loading my Spanish tapes on to the player so I can learn while I walk, but I think that is asking too much of myself.  I am at heart not an exerciser, but I do love books so I think I’d better stick with the combination that gets me going just so I can hear another chapter.  And in this case, it gives me the added bonus of taking place in Sweden, in winter, so when I’m walking up a steep hill I try and pretend there are snowflakes just on the other side.

Farmers’ Market Melon

Last month, I picked up a melon at the Farmers’ Market and served it as a simple dessert.  Everyone agreed it was amazing–sweet, juicy and richly flavored.  I went back the next week and she had none.  And so it went for a couple weeks.  But then Tuesday, there they were at the table one off the corner of Kalmia and Grand on the north side.  They’re oval rather than round so not quite sure what the variety, but they’re ripe and that seems to be the key.  This one is not for company, I’m cutting off a couple wedges a day, squeezing on a little lime to counter the sweetness and hoping they’ll be more next week–I might have to buy two.

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and More

As you know, I am a huge fan of fresh tomatoes in season–and skip the pallid tasteless ones that show up in the market most of the year.  And then along came Trader Joe’s heirloom cherry tomatoes and I had to reconsider.  Though I still stick with ones from the Farmers’ Market when I want raw with olive oil and salt, my husband created a spaghetti dish using TJ’s tiny tomatoes and now we’re both hooked on it.  Here’s how you make it.  First, get all your ingredients prepped: chop separately garlic, parsley, oregano (if you have fresh), black oil-cured olives (Major Market) and a few ounces of thickly sliced Proscuitto.  Get a large saute pan hot, add a good glug of olive oil and toss in all the chopped ingredients and saute until there’s some browning.  Then add the tomatoes with the big ones cut in half along with a cup of water.  Cook at a brisk simmer, stirring regularly for about 30 minutes.  Let sit with heat off until spaghetti is almost done, then turn up heat, add cooked spaghetti and toss for a good minute.  Serve with Parmigiano, making sure to have a spoon to get out the sauce since it will puddle in the bottom.  (I have tried this with large tomatoes, but it doesn’t work as well.  I think the skins from the little ones play a crucial role in the flavor and texture.)  We had it for dinner night before last, wonder if tonight would be too soon to have it again?

I Love Doves

To me, this looks like the carved wing of an angel.  Combined with the soft coo of doves, they seem almost celestial.  It seems fitting that many years ago, when I saw a pair of doves toddling down the sidewalk, I realized they reminded me of a pair of nuns in full habit.  We have a duo  that lives somewhere in the trees around us, and they come to the fountain often.  One lands, with a flutter, and then the other appears.  As one bows its head to drink, the other keeps an eye out for danger.  Then they switch duties, with the first surveying the scene while the other drinks.  They’re very nervous birds and are quick to take flight, but when I hear them arrive at the fountain outside my kitchen window, I try to take the time to enjoy their delicate beauty.

A Critique of My Salad Nicoise

If I could pick four words to describe the salad, they would be “needs more olive oil.”  It is hard when you aren’t following exact amounts of lettuce, potatoes, beans and tomatoes to be sure everything is being dressed properly and as I look at Julia’s recipe I realize she has solved that by breaking it down into parts, so the potatoes have their own recipe “French Potato Salad,” as does the vinaigrette.  I obviously didn’t make enough to portion it out properly among the different ingredients.  But all in all, it was a very nice dish with toast made from our own bread that was rubbed with fresh garlic and drizzled with olive oil.  I find I’m liking the flavor of capers more each time I have them and would have liked some squeezes of Meyer lemon but the fruit on our tree is still green.  The best part was Julia’s hard boiled eggs–put in cold water with an inch of water above the eggs, bring to boil, take off heat and let sit for 17 minutes then put in ice water.  The yolk was still orange and had not turned that pale yellow we are so used to with standard hard boiled eggs–and of course none of that olive green ring that is the sign of a badly overcooked egg.  The flavor was light, delicate and rich at the same time, so will remember Julia’s technique for future hard boiled eggs.

Salade Nicoise–A Julia Child Classic

I’ll be making a Salade Nicoise for dinner tomorrow night, so thought I’d get some of the prep work done today.  I’m making it by “the book” meaning “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One” and her directions couldn’t be clearer. Once I started to check on whether I had everything I would need, I decided to compose a bowl of almost all the ingredients–the salad greens and parsley are tucked away in the frig and will come out when I make the salad tomorrow.  So here’s a look a the main ingredients and where they came from.  Green beans and tomatoes–got them at the Farmers’ Market on Tuesday. Dry cured olives, garlic and capers–Major Market.  Tuna in olive oil, anchovies, cage-free eggs and olive oil–Trader Joe’s.  Organic Yukon gold potatoes–Jimbo’s.  I’ll blanch and dress the green beans in a garlicky vinaigrette from the book and let them marinate overnight.  Everything else will be done on Friday, and served in the oval white bowl the ingredients are nestled in.  With a loaf of my husband’s bread, I have no doubt it will give us a “bon appetit.”