Humble crumble: easy finish to a perfect dinner

Blueberry and Pineapple Crumble DSC01633 When it comes to desserts the world seems to fall into two camps: chocolate lovers and fruit lovers. No one will ever accuse me of short-serving my many chocolate-loving guests, but this one’s for the other half. This simple blueberry and pineapple crumble will delight all fruit lovers at the dinner table, and maybe even win over a choclatier groupie, at least for a night.

Why is a crumble like this always such a universal success?

It’s simply delicious. And multi-seasonal. Of course warm, gooey, and sweet fruits work reliably well on cold winter days, but this dessert is a great stage for the first delightful offerings of the summer harvest. All kinds of berry-fruit combinations will work. I love strawberries with rhubarb for spring; blueberries and peaches in summer. Another summer winner: gooseberries—so good and such a special treat that they are well-worth growing yourself, just for this recipe (as I do!). Back to winter again (though we’re in no rush for that here…), try pineapple, plums, pears… you get the idea.

I recently stumbled upon this combo of blueberry and pineapple, a product of necessity as I was faced one evening with an impromptu dinner party (worse things can happen…) and in need of a dessert. On the hunt, we found two bags of frozen fruit behind the ice maker and underneath some frozen wedding cake.

The outcome was a surprise winner. Until I tasted it, I hadn’t been able to imagine this pastry’s combo flavor in my head. Now the taste is firmly lodged in my personal taste history, happily and with 4 stars. (I always forget; is that memory located in your brain or in your heart?) Let me know if you stumble upon an unlikely winning fruit combination—it’s a fun experiment!

This dessert can be prepared well in advance of dinner. Assemble the portions in 4 oz ramekins and store in the refrigerator. As soon as the main course is on the table, place the crumbles in a 360 degree oven. Fifteen to 20 minutes later goodness will emerge: an elegant steaming bubbling sweet fruity mess. The crumble adds a just-right crunch and the hearty-oats illusion of heart healthiness.

Guten Appetit!

Ingredients for crumble DSC01548

 

Humble crumble: blueberry and pineapple
 
A versatile dessert that is easy to prepare in advance and nicely showcases fruits from all seasons
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 3 cups of blueberries (I used frozen ones)
  • 3 cups of pineapple chunks (again, I used the frozen variety)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup sugar

  • For the crumble:
  • 1 stick of butter, cubed
  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon zest of orange
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
Instructions
  1. Mix the fruit with the sugar and cornstarch until evenly coated.
  2. Distribute into 6-8 4-oz ramekin dishes.
  3. For the crumble, pulse in a food processor the butter, flour, sugar and salt until coarse, pea-sized pieces are formed.
  4. Add the egg and the orange zest. Continue pulsing until the dough comes together.
  5. Finally add the oats, pulse a few times, taking care not to pulverize the oats.
  6. Distribute the crumble into the ramekins.
  7. Eat the leftover dough when nobody's looking.
  8. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan into a 360-degree preheated oven, middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Frozen fruit will take a little longer. The crumble is done when you like the color of your crust--don't remove them too early. You want a nice golden brown crust.
  9. Serve with powdered sugar and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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New video: Cutting orange supremes

My New York Kitchen

In my quest to teach you kitchen skills that you never knew you didn’t have, my massive communications team and I are trying out a little video today that demonstrates the mastery of filleting an orange in order to create the spectacular orange supremes. One moment the orange is just sitting in a nondescript fruit bowl on the counter, and the next, freed from all its mundane orange membranes, it suddenly is granting a very certain elegance to a salad or dessert.

This is what it’s all about, folks. It’s the big league. It’s the difference between semi-homemade and going all the way, proving to your dinner guest friends your commitment to elegant food. And perhaps that you have too much time on your hands.

How can you grant this orange such sublime beauty yourself? Check out the clip below:

Did you try it? Did it work? Now, need a place to use them? Check out my Shaved Fennel and Orange Salad recipe here.

Guten Appetit!

 

Best Simple Green Salad

Green Salad

Green Salad Best simple green salad

One of my favorite elements of a multi-course meal is the salad. At our house we eat it after the main course—a fun bit of gastronomic protocol that the French taught us. Or was it the Italians?

It doesn’t seem like such a challenge, but really, how do you make a simple bowl of fresh greens something reliably mouth-pleasingly yummy and savory? It’s a two-part answer: choose crisp greens, and make a memorable dressing.

This evening’s salad consists of Boston Bibb (one of my favorites; love the subtle sweetness) and endives (with a nice contrasting bitterness). But really, any greens work. I look for the freshest leaves the veggie isle can offer up.

And now the dressing, which is the primary focus of today’s labor of love. We are creating a classic vinaigrette, but with some twists. The building blocks of a vinaigrette are acid and oil. On this one we’re using a basic red vinegar and olive oil. Garlic, shallots, and mustard contribute additional flavor.

