Jul 152013
 

Boozy Peach Compote

My sister was born toward the end of July, when the Earth spews forth its abundance, making the stalls at the markets sag under the weight of fruits and vegetables in all primary colors, throwing at us dahlias and gladioli with their large, obscenely beautiful flowers, flaunting their velvety petals and sinful shades like over-confident debutantes who are aware that their time is yet to come.

When we were in high school, I used to resent her birthday, as it seemed that she had an unfair advantage; everyone in town was sporting a healthy sun-kissed tan, summer break was at its best, the streets were teeming with teenagers, the city pool was the place to be, and parents were stewing in summer heat long enough not to be bothered to keep everything in check.

Serbian Peaches

As if that were not enough, the crates of peaches started appearing in our back yard, grown on the farm of our family friends. And I am not talking about your ordinary, supermarket quality fruit. These beauties were hand-picked  at the peak of their ripeness, gently laid into the crates covered with crumpled newspaper like babies in cradles, their red, and orange, and yellow fuzzy faces looking up. We approached them with the predictability of Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the mere thought of their fragrant, luscious flesh that yielded so easily to our teeth and tongues, oblivious of the aromatic, sweet juices running down our chins and staining our tee-shirts.

Boozy Peach Compote from bibberche.com

Summer for me is not at its height without peaches. They encapsulate the best nature has to offer, holding the essence of the sun in their perfect round shape. After smelling them individually for quality control, I bought several pounds at our local grocery store. I could not wait to sink my teeth into the soft fruit, anticipating a flood of memories. And I was not disappointed.

I have stopped resenting my sister and her birth season long ago. Every summer, wherever I am, I buy gladioli frequently, even when she is not with me in our childhood home. I eat peaches with abandon, smiling, awash with nostalgia, remembering those lazy, care-free summers of our youth when everything seemed possible.

Boozy Peach Compote from bibberche.com

Ghosts of Summers Past: Boozy Peach Compote
5.0 from 3 reviews

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Recipe type: Dessert, Condiment
Cuisine: International
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
This is an easy, versatile recipe which can accommodate any type of stone fruits and different liqueurs or spirits. The fruit is not really cooked, but rather plunged into the hot liquid, leaving it somewhat firm. Use it to top vanilla ice cream, pound cake, pancakes, waffles, or crepes.
Ingredients
  • 4-5 large, ripe, but not too soft peaches, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp brandy, rum, or cognac (optional)
  • 1 cup apple juice (add a bit extra if not using alcohol)
  • 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Fresh mint leaves
Instructions
  1. Pour water and sugar in a heavy, stainless steel pot and heat on medium-low temperature until sugar caramelizes, swirling the pot frequently to prevent burning. (It will start changing color at the edges first and swirling will distribute the caramelization).
  2. It is done when it turns amber.
  3. Remove the pot from fire and add alcohol. (Be careful, as it may ignite).
  4. Add apple juice and lemon juice, and heat until it boils and all the crystallized sugar melts.
  5. Pour the peaches, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick into the hot liquid and immediately turn the heat off.
  6. Let it cool off to desired temperature and serve with fresh mint leaves.

 

Dec 182012
 

Spinach Turnovers from bibberche.com

This month I am a part of a team that promotes a cookbook written by one of our own, Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic. Middle-Eastern food is like a trip home to me, and I felt a connection to Faith as she wrote about her culinary experiences after she married a Syrian man and embarked on a trip to learn how to cook his favorite dishes from Sahar, her mother-in-law (as a linguist, I could not pass this one – sahar translates into sugar:)

The culinary world is sometimes like a game of Telephone that we used to play at grade school, before the birthday parties moved forward to embrace slow-dancing. A dish travels along the meridians and changes slightly with each turn, only to become something different every hundred or so kilometers. Every region adds its own flair, adopts it, and claims it with passion; and each incarnation is a story in itself, of the people, the land, the culture, and the history that brought it all together.

When I opened Faith’s book An Edible Mosaic, I felt as if I were visiting distant relatives. I felt comfortable, at home, but still minding my manners and observing keenly from a side table. Most dishes were like beacons that pulled me back to my childhood and foods I enjoyed in Mother’s and Njanja’s kitchen. But there were variables thrown in the mix that intrigued me and made me shift focus for a bit.

We have many dishes featuring dough and spinach in the Balkans. But instead of farmers’ cheese, eggs, and phyllo dough, this recipe asks for yeasted dough, sumac, sauteed onions, lemon juice, and cumin/coriander spice mix. I am lucky to have two Persian stores a few blocks away and cumin and coriander are a staple in my house. I tasted sumac for the first time when I visited my oldest daughter in Berkeley and ate at an Afghani restaurant. I could not wait to try a recipe that asked for it. And I was not disappointed.

