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When I lived in France I made it a point to visit friends in Provence in late May and early June, when the cherry trees would be heavy with fruit. We would spend a day or two picking cherries and put up those that we didn’t eat (it is pretty hard to resist eating ripe, sweet, juicy cherries by the handful) or bake into clafoutis, pies, bread puddings and cakes. We put them up in big glass jars, preserving them in eau de vie to use later in desserts and cocktails, or in sweetened vinegar, to serve as hors d’oeuvres and with salads.
I still go to Provence every year, usually in the summer, but this year I’m here in late May, and I’m picking cherries from my friend Christine’s trees every day. Most don’t make it past the bowl in the kitchen before we’ve devoured them, but some are finding their way into desserts. Clafouti, a sort of cross between a flan and a pancake, continues to be my hands down favorite cherry dessert. It’s easy to make and has the elegance of a tart but does not require a crust, a great choice for a dinner party when you are short on time. The French don’t even bother to pit the cherries – they feel that you will savor your dessert and eat more slowly if you know there are pits in the cherries. But in my recipe I leave that up to you.
Unfortunately there was no way for me to transport jars of sweet and sour cherries back to the States. So instead of preserving the kilos of cherries we picked when I was in France, we ate them at breakfast, lunch and dinner (sometimes with Nutella). But here’s the recipe, in case you find yourself with a surfeit of this irresistible fruit, the first of the summer stone fruits to show up in our markets But here’s the recipe, in case you find yourself with a surfeit of this irresistible fruit, the first of the summer stone fruits to show up in our markets.
Sweet and Sour Cherry Pickles
2 cups good quality champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound firm, ripe cherries, with stems
5 to 6 sprigs fresh tarragon, rinsed and dried
1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, pick over the cherries, discarding any with blemishes or soft spots. Rinse, drain, and gently roll them in a towel to dry. Cut the stems with scissors to 1/2 inch.
3. Place the tarragon in a dry, sterilized 1-quart canning jar and fill with the cherries. Pour the cooled vinegar solution over the cherries, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If the cherries are not completely covered, mix together more vinegar and sugar in a 4-1 ratio. Seal the jars with a sterilized lid and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before eating. The cherries will keep in the refrigerator for couple of months.
I can’t get enough of them during their short season so I buy them every time I go to the market. I’ve tried the shelled bagged fresh peas at Trader Joe’s, but they aren’t sweet like the peas you pop out of the pods and eat like candy. It’s rare for me to be able to hold onto fresh peas long enough to actually use them for a dish, but I managed to this week. I will have a link for you soon to my new recipe for Garlic Shrimp with Fresh Peas, coming up in Food in the New York Times. Meanwhile, this pasta is irresistible. Peas and sweet fresh herbs – tarragon and chives – are a match made in heaven. This is a dinner that is so easy to throw together, as long as you don’t eat all the peas while you’re shelling them.
Quick! Get those fresh peas before they’re gone for the year!
Linguine with Fresh Peas, Garlic and Tarragon
Yield: Serves 4
3/4 pound linguine
1 pound fresh English peas (1 cup shelled)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves or 2 to 3 green garlic cloves, to taste, sliced very thin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped or finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously, keeping in mind that you will be adding 1/2 cup of this water to the finished pasta (so don’t be too generous). Add linguine and set timer for 5 minutes less than the cooking time suggested on package. Warm a pasta bowl.
2. Meanwhile combine olive oil and sliced garlic in small skillet or saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until oil begins to bubble around the garlic slices. Watch garlic closely and cook until it just begins to color and smell fragrant. Remove from heat and pour oil and garlic into pasta bowl.
3. When timer goes off add peas to pasta water. Boil for another 5 minutes. Ladle out 1/2 cup cooking water from pasta and set aside. Drain pasta and peas and toss immediately in the warm pasta bowl with oil and garlic, reserved water from the pasta, herbs, Parmesan, and pepper. Serve at once.
