In a recent Passover column (April 2010), I featured a recipe for a family favorite, Dried Berries and Apricot Gratin with a Crisp Topping, using dried berries and apricots. My Buba taught me to keep several packages of dried fruits in my pantry, so that I was prepared for a sweet kugel, tzimmes, a last-minute brunch, a tasty dessert, a sweet stewed chicken, or a late-night, secret snack.
Now that it is summer, my culinary thoughts turn to similar recipes, but to those featuring fresh fruits, especially the pitted variety, like plums, nectarines, apricots, and peaches.
For many years at my hilltop home in Irvine, I grew an abundance of peaches. My garden gifted me with an enormous supply of fruit. I would peel, slice, lemon sprinkle, and freeze peaches for future use. One year, my
tree became so heavy with fruit that it split down the center. I now had two trees. My children loved this season because they adored my desserts, especially my fruit crumbles and puddings.
At this point, I must share with you, my readers, a very special, true story: I also grew one apricot tree. It flowered, but it did not provide fruit. I stared. I enjoyed the fragrance. Then, one year, I noticed one single apricot. Every day, I checked it, hoping a bird or an insect would not discover it. It was safe. Finally, I plucked it from the tree. But, I did not plan to eat it.
See, that July was my mother’s sixtieth birthday. I had been thinking and thinking of what to give her that was very special. And then I realized. I went to a Newport Beach gift store to a place that specializes in one-of-a-kind gifts from around the world. I found a stunning, gold-gilded, mirrored jewelry box, which I purchased. In it, I placed the single apricot. I wrapped the box, and presented it to my mother for her birthday. I was so happy, and she was so proud. We both cried. As I write this column, the tears swell in my eyes.
Whether you are growing or purchasing pitted fruits, the following recipes will be greatly enjoyed by your family and friends.
Bread Pudding with Pitted Fruits
Bread puddings have certainly made a comeback in culinary fashion. I grew up on bread puddings, made with leftover loaves of bread, some cinnamon, and possibly some dried fruits (raisins), maybe some fresh
fruits. Nowadays, walk into a hip-style bakery or restaurant, and you will find itsversion of bread pudding on the menu. Oh, such comfort food. Here’s a party-size recipe. I have successfully baked it a day in advance,
and reheated it.
1½ pounds pitted fruits, peeled (if desired), pitted, and sliced into large chunks (For this column photograph, I have utilized plums.)
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) butter or margarine
1 cup, plus two tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound loaf challah, 1 day old, trim crust off bread (You can substitute French or Italian bread.)
½ cup mixed dried fruits, such as my favorite which includes golden raisins, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries (If you have plain raisins on-hand, simply use these instead.)
4 cups (1 quart) milk (Go for the whole milk, otherwise you can cut back on a lower fat, if necessary.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg
Lightly whipped cream or non-dairy whip, if desired, for garnish
Place plums (or other pitted fruits) in a large, heavy skillet along with 4 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Saute for about 5 to 10 minutes, over low, stirring frequently; set aside. Cut bread into cubes of desired size. Place bread cubes in a deep, ovenproof casserole (I used a 15½ by 10½ by 2½ glass casserole), then top with pitted fruits, and dried fruits. Gently toss. Dot with any remaining butter.
In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, remaining sugar, and a few gratings of nutmeg. Lightly beat, then pour over bread mixture. Gently press with your fingers to make sure all bread is covered with egg-milk
Somewhat fill another larger oven-proof casserole (I used a recycled turkey roaster.) with water (about 1 inch) to use as a “bath” (bain-marie). Place in a preheated 325◦ oven, then place bread pudding into this pan. Bake for approximately 1½ hours, or until the custard is set. Serve hot with lightly whipped cream, if desired
Yield: 10 to 20 servings, depending upon size of portions
Pitted Fruit Clafouti
This custardy puff, with lots of fresh fruits, is related to such brunch favorites as souffled pancakes, Yorkshire pudding, and popovers. It is more eggy than a dessert crisp.
It is gorgeous right out of the oven. I often make it with fresh peaches and raspberries. Other times, I have tried sliced ripe plums and another berry or cherries.
My mother praises this dish as one of the best foods her mouth has tasted in years.
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 1/3 cups low fat milk
2 tablespoons sugar, more or less or none, if desired
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups white flour (unbleached is preferred), plus 1 tablespoon
2 to 2½ cups your favorite pitted fruits and/or berries (For this column photograph, I used 4 plums, cut up, and 3/4 cup blackberries.)
Place butter in a 9- by 13-inch pan or glass casserole, and place pan in a preheated 370◦ oven for a few minutes until butter is melted. Tilt pan all around to distribute the butter. (My Buba utilized this same trick for butter-coating the casserole when making her kugels.)
Using a blender or food processor, add milk, then sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour. Process until well-combined. In a second bowl, toss the fruit with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour (this prevents the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the pan).
Pour the batter into the pan, then spoon the fruit on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
The Clafouti will puff up, and be a stunning presentation. Be ready to eat. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Leftovers are delicious, served at room temperature.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Try this with fresh apricots, then another time with another pitted fruit, such as plums or nectarines or peaches. The cobbler is so simple, requiring only a few ingredients, which you should always have on-hand in your pantry. You can add a few sprinklings of your favorite sweet spices, such as cinnamon, powdered ginger, or allspice.
1 pound fresh apricots, halved with pits removed (Or, other favorite pitted fruit.)
1 cup matzo meal or all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
¼ cup shortening (such as butter or margarine)
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Whipped cream, if desired
Place apricots in an oven-proof casserole. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top. Bake in a preheated three hundred and fifty degree oven for thirty minutes. Serve hot. It is delicious with whipped
cream, if desired.
Yield: 4 to 8 servings.