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Fruttare Fruit Bars: the Bright Side of Summer {Sponsored}

Fruttare bars

  Continue reading Fruttare Fruit Bars: the Bright Side of Summer {Sponsored}

In which I attempt to make Cronuts at home …

Cronuts 1

Have you heard about Cronuts?  The creation of New York baker Dominique Ansel, they’re donuts made from croissant dough.  And people are waiting in line for hours to get one, or buying them from scalpers for $40 apiece.

I admit to being curious.  Not so curious I’m going to fly to New York and wait in line for hours, or even head to one of the 3 or 4 bakeries in LA that are selling their versions.  I’m also not so curious that I’m going to make croissant dough from scratch.  I have a 13 month old.  In the time it would take me to laminate dough, my house would probably be burned down around me.  Or at least all the dog food would be eaten.  And not by the dogs.

HOWEVER, Trader Joe’s makes pretty darn good bake at home croissants.  Have you tried them? They’re little frozen nuggets that you let rise overnight and then they bake into  – maybe not the best croissants by Parisian standards, but some of the better croissants I’ve had in the US.  My brainy idea was to proof these babies and then fry instead of bake.  How hard could it be?  I could make cronuts at home!  I had visions of a $40 pastry empire.
Continue reading In which I attempt to make Cronuts at home …

The Year of Living Vegetally

Year of Living Vegetally
January, arbitrary though it may be, is a time for taking stock. What’s been good, what’s been bad, and what you want to change.

This year, the fourth of The Domestic Front, I want to change how I eat. No, I’m not going vegetarian. Or paleo. You won’t suddenly see a rash of recipes with points values, or gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free foods. I’m more of a moderate, and I like my resolutions to be additive. So this year I am resolving to eat more fruits and vegetables, and I want you to come with me.

We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables, right? At least five servings a day. But if you’re anything like me, by the time you’ve gotten the chicken on the table, with some starch so your five year old eats SOMETHING, adding another vegetable dish just seems like too much work. And why snack on apples when crackers are so crunchy and salty?

Well, I want to change that, for my sake and my kids’ sake. I’m going to spend this year on the blog exploring new recipes using fruits and vegetables, strategies for incorporating more produce in my life, and tips and tricks on purchasing and even growing your own. 2013 is officially the Year of Living Vegetally here on The Domestic Front, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

From my Garden: Loquats, and a Loquat Crumble Recipe

Loquats

I will admit the traffic sucks.  And the home prices are insane.  And yes, we have earthquakes.  And fires.  And floods.  But I can’t escape the feeling that living in Southern California is like having won the lottery.   With the fruits and flowers, the birds and the animals – I do believe that it’s not too far from living in the Garden of Eden.  And this month’s bounty has been loquats.

If you don’t have a backyard tree, you may never have had a loquat.  They’re a fruit that’s related to the quince and the apple (both of which we’ve planted in our yard) that originated in China.   They are small ( about the size of a large walnut), orange, and juicy, with large (but very pretty) seeds.   And when your loquat tree is bearing, you have a wealth of loquats.  (If you can beat the squirrels to them.)

Loquat Tree

It’s rare to see loquats in the market — the bruise extraordinarily easily – but if you’re lucky enough to have a tree (or a neighbor with a tree, or a friend with a tree) they’re also extraordinarily easy to grow.  The flavor isn’t remarkable but is nice — a good balance of sweetness and acidity with a lot of juice.  They’re easy to peel (although the peels are also edible) and although the ratio of fruit to pit is lower than the ideal, the pits are easy to remove.  They’re good for eating out of hand, or if you have some patience to peel and pit, it’s worth cooking with them too.

When faced with a bounty of loquats, I turned for ideas to my friend Erika Penzer Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen, who is  a loquat queen.  She advised jam, but also said she had made a very good loquat crisp recently.  I wasn’t up for canning, but the following crumble was short work (if less than perfectly photogenic) and really showed off the flavor balance and juiciness of this great backyard treasure.

Loquat Ginger Macadamia Crumblev

Continue reading From my Garden: Loquats, and a Loquat Crumble Recipe

Finding Fall in Southern California

Apple Picking 1

The first time I ever went apple picking was my senior year of college. Ken had his car on campus that year — a little blue Ford Festiva, that had been spray painted, and had no air conditioning or radio. We were celebrating one year of dating, still shiny and happy and young and new, and decided to head off into the wilds of Connecticut to pick apples. I wore my appropriate apple picking attire — a red and green gingham shirt, and we discovered the joys of fresh air in an orchard, of plucking apples off the tree, of cold pressed cider and hot apple cider donuts.

After that first year, we went every year we lived in the Northeast. When we lived in New York, we borrowed my father in law’s car, or rented one (we could barely fit ourselves in our tiny Manhattan studio — where were we going to park a car?), and hit New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut to get out of the city and load up on apples. Apple picking was never about the apples — they’re readily available at the Greenmarket after all — but about simple entertainment, fresh air, getting out of the city. And donuts. Don’t forget the donuts.

Apple Picking 15

When we moved to Los Angeles six years ago, I thought my apple picking days were through. Our climate is too warm to have apple orchards — we can pick oranges in our own back yard, but the autumnal fest was lost to me. Until this year. We piled into the little blue car (now, so many years later, a Prius, with air conditioning and an iphone connection), with the Nuni in tow and headed into the mountains, into the “mile high” town of Oak Glen. Nestled in the San Bernardino mountains just east of Redlands, Oak Glen boast six or seven apple orchards, and the crowds that go with them.
Continue reading Finding Fall in Southern California

The Care and Keeping of Strawberries

Springtime is strawberry season! And even though the strawberries aren’t quite there yet (the heavy rains we’ve had in California have really impacted the flavor), that hasn’t stopped me from buying and eating pounds of them — I’ve loved them since I was a baby. For your reading pleasure, below are 10 things you may not know about my favorite fruit.

