Found some inspiration on our vacation

Nov 20th, 2009

Just returning from a little sunshine respite. Lenore has family in sunny Brea CA where we spent a few nights at their very comfortable CA home. It was nice for Lenore to catch up with her aunt and uncle while I played in the kitchen with her cousin, Mary, quite an accomplished cook. Never done it commercially but even if I had never enjoyed her cooking, her ability to cook certainly shows in her kitchen.

She has everything any cook could want and a place for everything. She has one of the newest drip coffee makers, one cup at a time, and uses her tiniest Tupperware to set up her own coffee “pods.” There are so many drawers that I finally asked how they found this home with the biggest kitchen on the block, and she explained that David, her husband, is very handy and just kept expanding the kitchen. So right away the experience of cooking with her was going to be great.

I think Mary was a little surprised that I wanted to make her famous shortbread that she mails to us every Christmas, ours just one of 125 that she sends out. Her shortbread molds are collector’s items as well, and we picked out a couple since one batch makes two. I was amazed that she actually broke every so-called rule for baking by making this tender delight in a giant Cuisinart–didn’t even know they make them so large! She started with a pound of frozen salted butter (I get that) and proceeded to blend until I could feel the heat off the blade. Asking if she was going to chill the dough, she said no, and in fact she heated the molds before filling with dough. She let me play with the second half of the batch. To it, I added a few spices that I found in her cupboard (anything you could imagine was there). I made a little curry mix and yes, added some coriander to it. Both went into the oven and out in about 30 minutes. I guess that even with her giant Cuisinart and several molds, she can only bake 4 at a time in her double ovens, so it must take close to 36 hours to make all 125. The addition of curry was interesting and Lenore liked it, but I was not satisfied, so plan to improve it a bit next time. Mary, of course, is sharing her recipe and I intend to post it once I do it again in my kitchen. No doubt about it, Mary makes the best shortbread I ever tasted.

Mid week our cousins drove us to Palm Springs, a short 90 minute drive, to meet up with friends from Seattle who were there for a whole month! Mutual friends from Maryland were already there. In fact, almost the entire group from our French Laundry experience were together again. Being foodies, we did as much eating as talking. First day we went to the local Farmers Market–it was all organic foods, no crafts, and they had cut flowers!

Anyway, it was tough to shop the market when we only had two days for cooking! The couple we were visiting had a full fridge and tangerine, orange & lime trees outside their door. We had to use restraint. Lenore found a new fruit, to me anyway, called ‘Yellow Sapote’ from Mexico, also known as Canistell or “egg-fruit.” The farm stand attendant didn’t speak allot of English, so we didn’t really know what we were buying. She cut one up for tastes. It was sweet like very ripe persimmons but had the texture of a ripe avocado, to us anyway. Researching it on the internet, I found the texture described as a hard boiled egg since it doesn’t produce much juice. In any case, I included it in the breakfast watermelon salad I made the next morning. It was pretty good and I will be looking for that fruit again if I ever get to Florida where they are grown commercially. For now I am happy that it happened to be grown by a little farm in southeastern California and brought to market that day.

If I were to make the salad again, here is a recipe subbing avocado for the Sapote.

WATERMELON SALAD
1 small seedless Watermelon (or Crenshaw melon, would be good too)
2 avocado, 1/2 dice or 2 “sapote” if you can get it
6 fresh figs, quartered
2 fresh sweet persimmons, core and cut 1/2″ dice
juice of 1 large lime
1 bunch Basil, rough chop
1 serrano pepper, seed, devein, mince
1/4 cup EVOO, just to coat fruit
To Taste Sea salt Pepper Coriander (SPC)

Method: Prepare fruit; gently toss with lime juice and EVOO. Add pepper, basil and toss and taste. Season to taste with SPC.We served this with Marty’s eggs with an Armenian sliced cured meat.This recipe is worth knowing but first I need to find a local source for the cured meat. Marty gets it shipped from the East coast from an Armenian butcher. Stay tuned, because Marty and I may just be making it on the west coast.