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Peach & Blackberry Crumble with Lavender!

I should eat more fruit.  I know this.  I am trying.  We’ve received many a peach in the last few weeks of our CSA box…and peaches happen to fit into that category of fruit that I know I should like…but they just don’t make my top five list.  Especially the whole fuzzy skin thing…I have a little trouble with fuzzy fruit.  So…what better way to prepare our multitude of peaches than to peel and make a crumble out of them.  Even I like fruit when you put crunchy goodness on top and bake it.

Peeling peaches is much like tomatoes…and highly satisfying.  With a paring knife, score the bottom of the peach.  Drop into boiling water for at least 30 seconds and probably no more than 2 minutes.  The time it takes depends entirely on how ripe the fruit is.  (for tomatoes…you should never need more than 45 seconds)  Pull them out with a slotted spoon and drop them immediately into ice water.  Once they’ve cooled, using a paring knife…and being extremely careful…grab the corner of the skin where you scored it and peel.

The skin should come off fairly easily…if not, let it sit in the ice water for a little longer…or dunk it back in the boiling water for another bit of time and then back into the ice water.

Despite not loving eating peaches…I think they’re a beautiful fruit and somewhat unexpected.

I wanted to make this a bit different from the standard fruit crumble, with a little something you can’t quite place…but still it adds just enough mystery to stick out in your memory.

Enter:  Lavender

Toss the peaches with sugar, brown sugar, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and flour.

Secret ingredient time…add the lavender.

I also had just enough blackberries to toss those into the mix as well.

For me simpler is better with desserts.  Did you know that the word dessert comes from the French verb desservir, which means to clear away.  So at the completion of a meal, the plates would be cleared away…and room would be made for small tastes of sweets, and so dessert was born.  Fun fact.

I would argue that the topping for any crumble is more almost more important than the fruit itself.  Based on my experience, it is difficult to get the right consistency for the topping, it can’t be soggy, or too floury, it shouldn’t be greasy, or too granular, it should have some substance, but combine well with the top layer of fruit.  I have finally found the secret.  Previously, I has always cut the flour/sugar mixture with butter or shortening.  Don’t be fooled, that is wrong…wrong wrong wrong.

I stumbled upon this fabulous blog while researching my topping options and I finally found the solution to my topping issues.  Instead of butter, add one egg well beaten and mix it in with your hands.  Then once it is sprinkled atop the fruit, melt some butter (you thought I’d leave it out…?) and spoon it over the top of the dish before putting it into the oven at 375° for 30-40 minutes.

For the topping: (courtesy of Orangette)
Scant ¾ cup granulated sugar (about 4 to 4 ½ ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 egg, beaten well
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

It’s just as delicious at room temperature as it is warm and a coop of vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream would be a welcome addition.


Euro Pane…I found my bakery!

Time for another favorite place of mine…

Euro Pane Bakery

This is a true bakery…where they also happen to make amazing sandwiches and salads.  The closest thing I’ve found in Pasadena to croissants and baguettes like they make in France.  Delicious.

Menu is simple and classic.  Breads are amazing, tarts are not overly sweet, and they even have completely authentic macarons!

Of course, you must have an Orangina with your sandwich (french accent).  [Side note:  Dear Orangina, I’m incredibly disappointed that the product sold in the United States includes high fructose corn syrup.  I regret to inform you that I will no longer by enjoying your citrussy bubbly drink unless I find the real thing…similar to only drinking Mexican coke.  Sigh!]

Our table provided a peek behind the counter.  And then…

…sandwiches arrived.  It may not look like anything special…but this is delicious roast chicken salad with some tarragon and yogurt on rosemary currant bread.  So good!  Woody enjoyed a meatloaf sandwich, although he was torn between that and their egg salad sandwich.  For anyone who enjoys a not-quite-hard-boiled-egg…this is the egg salad for you.  I promise…you won’t be disappointed.

We joined a CSA!

I have debated joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group for quite a while.  I was reminded of this and in a moment of quiet at work, did a little research and found more than one option…thrilled to have choices…I settled on Abundant Harvest.  Woody and I really enjoy a weekly trip to the farmer’s market…but I am keenly aware that the fall is the busiest time of the year for my work…and my level of energy for grocery shopping at the end of the day is low…really low.  So here is my reasoning.  If we have fresh ingredients in the house all the time…the likelihood of resorting to take-out a couple nights a week will be almost non-existent…if for no other reason than the guilt factor.

