Saturday, October 5, 2013

Early autumn comfort food

DSC00408It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with the businesses, the verhuizen, and the scattered meetings all contributing.   Fortunately, the October calendar is mostly white-space, with experiments and court cases proceeding on autopilot, colleagues vacationing and marrying, and only a little travel in my forecast.

A good thing, too: I need to get life slowed again, take the longer view, and put time back into things that matter.  One of the weekend’s tasks is to divide the month into large chunks of time in Dorset and Maastricht.  Another is to compose a short list of “want to do” pleasures,  replacing the  “have to do” bustle.

DSC00352 (900x1200)But first, I want to make some comfort food to set my mood.

With colder temperatures and shorter days, autumns ingredients replace summer berries and greens.   I’m thinking of thicker, heartier dishes with woody, earthy flavors based on mushroom and squash, harvest fruits like apples and nectarines, warm cheese breads and strong dark herfst beer.

The first thing I tried was to extend my coulis methods to fall fruits.  I got a nice bag of ripe nectarines, peeled and cored them, sliced and diced, then layered them in a warm pan with a tablespoon of sugar and juice from half  a lemon to stew.  DSC00403 (1197x1200)I peered,  stirred, and tossed, waiting to reduce the mixture, then sieve, cool, and parfait.

This did not go well.  There isn’t enough liquid in nectarines, so they took forever to soften and melt.  I ended up needing to add some white wine (tried both sweet and tart alongside the peach essence) to get the consistency right, but it ended up more of a compote than a coulis

Not bad, mind you, just different.

DSC00413 (1200x900)I had better success with the butternut squash recipe (for those learning Dutch: flespompoen recept).  The preparation that I thought would be hardest, getting the skin off, turned out to be easy using a regular peeler.  DSC00402 (1200x843)The part that I expected to be easiest, dicing the squash, was very hard:  the only knife that worked was a bread knife under full body pressure.

But  once everything was tossed into the broth, the cooking and pureeing was trivial.  The soup had a good balance and nice heft,  a dollop of Greek yogurt and aromatic chopped herb accented the bowl nicely.

DSC00414 (1200x900)Last fling was with Gougères,  a French cheese puff.  It’s a simple recipe, even though a bit strange in the handling of the dough (warm the dough over low heat until firm; blend in the eggs one at a time until smooth) . 

It benefits from a very slow cooking, at the low end of recommendations so that the centers puff up and firm around the air core.

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Anonymous said...

You're making me hungry, Dash...

David Hampton said...

I do try :) Thanks for joining the site!