Sunday, July 12, 2009
When I go to the farmer's market here, I become what Singaporeans would say "suaku" or "jakun". The former is a Chinese slang and the latter Javanese. The closest translation I can think of is "country bumpkin"; only in this case, it's the reverse. I am the city girl struck by the wonders of the local produce market.
I walk from stall to stall - taking in not just the array of colors but the fragrance of the fruits. It's the season of peaches, apricots, pluots, cherries, blueberries, strawberries... the air smells sweet. Each vendor draws you in with a knife in hand to cut you a slice of whatever fruit he may recommend, maybe a nectarine or a peach, and offers it to you. It is humbling to think that he may have planted or plucked the luscious fruit you are savoring just miles away.
That I cannot resist is evident by the bags and bags of fruits I always bring home - surely more than two people can possible eat in a single week. This morning was no different. As I washed and put away fruit after fruit, I was doing a mental triage - which fruit was most ripe and needed to be eaten soon, which can last until the end of the week. That's where Ina Garten comes in - I had just watched her make strawberry jam on Food Network in under an hour. I decided we would have homemade jam and english muffins for brunch. Cooking fruit is a way of extending its life - useful for a greedy fruit patron like myself.
I adapted the jam recipe by using blueberries and cherries and cutting down the sugar because I didn't want the jam to be too sweet. I also cut down the portion since it was just for two of us. I love the texture of the jam because you get small pieces of berries.
adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Easy Strawberry Jam
2 cups blueberries, chopped in half or more
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped in quarters
1/3 green apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
Put all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and let it come to a boil. Keep it at a rolling boil and skim off any foam that may rises to the top. Stir occasionally. The Contessa says the jam should reach 220 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. I don't have one, so I just boiled it for 35 minutes. So easy - she's a genius.
Whole Wheat English Muffins
adapted from Alton Brown's recipe
Until I looked up the recipe, I didn't realize that English muffins cook on the stove top. I used Alton Brown's recipe but because I was using whole wheat pastry flour, I used 1 tablespoon less and added 1 teaspoon of baking soda before using the batter to make the muffins lighter. I used butter because I don't have shortening. Alton Brown also uses a griddle heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't have a griddle so I used a cast-iron frying pan, which worked well. I used non-stick egg rings because those are what I have.
2 cups minus a tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1/2 cup powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup hot water
2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking powder
Stir in the powdered milk, butter, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt in the hot water. In a separate bowl, mix the yeast, 1/8 teaspoon sugar and 1/3 cup warm water. Let it rest to activate the yeast. Combine both mixture and add the sifted flour. Cover and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes in a warm spot.
Heat up the griddle or cast-iron pan to medium high heat and put in 3-inch rings. Add in the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt and baking soda and beat well. Place 3 tablespoons of the batter into each ring and cover with a lid or cookie sheet. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes and then turn over the muffins to cook on the other side. Cover the muffins and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and remove the rings. Makes 8. You can freeze any leftovers.
I also fried some eggs because what's a brunch without eggs? I made the eggs with the same rings, but I did them before the muffins. The muffins should be eaten warm so that butter will melt as you spread it. Yum. My husband also reached out for some peanut butter for a peanut-butter-and-jelly muffin. It was a brunch that carried us well into dinner time.