And the clincher was the flexibility of the Abundant Harvest CSA…it is all internet based, with weekly billing, the ability to cancel a week if you are out of town, two different size boxes, and the ability to add on additional items like eggs, raw milk, fair trade coffee beans, fresh local cheese and specific veggies…for those times when you need a couple pounds of eggplant for ratatouille.  All this for $21.08 a week.  Oh, the joy!

Each week, we pick up our small box at 10:15 am on Saturday morning.

It comes nicely wrapped in a collapsible box that we return each week when we pick up the next box.

This was the first layer, grapes, green leaf lettuce, and there were lots of treasures to unearth below!

I couldn’t resist.

Three weeks later, I’m loving our CSA…I’ve now got some butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, black grapes, new potatoes, basil and lemon basil, asian pears, lots of red onions, and of course tomatoes.

Playing Catch Up…

(a.k.a. – here’s a lot of what I’ve been making, eating, and enjoying…)

I think, perennially, I fall behind.  As the beginning of school arrives, I am reminded of all of those ‘first days’ of school I had long ago.  I also work at a school…so it is hard to not have a little empathy for those awkward middle-schoolers, some excitement for the brand new kindergarteners, and a touch of dread for those freshman.  I also hate picture day.  The day I thought I had finally outgrown…and now it has come back to haunt me.  It’s still just as bad…even as an adult.  Back to the falling behind thing – each ‘first day’ began fresh…new classroom, new supplies, new books, new locker, new teachers, maybe new friends…and then it ended…with homework.  Usually lots of homework…which meant feeling as though I would never finish it all.

If I’m being honest, I think I operate fairly well in procrastination mode.  In fact, I’m not sure I would know what to do with myself if I completed things before they were due, proactively managed my life, and generally acted as if I were an overachiever.  Not that I’m proud of my lean towards the procrastination end of the spectrum.  Indeed, I believe my life could take on a whole new vibrancy if I were to jump the gun and be able to get things done.  I’d probably reduce my stress levels, gain an increased sense of accomplishment, feel superior to others…and generally be more like Martha Stewart and belong in the pages of Real Simple magazine. Tangent.  Okay, back to procrastinating…I should have posted more regularly…somehow…it just didn’t happen.  Onward!

So…this summer has not been devoid of cooking, eating, imbibing and entertaining…just void of posting about such things.  Here is a brief run through of a few of the dishes I managed to get a photo or two of before they went down the hatch.

Summer rolls with shrimp, cilantro, fresh veggies and rice vermicelli.  Served with peanut dipping sauce.

Carne Asada Tacos!  *Delicious*

Roasted Poblano & Pasilla Peppers Stuffed with Rice and Queso Fresco!

Flank steak over greens with potato cakes and heirloom tomatoes

Raspberry & Blackberry Clafoutis

Cheddar & Chive Biscuits

So tasty…and there is more to come!  Everything was delicious and I’m *hoping* to still get posts up for many of the recipes above.  Hope your summer was just as delicious as mine.

Oh my, how the summer flies…

So we’ve been traveling a bit this summer.  Not a lot, but enough to throw off the routine…enough to make us forget which day of week it is…and just enough to provide more photos and projects than I have had time to post.  (read: explanation for my lack of regular posts from this summer)  One of the things I love about traveling, and returning for visits to locations that are familiar is returning to some favorite spots, digging into a favorite dish that you just can’t find anywhere else.

We found ourselves in Minnesota for a few days, and I had to make sure we squeezed in a meal at Punch Pizza.  I am well aware that this is a chain…but it is local to Minnesota…and I think they have a great business model and an impressive product.

Their whole gig is Neopolitan Pizza…made like you are in Italy.  And in fact, it is the closest thing I’ve tasted to the pizzas I enjoyed in Rome when I traveled there in 8th grade.  Crust, San Marzano tomatoes, a few toppings and fresh cheese…that’s it.

It is amazingly fast, since the wood-fired oven remains at a toasty 800º Fahrenheit…and if you left a pizza in for more than 90 seconds…you’re pizza would be unrecognizable as food…and certainly inedible.

My favorite topping of all time is olives…and more recently…green olives.  I can’t get enough of them.  I ordered the Napoli and added green olives.

Woody ordered a Toscano – roasted red peppers, sausage, basil and cracked red pepper.

My only complaint with this place is that the experience is over so quickly…there’s hardly any time to really drool and anticipate your pizza being brought to the table…they’re just so damn fast.  And I wish they could open a location in Pasadena…is that really asking too much?

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