the whole dern melon

Over the weekend I bought a whopper of a watermelon from a nearby farmer for four bucks. I thought it looked like a cucumber on steroids, as it must have been over twice the size of my melon (head)! The farmer’s son offered to carry it to my car, but I figured a little melon-style weight lifting would be good for me (no, I did not do squats but merely an isometric bicep exercise for a few blocks).

I strapped the melon in the backseat of my car and continued the morning’s shopping. As luck would have it, I found a small set of French knives on the clearance table at Williams-Sonoma and snatched them up as well. I would be embarrassed to show anyone the knife I used on a daily basis for food prep. Let’s just say that I am lucky to have all digits intact.

Left alone with that melon, a cutting board, and my new upgraded tools, I was a happy and well-hydrated sweet chopping fool. I didn’t know how glorious it could be to cut things with proper knives (in infomercial voice, “it was a breeze!”). Juicy red chunks for snacks and smoothies, circle and straw cut-outs to freeze as flavorful ice cubes, and the (often sadly discarded) rind to put in a pie, a strawberry-watermelon rind custard pie. The slight rue on the edges of the pale rind visually reminded me of rhubarb, so I treated it as such, following my grandma’s rhubarb custard pie recipe, using rind in place of rhubarb and adding some chopped strawberries to the mix of watermelon rind, nutmeg, and eggy custard, mmmmm.

Currently finishing the last slice of pie with some cold milk and drying the dark green skin of the watermelon in the 80-degree sun. Soon it will be pulverized to a powder state and used as a colorant in some handmade paper for another small project of mine. Whoppermelon, you obliged me well.

peach wontons with browned butter whiskey sauce

Here’s another recipe where the measurements are up to you. Ingredients: fresh peaches, brown sugar, wonton wrappers, butter, and whiskey. Once the peaches are sliced (or diced), sprinkle them with brown sugar (I used smoked demerara sugar, but brown sugar is also good). Place the peach mix on top of wonton wrappers. Fold over and pinch edges together using water or egg white as adhesive. Fry one minute on each side in hot oil. Drain and cover with powdered sugar or browned butter whiskey sauce. To make the sauce, brown some butter on the stovetop, then whisk in some whiskey and brown sugar. Cook till it reduces to a near caramel state and pour over tops of fried peach wontons. Voilà: crunchy dough, spiked glaze, sweet steam, and warm August peaches, intersecting in one juicy wonton bite.

ground cherry slab pie

You didn’t think I just took pictures of the ground cherries, did you? When I gave the Wabash county farmer three dollar bills for a box of ground cherries, he kindly handed me a Kennedy half-dollar in return, along with a photocopied paper collage of hand-typed recipes. I felt like I won a prize, and I wasn’t even playing a game.  I went with the one called Anna’s Ground Cherry Pie and changed up the filling due to the fact that I didn’t have any lemons on hand, and because I thought that ginger would be a nice complement to the fruit. I believe the product was a pineapple upside-down cake/cherry pie hybrid. Delicious with canned air cream and fizzy ginger beer.

Ginger Ground Cherry Pie Filling
3 cups ripe ground cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoons ground tapioca

Cook everything but tapioca over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Mix in tapioca and continue to stir until thickened. Remove from heat and cool.

While the filling cools, prepare the dough (I halved the recipe, because I only needed a top crust). Once filling is cool, pour into an unbaked pie shell (or in my case a buttered casserole dish). Cover with top crust and seal the edges. Bake at 400-degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees and continue to bake for 25 minutes.

Pie Crust from The Amish Cook… she uses apple cider vinegar in her crust, which I think is nice. I also sub unsalted butter for shortening from time to time.

macarons in the midwest

They do exist! Mind you, I have never been to Paris, but the macarons at Madeleines Bakehouse are worth my (and your) while. I have mainly had their fruit macaron selections (Apricot, Raspberry, Key Lime, Blackberry) up until this weekend. My mom and I stopped in the bakehouse for some French Pressed Coffee yesterday and took a few macarons to go. She chose Coconut, and said that “it is five times better than a Snoball!” I chose Crème Brûlée and Pumpkin. Pumpkin was yummy, with a fresh pumpkin butter center, but Crème Brûlée is my new favorite. The “trinity cream” dessert is in a sparkly, bite-sized sandwich poof of light, sweet indulgence. Airy flavor vibrance, AHOY.

modern (lovers) pastry

I got to see Boston (and my dear, engaged-to-be-wed, friends Emily and Jarrid) for a day at the end of my trip out East last week. The sun was shining, and soon after walking past the Government Center, I had my first ever bakery fresh cannoli from Modern Pastry. Sweet little fried pastry tubes stuffed with sacchariferous ricotta. In my head were the song lyrics, “Oh that feelin’ inside we’re gonna transmit it to life!” from The Modern Lovers. Here’s hoping for future cannoli transmissions to/from my kitchen.

irish coffee oatmeal pie

I decided that if that stinker groundhog goes back into his home tomorrow, then I am going to have a slice of this pie for breakfast every morning for the next six weeks. My new recipe was initially inspired by Sophie Leavitt’s Oatmeal Pie in the All New Penny Pincher’s Cookbook (my mom told me that she purchased the cookbook after Ms. Leavitt appeared on Phil Donahue’s program!). I made a few versions, one with strawberries and this one with espresso, steel cut oats, and less sugar. Definitely a sweet cafe, hearty, and high-in-fiber pie. Make it an all-the-way Irish dessert by topping it off with whipped whiskey cream and serving it alongside an Irish coffee. Happy February. Is it March yet?

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Beat 3 eggs.
Mix in 1 C brown sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 2 T instant espresso powder, and 1/2 t salt.
Stir in 1 1/2 C quick-cooking Irish Oatmeal.
Melt 2 T unsalted butter.
Stir in.
*Pour in 9″ unbaked pie shell.
Bake 40 minutes.

Emeril’s Irish Whiskey Cream
1 C heavy cream
1 T sugar
2 T Irish whiskey

Whip the cream until it begins to form soft peaks. Add the sugar and whiskey and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until needed. Plunk as much as you please on the pie or in your coffee.

*you wouldn’t have to use a pie shell… but before baking I like to brush butter on the dough and sprinkle with brown sugar and sea salt.

last day for blueberries

Before hopping on the Kal-Haven bike trail Saturday morning, I got to enjoy the South Haven Farmers Market. Kind and generous farmers and artisans were as abundant as the produce. There is still plenty of gorgeous fruit for picking up there, though the woolen mittens remind everyone that Southwestern Michigan fully embraces all of the seasons.