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Endless Summer Jam

Summer’s winding down.  Days are getting shorter.  Nights becoming cooler.  Even the air smells different.  It’s around this time of year when everyone starts to smile sadly at what’s left of the warm sunny days, knowing the inescapable ‘F’ word is just around the corner.  It’s also around this time of year that I launch into a state of full-blown, vehement denial.  The flip flops will stay on my feet.  I will not need a jacket.  I will ignore those pesky baby pumpkins perched next to the last of the heirloom tomatoes.  They have no business being there yet, and they know it.

My denial takes many forms, though one of my favorites is to bottle up summer.  Literally.  Bottle it up in pretty glass jars, so on the coldest and dreariest of winter days when I’m craving sunshine on my face and freshly picked summer berries on my plate, I’ll have a secret weapon to bust out.  I will not be defeated.

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Luckily, the beach across the street from our house provides the perfect ammunition for my secret weapon – row after row, after glorious row, of wild blackberry bushes.  During my parents most recent visit, we had a chance to head down and pick away to our heart’s content.  Pick one, eat one.  Pick one, eat two.  Admittedly, I’m not the most efficient harvester.  The goods are carefully carried home and prepped for my Endless Summer Jam.  It’s a jam that tastes like summer, looks like summer and smells like summer.  Denial can be a good thing, especially when it comes in a pretty jar.

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Endless Summer Jam
Kiss My Spatula’s version of her favorite jam, yields about 1 pint

This jam is on the thicker, chunkier, and seedier side – just how I like it.  There’s nothing polite or demure about this one.

Music Pairing: Theme from Endless Summer

Ingredients

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small apple, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lime

Method

Place blackberries, sugar, lime juice and zest in a non-reactive, deep pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add diced apple and blueberries and continue to keep mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until thickened.  Gently mash fruit with a potato masher.  Spoon into favorite jam jars and allow to cool to room temperature.  Store covered in refrigerator for several weeks.

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Peaches and Meringue

I’m a dog person. Always have been, always will be. I’ve never known a dog person who’s also a cat person, and vice-versa. You are either one or the other. End of story. I’ve always wondered if the same applies to fruit. In particular, peaches and nectarines. Are you either a peach person or a nectarine person? Does the same intense camaraderie and worship exist for each side? I’m a nectarine person. When summer rolls around, nectarines make it into the kitchen often, but their fraternal siblings stay away. Well, because I keep them away. My main issue lies with the silly fur coat they like to wear. I’m not a fan of furry coats on fruit – except for kiwi, since we take theirs off.

But this year – this year I’m feeling adventurous. While strolling through the market, minding my own business, I see gorgeous, gigantic peaches, and though still skeptical, decide to pick one up, and immediately knew it was something special. Firm and only faintly mealy with the sweetest smell of summer. The time had come to give them a second chance. I was excited. And for good reason.
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My first bite was crunchy, sweet and bursting with aroma. All the years I had shunned this poor fruit. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Then fate stepped in. As I was flipping through the new issue of Gourmet, distracted by the chomping of my renewed love, a recipe stopped me in my tracks. The chomping stopped, I quickly skimmed it, already knowing it was meant for me. And for my peaches. With only 4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes of cooking time, this was my type of dessert. The warm peach, barely caramelized at the edges, next to the fluffy, gooey-ness of the meringue is heavenly. The meringue reminds of the inside of a perfectly roasted s’more. Except better. A summer dessert that tastes guiltier than it actually is while showcasing the splendor of the peach. I love surprising myself – I’m a peach person after all (at least this year).

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Peaches and Meringue
Tweaked from Gourmet, August 2009

Watch the meringue very, very, very carefully (I can’t emphasize this enough) once it goes in the oven. A few seconds too long and it will become a black, burnt mess. The original recipe called for crushed sesame candy or amaretti, but I usually don’t have either lying around the house, so the graham crackers worked perfectly. Also, please note the egg white in this recipe is not fully cooked.

Music Pairing: Peach, Prince

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped graham crackers

Method

Preheat broiler. Put peaches, cut side up, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sugar on each half. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until tops begin to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Beat egg white with a pinch of salt in a deep bowl using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoon sugar, beating until white holds stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in graham crackers.

Place a dollop of meringue on each peach half and broil 10-15 seconds. Turn off broiler and leave peaches in oven just until tips of meringue are browned, 20-30 seconds (watch carefully).

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Heavenly Hummus

Who would have ever thought some simple mashed up beans could taste soooo good?  Hummus is my friend.  My buddy.  We met years ago in Chicago, at Reza’s, the best Persian restaurant in town.  God, I (sigh) miss that place.  When I moved to San Francisco, there was really nothing that compared to Reza’s – not even close.  So I started buying those little plastic tubs of hummus from the supermarket whenever I had a hankering for it, which basically meant I was buying a whole lot of hummus.  But something never felt quite right.  I missed my old buddy.

One day, I finally decided to make my own and discovered what a fool I had been.  Not only could I whip up a batch of hummus in 2.5 minutes flat, but I realized I’d spent a small fortune on those little tubs.  For the cost of a single tub, I could produce at least 5 humongous – more delicious – batches in the comfort of my own home.  Now, I normally buy beans dried, and in bulk, but for some reason, canned chickpeas work fabulously for hummus.

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Speaking of chickpeas, did you know ground roasted chickpeas are sometimes brewed instead of coffee in parts of Germany?  I can’t decide if I find that fascinating or disgusting.  I digress.  In addition to the smokiness of the cumin, I add a tiny bit of tumeric to my hummus for an extra kick.  I also happen to love the color.  And like most things involving garlic and lemon – the more garlicky and lemony, the better for me.  I must say, though, the best part about this recipe is that it doesn’t require you to buy a $10 jar of tahini – a good thing when you’re trying to recoup years of wasted cash spent on mediocre hummus.  My old buddy is back – and here to stay.

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Heavenly Hummus
Tweaked from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

If you don’t happen to have my penchant for garlic and lemon, start off with 1 clove and 1/2 of a lemon before you commit to the dark side.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup drained organic canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground tumeric
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
  • Paprika for sprinkling and garnish

Method

Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the 2-3 tbsp chickpea liquid (or more as needed) to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of paprika and some parsley.

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