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Archive for the ‘Fruit Dishes’ Category

What is there to say about winter fruit in Colorado? Not much. There’s not much of anything, and no effusive words of praise. We get the out of season berries shipped in from a variety of southern climes, most without much flavor or texture. Still, they can work if you need them to. Apples. Citrus, with the occasional sighting of Meyer lemons or Cara Cara oranges, both able to stop you in your tracks, well, at least me. Then there are pears. Red, Anjou, and Bartlett. Organic or not. (Can you tell? I want the Farmer’s Market back so badly I could almost cry.) Fruit is good for you right? So I keep buying it. I like pears. I’m so over pears right now…..oooof. There they were, sitting in the bowl, in all their mottled green-y pear-shaped sadness wonderfulness (try to stay positive). I have to do something with them. Again, stand in front of baking cabinet, flour, sugar, vanilla,pecans, brown sugar, boring, boring, boring. Wait. Brown sugar and Butter…pears, vanilla cake, pear upside down cake. Upside down cake, the standard, pineapple, is perfection. I have adapted that recipe to so many different fruits, fruit combinations and nuts I can’t tell you. I can’t believe I forgot about it. I won’t forget again.

This pear upside down cake is not a knock your socks off, push you over kind of thing. It’s a gentle shove, a sit you down in the softness of the big comfy chair kind of thing. Delicate flavor, yielding fruit, with a bit of lushness from the brown sugar. The cake has a sturdy crumb that gets better every day as it soaks in more moisture and settles into itself. It’s not loud, it’s quiet, but deeply satisfying. Pretty enough to serve for company and dressed up with some creme anglaise or maybe ginger ice cream with a slight grate of fresh nutmeg, it might be downright elegant.  Either way, homey comforting upside down cake or elegant dessert, I think you’ll be happy. Go..go on, you know you want to try it.

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The last day in January and very appropriately it’s snowing. Additionally, the weather-bots are cheerfully predicting sub-zero temps tonight and all day tomorrow. I am sitting cross-legged on the bed, drinking coffee and eating an english muffin with butter and Meyer Lemon Marmalade. If I close my eyes, I can see the bright blue water and sandy beaches, palm tree fronds gently moving with the soft, warm breeze sliding over my skin. Okay, okay, slight exaggeration but this marmalade tastes like you think sunshine would taste. Having a jar of Meyer Lemon Marmalade is like having one of those sweet tropical escapes in the middle of winter. A Meyer lemon is (according to Wiki) a cross between a lemon and either a mandarin or a common orange. It’s a bit rounder, with a much thinner rind and deep yellow hue with a orange-ish cast to it. When you cut one open for the first time, you will smile immediately, the scent is floral orange at first and then gently lemon. It smells happy. It tastes that way too. They are soft, barely sweet, with no hard acidic bite. You must try them if you can get them. Go on, go get yourself some.  They’re in the grocery and green markets now here in Colorado, but not much longer. Watch for them, if you see them, grab them!

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I don’t know what possessed me. I baked yesterday. In the afternoon. In 92 degree heat. Goes against all my principles of keeping the house cool and staying comfortable when the sun is intent on frying everything crispy. I’m not sure what happened. I had a plan, and it wasn’t baking. As I was pulling all the ingredients together to make the next dish you’ll read about, one of the key components was missing. I was sure that I bought it. I looked in all the drawers and corners of the refrigerator, nope, not there. Drat. I could go to the store, but the would require putting on acceptable clothes to venture out of the house in, hot parking lot directly in the sun, coming out to a hot car with a burning steering wheel. Mostly, I didn’t want to go out. So, on to the next plan. Those apricots I’ve been admiring for a few days. So bright and rosy, so tender and soft, so….crap, I better use these now before they turn to mush!  Apricots it was. Now I know it’s close to the end of the season, they’ve been out for a couple of weeks at our farmer’s market, they’ll be there maybe a week more.  These were exceptional this year, firm and juicy, not a hint of the mealy, mushiness you can get with apricots. I ate more than I care to admit to just pulling them open, tossing the pit and putting a whole half in my mouth to let the juice and flavor just explode. These apricots were heaven. Apricots and almonds are a natural combination, and I’m a huge fan of anything almond. So an almond cake with apricots. My tried and true recipe for almond cake wasn’t going to have enough density to hold up apricots I thought, and I didn’t want to cut them in pieces. I needed a sturdier cake, one that I could put the apricots on, let them cook into little molten pools of apricot throughout the cake. So before I could think this through, I had the mixer whirring away, the apricots cut and pitted waiting for the batter and the oven heating up. The oven heating up, too late to go back now. Anyway,this worked out beautifully. A not too sweet cake, with tangy apricot studded throughout, perfect with tea (iced or hot) for an afternoon snack. It will also serve you well as an elegant dessert with some amaretto flavored whipped cream, and it will stand in for a breakfast pastry with not a moment’s hesitation. Ya gotta love a torte that can do it all.

So here it is, the torte I baked in 92 degree heat. The torte that sent me to the cooler bedroom while it baked and while it cooled. The torte that made me question my own judgement and break my own rules. After the first bite, it was worth it.

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