I have learned over the years that people have strong opinions about the combination of chocolate and fruit. I don’t judge, I mean, I have strong opinions about pretty much everything, such as the combination of pumpkin and chocolate (no), sea salt-flecked cookie lids (delicious but ftlog, only with a light hand), syrup on pancakes (only if the pancakes aren’t sweet), and how many episodes in a row it’s acceptable to consume of city.ballet. when you’re sick for the fourth day in a row (all of them, what kind of question is that?). What I’m saying is, pretty much the only thing I don’t have rigid views on is the combination of chocolate and fruit.
I hope, if we are going to continue to be good friends, that we can have an implicit understanding that there is no such thing as too many peach recipes. Not in July, not in August, not in New York, which grows surprisingly good peaches for a Yankee. And I know that as a writer and food person, I’m supposed to be on the lookout for my crutches, my overused ingredients. I should probably lay off the tomatoes, the caramelized onions, the feta, Dijon, strawberries, green beans, white beans and butternut squash. Sheesh, I should show some range! Maybe I will, you know, after peach season is over. Because I’m not done with them yet. I’m not done with summer yet. Maybe it’s this mild August we’ve been having or, I confess, the not-supposed-to-be-but-kinda-has-been fun of having a husband out of a job for the last few months, but once you become a summer person, it’s hard to react with anything but venom when you spy apples and butternut squash at the farmer’s market before Labor Day, as I did this week. How gauche!
If you think about it, isn’t it strange that we’ve nominated pie as our iconic summer dessert? Do understand, I say this as someone who frequently daydreams about going around the country and teaching people to make pie with a bare minimum of fuss, because I think the only thing standing between you and someone who effortlessly throws pies together because you heard someone was coming over is someone talking you through it once or twice… But I will also fully admit: pie is a pest. It requires very cold fat to be carefully worked into a floury mix until the pieces are exactly the right size. Too small, your crust is flat and crunchy. Too big, butter pools out and burns, leaving sad, tough flakes for crust. Too warm, the bits go small and absorb into the flour. Too cold, good luck rolling it out! And before you even know if the trouble will be worth it, you’ve got to roll out your crust with no holes or tears or your fruit filling will leak through and permanently glue pie-to-pan. And the fruit! Too thick, your pie cuts freakishly like Jell-O; too thin, it spills out everywhere, leaving a hollow crust in its wake. And don’t even get me started on lattice-tops. They’re for really sick people.
If there can be no clearer indication that this will be the Summer of Pie at the Smitten Kitchen — as if a 6-week onslaught of galette after pie smackdowns after savory tart built on a platform of tartlets crusted bettys and free-form pretties did not already lead us to that conclusion — my pastry blender broke this week after putting in five very good years. First, one side of it became unglued from the handle and because I am both stubborn and cheap, I’d just hold it in with my thumb while I cut butter into flour. But then the other side came unglued and I ran out of thumbs. So RIP little pastry blender, and Amazon, hurry and bring that new one along, okay?*
As excited as I am to be — slowly, tentatively — back in the kitchen, I seem to be stuck at the beginning, or at least the beginning of the day. I’m fixated on granola and eggy things, breakfast-y quick breads and this thing I made for the sole purpose of eating with my morning yogurt, and I suspect it has everything to do with us feeling almost constantly like we’ve just woken up. And too early, sigh.
I am ashamed to admit that I have been quietly bigoted against cobblers for as long as I can remember, the dessert that is, not those dudes that save my shoes from NYC sidewalks. And like so many other baseless biases, my issues were not hinged on actually trying one, but an assumption that there could be nothing good about them. I mean, biscuits and fruit? Biscuits? Why on earth would anyone want to bake a fruit dessert with biscuits on top when they could have thick crumbles, granola-like crisps and don’t even get me started on buckles, clafoutis, grunts, slumps, pandowdys and brown bettys, drool. Biscuits are for salty butter and barbecue and fried chicken, thank you very much.
It has been seven days since I told you about the fennel ice cream I made last week, and indicated that I would be telling you about what I was going to pair it with (actually, I said “pear” it with, because I can never resist the opportunity to make people roll their eyes) within a day or two. And it’s been a week! My nerviness knows no bounds! How do you put up with this teasing? Will there be mutiny on the smittenkitchen bounty?
It’s probably not going to help when I tell you the following: