Monday, April 26, 2010

Seasonal Fruit Desserts

One thing that blogging has done for me is change a lot of my thinking about food. I used to be a hardcore bargain hunter and cheapest was best. I've come to realize that quality has to be one of the factors in the equation. Is it really a bargain to get strawberries at $1 a pound if they are are lifeless, with the flavor and texture of styrofoam?

I recently received a copy of a book that epitomizes this philosophy - Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison (yes, the same one who wrote Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone). The whole book is filled with information on picking, storing, and using fresh, local, varietal fruits and nuts. Each page has information nuggets about the ingredients and makes fascinating reading all on its own.

Varietal was a new concept to me, but Deborah is passionate about the fact that all plums are not the same and a Winsap is not a Gravenstein is not a Jonagold, and knowing the difference between varieties can be the difference between an OK dessert and a wow dessert that packs a flavor punch.

The recipes range from simple bowls of fresh fruit to pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, and puddings, and the book is packed with gorgeous photos that had me drooling as I turned the pages. I wanted to make dozens of recipes right then! But there was a problem. Seasonal + Fresh + the Pacific Northwest in April = not a lot of fresh fruit to choose from. The farmer's markets aren't open yet and all my garden has right now is tulips.

So instead of fruit, I chose to make the cookies that used up my Black Walnut stash from my freezer. Like all the recipes in the book it was fairly simple, but yielded delicious cookies that were soft as they came out of the oven, then crisped up as they sat, begging to be dunked in a cup of coffee.

As spring swings into summer I know I'll turn to this book again and again for classic, simple recipes to turn the fresh fruits of the season into beautiful desserts.


Julie said...

These look delicious. Beautiful pictures.

We were just with my 91 year old father this weekend. He talked about his love of black walnuts. I need to make him these cookies. Thanks for sharing.

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Those cookies look scrumptious! I can't wait for all the summer fruits to arrive. I bought a cookbook called Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I can't wait to try the recipes. I might have to look into Deborah's book too.

grace said...

sad news--black walnuts taste foul to me. my grandpa has 'em coming out of ears back home and always gives us some, but i just don't like them. these cookies do look quite dandy, though, and the book sounds really useful!

Melinda said...

The cookies sound worth trying. The ground espresso beans intrigues me.

Lisa...I got that rustic fruit dessert book, too! I love it and can't wait for the fruit bounty this year.
Grace: Rose Levy Beranbaum roasts and skins a lot of the walnuts in her new cake baking book. I was amazed how the bitter taste was taken away by the de-skinning of the walnuts.(warning: it is a bit of a pig to do, very messy!) They tasted so much better. Perhaps you could try it and see if it makes any difference to you disliking them so. If not, please send all unwanted black walnuts to me! They are very expensive here!
Cheers Lynn x

Rachel said...

Oh, that sounds like a lovely cookbook! And, while I agree that seasonal fruit is a little sparse this time of year, the U-District farmers market stands are abounding in fresh rhubarb (which I only recently discovered and started using).

Where did you buy your black walnuts originally?

Shoshana said...

These sound delicious. I have some black walnuts stored in my freezer and these sound like the perfect recipe to use them in. Thanks for the inspiration!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Julie - What a sweetie you are for making these for your dad.

Lisa- I like the sound of Rustic Fruit Desserts. I'll have to look that one up.

Grace - well, if they're nasty to you, you have my permission to use your favorite nut here. Would that happen to be a pecan, southern gal?

Melinda - Thanks for the walnut tip!

Rachel - I do have rhubarb coming on now. There's a couple of nice recipes in the book for roasted rhubarb, rhubarb fool, and a rhubarb sauce that I'll have to try. My black walnuts were a gift from my MIL who got them, I think, at her Walmart in Spokane.

Shoshana - Perfect!

Barbara said...

We had a black walnut tree in our yard when I was a mother made a heavenly cake with them. We cracked 'em open, she did the baking.
I like the idea of cookies...and don't they look perfect with your cup of tea?

kekstester said...

Although I love walnuts I never heard of black ones. Thanks for introducing them to me with this delightful recipe!

eatme_delicious said...

I loooove walnuts and I'm sure I would love these cookies!