An Edible Mosaic

Here is what Faith has to say about Spinach Turnovers:

During my time in Damascus, one of my favorite meals was my mother-in-law’s Spinach Turnovers. She and I would go to the market to pick up fresh spinach along with any other ingredients that were needed, and then she’d make the filling when we got home. After that, one of her sons was sent to the communal oven where the baker stuffed the family’s filling into his dough, and then baked the turnovers. Done this way, the family pays for the baker’s dough and goes home with freshly made treats.

The communal ovens were such a novel idea to me; they are remnants leftover from a time when very few homes had ovens of their own. Despite the fact that this is no longer the case in Damascus, the tradition has endured.

I really love the pleasantly tart flavor of these turnovers, which comes from both sumac and lemon juice. Paired with plain yogurt, they are a completely satisfying vegetarian meal.

Faith Gorsky, Author of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair 

This virtual potluck is like a mix-and-match menu, a prix fixe if you want, letting you sample appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Just say Open, Sesame, and the world of culinary wonders will be yours. Thank you, Casey from Kitchen Play for getting this group together and opening our horizons!

SPINACH TURNOVERS (Fatayer Bil Sabanekh):

Preparation Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Yields about: 25-35 turnovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch Savory Flat Pie Dough (recipe to follow)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more as necessary for the spinach
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 lb (500 g) spinach
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Olive oil to oil the baking sheets, countertop, and tops of the turnovers
  • Fresh lemon wedges (optional, for serving)

 Directions:

  1. Prepare Basic Savory Flat Pie Dough
  2. 2. Heat both the oils in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion and saute until softened but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the sumac.
  3. 3. Chop the spinach and remove any large stems; add it to a large pot with 2 cups (500ml) of water. Cover the pot and cook over high heat until just wilted, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it sit until the spinach is cool enough to handle, and then wring the cheesecloth to remove the excess water.
  4. Combine the onion/sumac mixture, drained spinach, lemon juice, salt, coriander, cumin, and black pepper in a large bowl. The spinach should look slightly glossy; if it doesn’t, stir in more canola oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it does. Be careful not to add too much. Taste the spinach; it should taste like a well-seasoned salad; if it doesn’t, adjust seasonings (such as lemon juice, salt, pepper, and other spices accordingly).
  5. Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and lightly brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil (alternatively, you can line them with parchment paper or silpat liners).
  6. Gently deflate the dough, then divide into 2 equal pieces and shape the pieces into balls; put the balls back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes. Lightly brush olive oil onto your countertop (or whatever surface you want to use to roll out the dough).
  7. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time and use your hands to gently stretch it out, then use the rolling pin to roll it out to a circle about 12 inches (30cm) in diameter. Stamp out circles 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter with a round cookie cutter. Scoop about ½ tablespoon of spinach filling onto the center of each piece of dough. Repeat this process with the remaining ball of dough. Gather the dough scraps into a ball, roll it out, and fill only re-roll the scraps once to prevent the dough from toughening).
  8. To form the turnovers, fold the dough along line 1-2 up and over onto the center, then do the same for the dough along line 2-3, and finally for line 1-3; pinch the dough together at the seams to seal it. (Alternatively, you can shape them into little pyramids: pull up lines 1-3 and 2-3 and pinch them together to form a seam, then pull up line 1-2 and pinch it together along the sides of the seam you just made to form the two remaining sides.)
  9. Line up the turnovers (seam side up) about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets and brush a little oil on top of each. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once halfway through cooking. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Spinach Turnovers from bibberche.com
Basic Savory Flat Pie Dough 

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 11/4 teaspoons of fine salt
  • ¾ cups (185ml) milk at room temperature

 Directions:

  1. Brush ½ tablespoons of oil on the inside of a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients, and then stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Gradually stir in enough milk to form shaggy dough (you may not need all the milk).
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes; the dough is done being kneaded when you press your finger into it and the indentation remains.
  5. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl and roll it gently to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel and let sit until doubled in  size, about 1 ½ hours.
I am so happy to be a part of this group of very talented bloggers who have passion for immersing themselves into new cultures and facing the challenges of new culinary pursuits.
Falafel from Heather of Kitchen Concoctions
Coconut Semolina Cake from Stephanie of 52 Kitchen Adventures
Date-Filled Cookies from Jennifer of Savory Simple

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are my own. I have received a free review copy of the book from the publisher.

(This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. While Kitchen PLAY will receive a small fee for each sale of An Edible Mosaic made through this link, the link has been utilized solely for tracking purposes. We want to better understand how a program like the Cookbook Tour can positively impact cookbook sales. All proceeds from this specific affiliate link will be donated to Share Our Strength.)