Garlic Paste - before Garlic Paste - after

Here’s our first little trick: how to avoid having our dinner guests bite into sharp little chunks of garlic in our salad. Particularly if he/she is our date for the night. The secret is pulp. So, mince a clove of garlic, add a teaspoon of salt and then smash both—to a pulp!—with the edge of a heavy kitchen knife. At the end of your effort you want to have a paste-like texture, as shown in the photo above.

Now put the garlic and salt mixture in a small bowl. Add some ground pepper, two or three tablespoons of vinegar, and one tablespoon of mustard (and not just any mustard, but a sharp Dijon, please).

And one last water-soluble component—something sweet. A little sweetness enhances all the other components of this dressing. We’ll provide the magic this time with a tablespoon of maple syrup. But you could also use honey, sugar, or agave juice—you get the idea.

It is important that that all water-soluble ingredients get mixed first. The mustard part of the water-soluble portion will act as an ambassador in the next step, creating an easy emulsion with the oil, resulting in a thick and creamy dressing. So now drizzle in that oil, about 6 tablespoons. As always, taste as you go! The dressing should taste distinctly sharp and spicy. In the end I add a finely-minced shallot.

Dress the salad just seconds before you serve it. For a low-frills weeknight dinner we serve the salad on our dinner plates. This allows us to mix and mingle the last of the main course’s chicken juice (or was that the sauce from the strip steak?). A simple-pleasures treat. You might want to try it with my best roasted chicken.

Yack yack yack. Who would have thought a guy needs to write a dissertation on such a simple thing as a green salad? (I always say, once you’ve written one…) Please excuse my academic extremism here; you’ll see the effort is worth it.

Scallion-and-ginger-crusted salmon

Scallion and ginger crusted salmon Scallion and ginger crusted Salmon Green onions

How do recipes become heirloom recipes? We all have our go-to meals that we cook over and over. Our families and friends love them even after having them a million times. We cooks like them because we have the recipes burnt into our brains. The grocery cart finds its way to the key ingredients in aisles 2, 3, and 8 with GPS-guided precision. And finally, we can put the whole thing together in minutes, for what is reliably a picture-perfect outcome. My scallion-and-ginger-crusted salmon is just such an heirloom recipe.

I have fond memories cooking this meal with good friends in Santa Barbara during my first year in the US. I’d had limited success convincing these American friends on the virtues of sauerkraut, dumplings and bratwurst. Nein!  So I brought out the ginger and scallions. This was twenty years ago and, at the time, ginger was still quite exotic. But I was taken by the sharp yet refreshing taste of the ginger root. Decades later I still roast salmon fillets with this marinade of ginger, scallions and garlic, enhanced all the more by soy sauce and olive oil.

The original recipe calls for marinating the fish for about 30 minutes with all these ingredients. That gives you a very intense soy and garlic flavor—an overwhelming taste that maybe feels a little too low-budget-Thai for me. I prefer to top the fillets with the marinade and broil them right away. You’ll want to turn the broiler to its highest setting, and place the top of the fish 4 inches from the coils. The ginger-scallion mixture will thereby brown and cook nicely, while not overcooking the salmon. I measure the temperature of the salmon and pull out the pan when it reaches 110 degrees.

Fresh snap peas are a perfect complement to this fish, and only require a few minutes to prepare. While keeping one eye on the salmon, follow the recipe below. The only problem? These peas are really good—like me, you’ll end up wishing you’d prepared more than 5 pieces per plate….

Guten Appetit!

Scallion-and-ginger-crusted salmon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 to 5 oz thick salmon fillet per person (4 oz seems to be the portion preferred by skinny New Yorkers), so 1 to 1.5 lb for 4 eaters
  • 1 bunch of scallions, neatly chopped
  • 2 oz of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb of fresh snap peas
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Put your broiler on high
  2. By hand or in a mini food processor, finely chop the garlic and the ginger
  3. Mix with the sliced scallions, add soy sauce and olive oil
  4. Season, but be careful with salt as the soy sauce typically has adequate sodium (like, enough to make your arteries explode). But add some pepper
  5. Remove the skin from the salmon fillets and arrange on a baking sheet
  6. Top generously with your marinade
  7. Broil until the top is nicely browned and cooked, and the inside of the salmon reaches 110 degrees
  8. While the salmon is broiling, heat your sauté pan with the butter and a couple tablespoons of water. Sauté the peas over medium to medium-hot heat. They cook in just a few minutes: if you time it right, the water will have evaporated right as the peas are done. By this method, they will retain a little bit of crunchiness. Season with salt and pepper
  9. Plate and serve all this fabulousness right away

Scallion and ginger crusted salmon Salmon roasting in the oven Scallion and ginger crusted salmon