Saturday, June 17, 2017

Peach dump cake (aka peach cobbler)

This is good for if you have too many peaches.

12 small peaches (some not ripe yet, some ripe, some slightly overripe) quartered with pits removed
1 box of Duncan Hines Apple Caramel Decadent Cake Mix (that's what I used)
1 stick butter
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the caramel mixture from the cake mix box with the water.
Throw the peaches in the bottom of the glass pan. I don't mean you have to actually throw it. Just dump it in. That makes it a dump cake.
Pour the cake mix over top of them.
Chop up the butter into slices and place them on top of the cake mix.
Drizzle the caramel mix all over the top. By doing it this way with the butter and caramel you are making some variety in the flavors of each bite which makes it more interesting.
Cook uncovered for 45 minutes. This seems like a long time, but that's just how long it takes for cakes to cook, I guess.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

It looks kind of like this.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can substitute whatever is handy. The fruit can be any kind of sweet fruit (apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines), fresh or canned, skins on or off. The cake mix can be whatever cake mix you have handy, although I haven't tried chocolate-- that would be a very different kind of dessert. Or you can make your own from flour and sugar, with a little baking powder and salt, maybe a little vanilla extract. Sometimes people like to use dried oats in the topping, too. The cake doesn't have any eggs or water in it, so it is more crunchy than a real cake.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Portuguese Cauliflower Soup

When I visited Lisbon, I had delicious soups of a kind I had never tasted. They had a smooth, creamy consistency and subtle flavors. When I asked my hosts, they explained, in words and gestures, that the white one was cauliflower. It was a lot like potato soup.
When I got home I looked up how to make it, and was pleased to find that it fit my two criteria for cooking dinner: it costs less than five dollars, and it takes less than five minutes to prepare. The only really necessary parts of the recipe are boiling and blending the cauliflower, though you at least need some kind of spice or it's too bland. This is my way of making it.

1 head of cauliflower
1/3 stick of butter (2 or 3 tbsp)
garlic salt
dried onion bits
1 cube of chicken bullion in gold foil
1 cup milk

Start some water boiling. Chop the cauliflower into half-inch pieces or smaller. Drop it in the water and boil for four minutes. Strain the boiling water and drop all the cauliflower in the blender.
In a glass two-cup measure, mix the rest of the ingredients and microwave for two minutes and stir. Pour this in the blender with the cauliflower. Blend on high until it is all looks like foamy mashed potatoes.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

McIntosh Apples

McIntosh is by far the best variety of apple that is widely available. The flavor is tart, almost as sour as a Granny Smith (which would be, perhaps, a less ironic choice for a Scottish moniker), but unlike a Granny Smith the flesh is the tenderest of any variety, and the skin is the thinnest. McIntoshes are juicy: when you bite into one the skin tenses and gives way with a satisfying pop of flavor. They are round but somewhat oblate, with only a shallow impression at the calyx end.
The color is patchy, freckled light-green and red, a natural appearance that brings to mind songbirds or traditional Raku pottery. As the poet-monk Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

 They are in every way the opposite of that most pernicious and ubiquitous breed of apple, the Delicious; whose uniform color, hard or woody texture, thick skin, and flavorlessness are the antithesis of every quality that makes an apple good to eat. In their sourness, irregular coloration, small size, and susceptibility to bruising, McIntoshes are closer to the wild apple than the artificiality of many other breeds.
The very delicacy of the McIntosh makes them difficult to store. The process of bringing them home from the store in a bag is often enough to bruise them. For that reason, you rarely can find good McIntosh in stores out of season (late September). In its peculiar way, this very rarity enhances their appeal; like eggnog, it is a seasonal treat one looks forward to and then longs for, and is all the sweeter for it.
However, the reason I am writing this is that I frequently find that what is marketed as McIntosh is no true Scotsman, as it were. Frequently they tend toward more yellow coloring, a sweeter flavor and a firm texture more reminiscent of a Jonathan or Gala.
I recognize that categories are defined by their members, and not a single ideal (as Plato would have it) of which the members are imperfect copies. Surely the people selling these apples are more expert in the lineage and cultivation of apples than I am, and can say with more authority to which variety their apples belong. On the other hand, there must be strong financial pressures to sell as the authentic McIntosh hardier forgeries. So which is it, dear reader? Am I mistaken in taking a preferred subvariety as defining the variety as a whole, or have I fallen victim to some dark conspiracy of greed and deceit among apple growers? Is the industry, I must ask, rotten to the core?