Thursday, August 19, 2010

nectarine brown butter vanilla buckle

How could I not create something with these beauties? Was it not fate that brought me these arctic white nectarines and Deb's recipe for a nectarine brown butter buckle in the same week? And a birthday party I promised to attend, dessert in hand? I don't have a strong taste for sweets, but I enjoy making them.  Any recipe with the words "brown butter" work their way into my psyche,  and before long, I have no choice. So I found myself one Saturday, slicing juicy nectarines, browning butter and sniffing vanilla beans.

After much spazzing out about not having the right size skillet or pan, I ended up tweaking the recipe just a bit to accommodate my 12" skillet and my taste for fresh vanilla. The dough buckled just so around the nectarines, and the streusel topping got along just fine with the vanilla. The cake stayed moist, thanks mostly, I'm sure, to the nectarine's drippy goodness. We enjoyed it solo, but a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream might just set this over the top.
nectarine brown butter vanilla buckle
adapted and tweaked, ever so slightly, from Smitten Kitchen

2c. butter (plus some more to butter the pan)*
1 1/2 c. plus 2 tbl. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk or buttermilk
4 c. sliced nectarines (about 5 nectarines)**
1 tbl. lemon juice

*Even though the recipe only calls for a total of 3/4 cup of browned butter, I browned 2 cups after reading some of the many comments on Deb's original recipe. Some folks found themselves with not enough browned butter, as some disappeared in the process. The Case of the Disappearing Browned Butter has something to do with butter quality, but I had no Scooby snacks, so I couldn't figure it out.

**Toss the nectarines with the lemon juice as soon as you slice them to preserve their color and flavor.

 streusel topping

1/4 c. browned butter (the leftovers from the amount above)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt

Brown the butter, and allow it to cool. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line the bottom (with parchment paper) of a 12" cast iron skillet.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk 1/2 c. of the browned butter with the sugar, adding the eggs one at a time. Stir in the milk, followed by the flour mixture. Spread (and smooth) the batter into the skillet. Toss the sliced nectarines with lemon juice and arrange them in a single layer on top of the batter. (You can get as fancy as you want to with the arrangement. I guess I'd call mine... rustic?)

Mix the 1/4 c. remaining browned butter with the sugar, flour, vanilla seeds and salt with a fork until large crumbs form. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the nectarine-topped cake. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester (i.e. toothpick) comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Monday, August 9, 2010

raspberry vinegar syrup

Amanda Hesser's "Recipe Redux" always intrigues, but I've never actually worked up the gumption to try one of the oldie-fash recipes she dredges up, often from the NYTimes' formidable vaults. But with the heat of our Florida summer showing no sign of waning, a new mix-in to my seltzer begged for my attention. I gathered up some end-of-season raspberries (and threw some frozen ones into the mix), sat around and waited awhile. After my three-day-macerate wait, I battled with cheesecloth (I'd say it ended in a draw), heaped in some sugar, and simmered a lazy-Sunday evening away.

I ended up with two pint-sized mason jars full of the piquant-sweet syrup, which I've been spooning into seltzer ever since. I plan to bring a jar to my girlfriends' house this weekend, where we will tote it to the beach, toss it into a plastic cup with some (ok, lots) semi-cheap "champagne," play bocce and try not to spill.

raspberry vinegar

1c. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 quarts fresh raspberries*

In a glass bowl (with a lid), combine raspberries and vinegar. Cover, and let macerate for three days. (Per Amanda Hesser's @reply to me, over which I reveled in foodie excitement, I let mine sit in the fridge.) 

Mush the raspberries in the bowl, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth.  (I battled the cheesecloth — in trying to get every bit of raspberry goodness out, I squeezed a bit too hard and ended up with some raspberry seeds in my liquid. It hasn't kept me up at night.) Measure the juice, and pour it into a saucepan. To every 1 cup of juice, add 1 1/4 c. of sugar. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool, then bottle (or jar). Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months, but I doubt mine will make it anywhere near that long.

*I used about half fresh berries and made up the rest with frozen, organic ones. Why? Because the fresh raspberries I didn't buy looked icky.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thai mango salsa

With summer's rich bounty of fruits, the onus is on me to dream up new ways to use the fruit. Munching on them alone is fine, but some fruits, like mangoes, beg to be gussied up. Per Nick's request, it's usually in the form of mango chicken — a quick stir-fry of chicken, onions and garlic, topped off with mangoes, cilantro and lime juice, served over jasmine rice. But it's hot. Dreadfully so. And so, along the lines of sweating out the heat with heat, I bring you Thai mango salsa. We had it with chips before a meal, but it would also be great over simple grilled fish, chicken, pork or steak (did I leave anything out?). 
 I normally stick to my tried-and-true system — adding jalapeno, red onion, lime juice and cilantro to a fruit (cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches, almost anything). But with Thai basil flourishing (the only thing flourishing) in the backyard and soon-to-be soft Thai chilies in the fridge, I headed east. 

Thai mango salsa

2 fresh mangoes, diced*
1 red Thai chili, sliced very thin**
3 stalks of Thai basil
1/4 of medium red onion, diced
juice of 1 lime

Pull the leaves from the Thai basil stalks and give them a rough chop. Combine mango, chili, Thai basil leaves, onion and lime juice in a bowl. Add a pinch (or two) of salt to taste. Best to let sit around in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors can get to know one another.

*Elise, from Simply Recipes has a great post about how to cut a mango if you're unfamiliar.
** I used one Thai chili and would've been happy with a bit more heat. Some folks in my family found it almost too hot with just one chili. Ditching the seeds will decrease the heat as well.