Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slices of Quince

"They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon..."
                                      -Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussycat"

 I don't have any runcible spoons, which until now has been a non-issue because I've never had quince either. This is probably because I don't live in Roman times, when lovers were said to give each other quince as a pledge of fidelity.  Or perhaps it's because quince is a little high-maintenance: it needs to be sweetened before it can be eaten, since the raw fruit is sour.  Most likely, though, it's because my trusty food magazine has never run an article on it before, tempting me to try it.

I let the fruit sit for a few days in the fruit bowl to let it ripen a bit more, and noticed that the fruit gives off a very sweet scent, which reminded me of the bubble bath my mother used to put in the water when I was little.  I doubt it was intentionally quince-scented, but you never can tell...

 I precooked the quince slices in water with some agave syrup and cinnamon for about 10 minutes.  This softened and sweetened them, making them perfect for the winter crisp recipe I found in a random stack of recipes culled from godknowswhere.  I added a little more agave to the baking dish, tossed in the slices with a few spoonfuls of the cooking water, and topped it with an oat mixture. 

Now all I need is a Roman lover.

Quince Crisp
*note: I cut this recipe in half, since I used only 2 quince. 

1/2 C sugar (use less if you toss the slices in agave)
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
5 C quince, sliced (leave peel on)
up to 1/4 C reserved cooking water

3/4 C rolled oats
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C whole-wheat flour
2 TBSP gr. cinnamon
1 tsp gr. allspice
1/2 tsp gr. ginger 
2-3 TBSP butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine filling ingredients, mixing well to coat.  Spoon into 6-cup baking dish, and add enough cooking liquid to keep the fruit moist and a little syrup-y but not soggy.
3. In a small bowl, combine dry topping ingredients and mix well.  Add melted butter, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is coated and forms small lumps. 
4. Sprinkle topping over filling, and bake for 16-20 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and top is nicely browned.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turning into a Pumpkin

When I was little, I ate Swiss cheese like it was going out of style. My parents used to tell me I'd turn into Swiss cheese if I ate any more.  That didn't happen.  However, I did become lactose intolerant at adulthood, which was probably Swiss cheese's sweet revenge.

This fall, I am eating and reading about pumpkin like it's going out of style (and yes Dad, I know that's a grammatical faux pas but saying "as though it were going out of style" is just so awkward).  This weekend I came across recipes for pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pudding (which turned out to be more like pumpkin frittata), pumpkin cornbread, and even pumpkin lasagne. That last one sounds a little sketchy to me.  But no matter-- there are plenty of delicious pumpkin recipes to satisfy my pumpkin-eating soul, such as the Maple Pumpkin Spice Bread I made on Sunday.

Little Orphan Annie and her trusty dog Sandy (also handmade)
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.  My mother insisted this was the influence of my Celtic heritage. It could just as easily have been the combination of my birthday 2 weeks before, the handmade costumes my mother always made for me,
 the smell of singed pumpkin flesh permeating the air, and THE CANDY.  As anyone who has come within 50 yards of me knows, I am drawn magnetically to anything with sugar. Either way, I get all pumpkined out around Halloween: my friend Christy sends me pumpkin-themed gifts from all over the world, I stock up on canned organic pumpkin at Trader Joe's, and giant pumpkins appear out of nowhere.

While I am sad that I no longer get to trick-or-treat*, I am happy to have discovered how versatile my beloved pumpkins really are.  I roast them and throw them in a pan with a little sausage or bacon and some greens. I bake sweets with them.  I make smoothies with them.  I feed them to my cats.  Yeah, virtually all cats love pumpkin.  Evolutionarily speaking, though, what are the chances of a big cat encountering, let alone cracking open and eating, a pumpkin?

*One of many trick-or-treat memories is me coming home with my little plastic pumpkin filled with candy, and my older brother coming home with a friggin' pillowcase full of candy.  He made sure to point out how much more candy he got.  A day or two later, I figured out his secret candy hiding place.  After that, our piles were even-steven.

Maple Pumpkin Spice Bread
adapted from Vegetarian Times, November 2009
*While the recipe calls for a cup of maple syrup, I used agave syrup with a tablespoon or two of evaporated can juice instead.  It's less than half the price of maple syrup, and agave is low on the glycemic index.
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1 TBSP gr. cinnamon
2 tsp gr. ginger
1/2 tsp gr. allspice
1/2 tsp gr. nutmeg (I used less than 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C maple or agave syrup
1 C pumpkin puree
1/2 C canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 C chopped hazelnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray. 
2. Whisk together flours, spices, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together syrup and oil in a separate bowl. Whisk in eggs, and then pumpkin and vanilla.  Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture with a spatula, mixing only until combined.  Add hazelnuts. 
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-50** minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack 5-10 minutes, and then remove from pan to cool completely. 
5. Slice and top with a little bit of pumpkin cream cheese from Trader Joe's.  Wait, that's not in the recipe...

** My oven is temperamental and I usually have to bake desserts for less than the recommended time, at a slightly lower temperature than indicated.  However, this bread needed extra time in the oven, and the very edge got a little black.  It has not affected the flavor, but know that
it will be important to check the center with a toothpick regularly.
I  made a few muffins with this batter, since my pan is smaller than 9x5, which could also affect baking time.

Not burned. And a cute muffin to boot.

I heart Trader Joe's.