Strawberries

1. Strawberries are grown in every state in the US, but 88% of the strawberries sold in the United States are grown in California.
2. The best strawberries come from Harry’s Berries, in Oxnard. Don’t believe me? My cousin works for Thomas Keller, and she told me that Chef Keller orders Harry’s Berries for his New York restaurant.
3. Strawberries carry a heavy pesticide load, so look for organic berries, or pesticide free (Harry’s aren’t organic, but they do grow without pesticides)
4. The best way to eat strawberries is straight out of the basket and slightly sun warmed until your fingers are stained pink from the juice.
5. The second best way to eat strawberries is dipped in creme fraiche and turbinado sugar. Strawberry shortcake and pavlova tie for third.
6. If you have some supermarket strawberries that are less than perfectly red and sweet, slice them up and toss them with a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. This enhances the color and the flavor.
7. The best way to store strawberries is in a sealed glass jar. They’ll last at room temperature for a couple of extra days, and in your refrigerator for over a week. However, though they maintain their texture and don’t spoil, the flavor does dissipate.
8. The fragrance and flavor of strawberries depends on a balance of acid and sweetness. When you cook strawberries, they yield a lot of juice, lose some color, and lose a lot of that acid which makes the flavor so balanced. Always add some acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar when you’re cooking strawberries, but most of the best strawberry dishes use raw strawberries.
9. If your strawberries have mushy spots and you don’t really want to eat them, slice them up and throw them in a jar with some sugar and top with rum, vodka or brandy. The alcohol and sugar will preserve the berries in the refrigerator almost indefinitely, and the resulting concoction is fabulous over ice cream, yogurt, or eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon.
10. Homemade strawberry jam is absolutely divine. I like to add some balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness (wrinkle your nose, but the flavors are so complementary you won’t even know it’s there) and a little black pepper for some floral warmth (the Italians eat strawberries with balsamic and black pepper. Try it!). You also get that June Cleaver Americana satisfaction of putting up your own jam. I promise that you’ll never go back to Smucker’s again.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/amusebouches/5613931241/” title=”Strawberry Jam by The Domestic Front, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5144/5613931241_a514460bd8_b.jpg” width=”860″ height=”1024″ alt=”Strawberry Jam”></a>

Strawberry Jam with Balsamic and Black Pepper
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pint
 
Ingredients
  • 3 lbs whole strawberries, hulled (if you like a smoother texture, you can chop or slice the berries. I happen to like big sweet slugs of strawberry in my jammy syrup.)
  • ¾ lb granulated sugar
  • 4 T balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 packets commercial liquid pectin
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar and berries in a large pot and heat over a medium high flame, stirring frequently.
  2. Add pectin according to the package instructions.
  3. Skim off foam as it rises to the top.
  4. Test for set (after about 15-20 minutes) by dropping a spoonful on a cold dish and seeing if it holds together to your satisfaction -- I like a soft set, but others like a firmer set. If you like a very firm jam, you might want to use 2 packets of pectin. If it's not set, keep cooking and stirring, and test periodically until it is.
  5. When the jam has set, ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Leave ¼ inch space between the top of the jar and the lid.
  6. Close lids tightly, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the boiling water). Let cool, and remove rings for storage (if you remove the rings, you'll know if a jar has lost its seal and needs to be eaten immediately or thrown away. ) Jam is a pretty low-risk canning operation, due to all the sugar and the acid, both of which act as preservatives.
Notes
I didn't use the pectin in the pictured jam, so my jam is a bit runnier than I'd ordinarily make. It tastes divine though, and is perfectly acceptable on toast with a little ricotta, on yogurt, on a spoon ...

From My Garden: Pineapple Guavas

PinGuav4

One of the things that Ken and I were most excited about when we bought our house was the prospects of a garden. We had managed to make do for years with the tiny terraces in our apartments — we have a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree, a Bearss Lime, and a thriving herb garden. But the possibilities of growing things for ourselves was intoxicating. We were overjoyed to discover the delights already in the offing — ornamental plums (too sour to eat, but good for jam), peach trees, a pomegranate tree, and my favorite, the pineapple guava, which I recognized because it’s identical to the spreading one growing in my grandparents’ back yard.

A garden, it turns out, is a work in progress. We put in blueberry bushes and raspberry canes, planted a second pomegranate tree, and ordered greengage plum, quince and persimmon to plant this winter. Of course, the plants we added will take a few years to bear fruit. We moved in too late for the plums, the peaches dropped all their fruit before it was ripe, and the pomegranate turned out to be non-bearing. But we’ll still have a bumper crop of Meyer lemons this winter, and the pineapple guava did not disappoint.

PinGuav3

Pineapple Guava, or Feijoa, is a native of Brazil. The tree sports dark green and silver leaves, with dark red fuzzy blossoms that bloom in the Spring in Southern California. This fall, the tree has been laden with the fruit — ovoid spheres of a pale dusky green tipped with the remains of the blossoms. We’ve had enough that both us and the squirrels have been satisfied.

pinguav2

I eat them the way my grandfather taught me — splitting the skin with my thumbnail, then sucking out the perfumey, sweet tart jellied center and scraping out the grainy flesh with my teeth. When I’m being more polite, I use a knife and a spoon. The flavor is reminiscent of a ripe pineapple, with the balance of sweet and tart, but with a more aromatic edge and a texture closer to guava.

PinGuav1

We’ve been pretty happy eating them plain — they’re that good. But if you’ve got any feijoa recipes, I’d love to hear them!