Jul 032012
 

airplane from bibberche.com

Thursday afternoon, the girls and I will board a big white bird and fly across the ocean to London and then to Belgrade. Last few days I have been overwhelmed with a feeling of unbearable panic accompanied as usual with an accelerated heart beat, a crazy adrenaline rush (not in a good way), and a sensation that a baby elephant has made a nest on my chest. The items on my list are almost completely crossed over, our e-tickets are printed, the passports are neatly laid out right next to the tickets, and empty suitcases lined up on the bedroom floor.

I still have to buy a few necessities for the trip, like goat cheese, multi-grain crackers, and pretzels, as the girls requested them as snacks. Packing should not take a lot of time, as  I have piles of stuff destined to travel neatly arranged all over the apartment. I am helping my sweet next-door neighbor with making a creative journal for her special friend’s 70th birthday. In exchange, she will water my succulents and keep my herbs alive until we return. The roots and grays are covered, the nails are done, the purses purged of extraneous material that inevitably manages to collect in time.

I am as excited as anxious, unable to relax, even though these trans-Atlantic trips have been my routine for over twenty five years. But, I tend to fret whenever anyone travels, even for a weekend, even just across the state. Once the baggage is checked in and boarding passes are safely tucked in my purse, I’ll slump in a hard plastic chair at a Starbucks and bury my face in a latte, a smile replacing the angst. Until we arrive at Customs, of course.

Wednesday morning, the suitcases will be packed and keeping ranks in the hallway. I hope to emulate Dorothy Parker and walk around my friend’s street party, cool, armed with a witty repartee and a glass of good wine. (The only thing that I can guarantee right now, though, is a glass of good wine.) We’ll stroll down to the beach at sunset to watch the fireworks and I will take every burst of color personally, as a farewell greeting and a colorful goodbye. I will miss the smell of the ocean and the bike rides on the strand. I will miss my friend madly. But summer is always the fastest of the seasons, and the day of our return will creep up sooner than I expected, as always, and plunge me into another panic-ruled state.

I will not be cooking any Fourth of July delicacies, but here are some great dishes that would make any party unforgettable. Happy Fourth!

Lamb Burgers 

Lamb Burgers from bibberche.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Chimney smoking from bibberche.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad from bibberche.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Summer Vegetables

Grilled Vegetables from bibberche.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Sweet Corn with Chipotle-Lime Butter

Grilled Corn with Chipotle-Lime Butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Peppers, Roasted Beets, and Grilled Eggplant

roasted peppers from bibberche.com

May 072012
 

Eton Mess from bibberche.com

Eton Mess

I prefer to stay home for Mother’s Day. I relish the moment I hear the first whispers of my girls as they tiptoe into the kitchen and start preparing breakfast for the family, trying in vain not to make any noise as they pull pots and pans out of the cupboards. I am comforted by the familiar sounds that meander around the hallways and arrive at my doorstep: the hissing of oil when it meets a hot pan; the crackling of egg shells; the grating of the whisk against a plastic bowl; bacon starting to sizzle as its edges curl and brown; the hypnotizing whir of my hand mixer; the subdued thuds of drawers getting shut.

I stretch like a spoiled Angora cat and play along, feigning sleep, as I squint through one eye at a time in anticipation of their arrival to my room. They open the door and enter in a solemn procession, valiantly trying to stay focused, but by the time they reach the backboard of my bed, they explode in giggles. Chattering excitedly, they approach offering gifts of food they lovingly prepared for me and laid on a silver-plated tray covered with a starched damask napkin. One long arm proffers a bright and still fizzing Mimosa, and I sit up against the pillows, the tray safely resting in my lap. They jump on the bed, surrounding me, racing each other with colorful and thoughtful home made cards, covering my face and my hands with tender kisses.

The three of them are all the crowd I need to feel happy. And this Mother’s Day, we’ll stay home and spend all day indulging our taste buds and surrendering to whimsy. My oldest will make a couple of Mimosas and we’ll clink the glasses, toasting to mothers everywhere, and sending virtual kisses to my sister in Germany and Mother in Serbia.

Baked Eggs with Bacon, Cheese, and Grits from Bibberche.com

 Baked Eggs with Bacon, Cheese, and Grits

Light and Flaky Buttermilk Bicuits from bibberche.com

Southern Belle’s Buttermilk Biscuits 

Plump Cinnamon Rolls from bibberche.com

 Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Basic Blueberry Muffins from bibberche.com

 Basic Blueberry Muffins

Pain Au Chocolat from bibberche.com

Pain Au Chocolat 

Pogaca Ruzicara from bibberche.com

 Rose Bread (Pogača Ružičara)

Pound Cake with Strawberries

 Pound Cake with Strawberries

Some of my favorite bloggers have compiled lists of their favorite, delectable Mother’s Day recipes. I always find inspiration there!

Recipe Girl

Shockingly Delicious

Elana’s Pantry – Gluten Free Recipes for Mother’s Day

Katherine Martinelli

Shiksa in the Kitchen

Closet Cooking