Fresh fava beans are one of the best things about spring. I buy them (and fresh peas) whenever I see them, knowing their season is short. Don’t let the task of skinning them keep you from working with favas. Yes, it is necessary and don’t let anybody convince you that it isn’t. But you can get into a rhythm and it can go quickly. Turn on some good music or catch up with those last two episodes of Mad Men that you missed while you pop the favas out of their skins. Here’s how you do it:
Shell the favas. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Drop the shelled fava beans into the boiling water and boil 2 minutes. Drain and transfer immediately to the cold water. Allow the beans to cool for several minutes, then slip off their skins by pinching off the eye of the skin and squeezing gently. Hold several beans in one hand and use your other thumb and forefinger to pinch off the eyes, have a bowl for the shelled favas close at hand and this will not take a very long time. Once you’re done skinning, choose from some of my favorite recipes in my fava bean recipe box on cooking.nytimes.com.
Cinco de Mayo has come and gone but don’t let that stop you from making fabulous Mexican food as often as possible. I have been working with Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table, on her next cookbook, Mexican Today, and I am totally inspired by her incredible recipes. I have always been as passionate about Mexican food as I am about the cuisines of the Mediterranean, and it’s been nice to get back to doing more Mexican cooking. These enchiladas are my most recent creation, very light, vegetarian, easy. I’ve also made a collection on the cooking.nytimes.com site of some of my favorite black bean recipes.
“Austin Caterer Serves Breakfast in Bed.” In the days before Facebook and blogs, when all we had was the Associated Press (AP) and other syndication services, this article went out on the wires to small newspapers all over the country. It was my first claim to fame.
My partner Terry Tannen and I spent many a busy Mother’s Day running all over Austin, Texas, serving breakfast in bed crêpes and omelets. In this photo we are dressed in our Breakfast in Bed Catering uniform – shiny short gym shorts and tank top. I remembered those days fondly as I worked on a more sophisticated crêpe recipe for Recipes for Health on nytimes.com this week. I hope that you’ll try them for Mother’s Day – or get your family to make them for you!
Craftsy is having a wonderful Mother’s Day Sale. Think of all the skills your mom has given you and give back! Use this link to save up to $20 on all Craftsy classes.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago, when I came across a recipe for a Fresh Peach, Banana, and Warm Millet Smoothie in food justice advocate, chef and author Bryant Terry’s impressive new cookbook “Afro-Vegan,” that a smoothie is a great place for cooked grains. Adding them to smoothies is be a perfect way to thicken the drinks and bulk them up. It’s also a delicious way to incorporate more grains into your diet.
You can have a lot of fun with this concept when you begin to also think about colors, as these days you can find colorful grains like black and red quinoa and purple rice. I decided to match grains and fruits by color, using red quinoa with red grapes, black quinoa or purple rice with blueberries, brown rice with almonds and dates, and millet with pineapples and in a banana-strawberry-kefir blend. Now I’m drinking grains for breakfast, and they are hearty meals that get me through a swim and a busy morning. This should give you another good reason to cook grains ahead – you can keep them in the freezer, flattened in a freezer bag, and break off small amounts as you need them -- so they’re always on hand for quick, nutritious and easy meals.
... it looks like a burger and it is a burger, but less than half of it is meat. The rest is mushrooms and beets. The recipe is inspired by a presentation I saw a few weeks ago, at Worlds of Healthy Flavors, a conference co-presented by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, where corporate and executive chefs and other leaders from the volume food services industry come together with top nutrition scientists and world cuisine experts, nutrition communication and marketing professionals in an effort to expand healthy menu choices within their businesses.
Helping chefs with the challenge of cutting down on red meat and increasing produce on menus is an ongoing goal at this conference. To that end chefs have developed a mix made with roasted mushrooms that can stand in for half the meat in a burger. First you toss the mushrooms with salt, pepper and a small amount of olive oil, then you spread them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast them until they are tender and dry. Then you chop them finely, either in a meat grinder or a food processor. The chefs prefer the grinder for texture and also because the mix comes out dryer when ground. A food processor worked just fine for me. The mix kept well all week in my refrigerator, and what I didn’t use for burger variations and spaghetti sauce I used up in vegetarian dinners – an omelet, pasta, pizza and bruschetta.
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Martha Rose Shulman
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll keep you up to date on what I’ve been up to in my kitchen as I test recipes for my Recipes for Health feature on the New York Times; what I’ll be up to with my online classes at Craftsy and my actual classes at other cooking schools; my new books and latest publications; and any other upcoming appearances and events.
Big Bowls: Hearty Vegetarian Meals
A healthy, flavorful how-to!