Simplicity

Have you ever made a dish from a recipe you pulled off the internet, convinced it sounded absolutely delicious, only to find that it was insipid? I did that last night – a casserole using lots of fresh grilled vegetables, eggs, cheese and sourdough bread. What could go wrong?

Too complicated

First of all, I cut the recipe in half and it still made enough for at least five people. It had multitudes of steps, taking me a couple of hours to complete. When it finally rolled out of the oven (heating up the kitchen pretty intensely since it cooked for an hour), it looked good. Bubbly and cheesy. And it tasted like kissing someone through a screen door. Not much flavor, not even rich enough to qualify as comfort food.

I know better. I just don’t cook that way. I get a little crazy this time of year wit the abundance of vegetables and fruits coming in, but it is fun to come up with interesting ways to use them.

Simplicity is best

Most importantly, I need to remember to keep things as simple as possible. A chopped tomato mixed with olive oil, minced fresh garlic, salt and fresh basil is a perfect sauce to toss with hot pasta. Or simply sauteed greens and onions over pasta. No time, not much prep and absolutely fresh and delicious.

Pasta with spinach

Even if you don’t consider yourself a cook, you can learn to prepare fresh wholesome meals without a lot of prep time or a lengthy list of ingredients. And cooking can become an interesting part of your life instead of a chore. It truly is artistry and if you look at it that way, you are an artist!

A simple dessert – fresh fruit galette

Peach galette

I bought a box of produce from a local farmer this week and it came with plums, raspberries and grapes. I made a plum and raspberry galette. Sounds like it may be complicated, but it’s not. And any of the fruits can be swapped for whatever is coming in at the time. Once your fruits are prepared, it takes less than an hour to make including baking time. You could have a different flavor every night of the week. And the possibilities to use vegetables and cheeses make it an endless supply of opportunities.

Yellow plums

A galette is simply a rustic pastry. You can make it a dessert or a savory main dish for brunch or dinner.

You can certainly make your own pastry, but puff pastry or pie dough from the freezer is easy and almost always works perfectly. Feel free to experiment with all different types of crust. Use the more delicate crusts with fruits and heartier crusts with vegetables.

Fruit Galette

Plum raspberry galette

3-4 cups fruit – raspberries, strawberries, plums, peaches, grapes, blueberries in any combination
1 pkg. puff pastry or pie crust thawed
6 T. apricot or currant jam (or whatever jam you have in the fridge)
1 egg
1 t. water
½ c. coarse sugar

Roll dough until about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate dough for 5-10 minutes.

Prepare fruit – you can peel peaches and plums if desired. Slice. If the fruit is particularly juicy, you can toss with 2 T. cornstarch to thicken the juices somewhat. If the fruit is tart, add up to half a cup of sugar.

Heat jam; spread jam in the center of the circle, leaving ¼ inch border around the edge of the dough. Place prepared fruit on top, leaving a 1 ½ -inch border around the edge of the dough.

Fold dough up onto fruit uniformly, pleating and pressing gently so it adheres slightly. Fruit should be exposed in the center. Mix egg and water and lightly brush dough and crimped seams with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Add enough water to the remaining jam to produce spreadable consistency; brush jam over fruit for a shiny glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature the same day.

Riffs: asparagus with goat cheese; roasted peppers and roasted eggplant with feta; tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese. Season with herbs of choice.

Strawberry Shortcake

One of my fondest young adulthood memories is of strawberry shortcake. Or rather the woman who made it. Years ago my family gathered at my grandmother’s house to celebrate her 70th birthday. She had made strawberry shortcake for dessert after a traditional summer dinner of fried chicken and potato salad. When we all arrived that afternoon, my little sister was haunting the kitchen and asked “Nano – could we just have strawberry shortcake now?” 

My grandmother, who was a flapper, divorced a husband in the 30’s when it wasn’t fashionable to do so, and sailed to Africa on a steamship by herself, was nonplussed. She laughed heartily and said , “Of course we can!”. So we all sat down in the garden on a hot Texas afternoon and gorged on luscious strawberries and sweet whipped cream sandwiched between her lighter-than-air biscuits. And, yes, we still ate the chicken and potato salad for dinner. 

Strawberry shortcake to some means strawberries over angel food cake. But true shortcake is a type of flaky sweetened biscuit. They are split hot from the oven, piled with fresh sliced room-temperature strawberries and topped with icy whipped cream. Nirvana!

Make yourself some delicious memories this summer. 

Nano’s shortcake (or biscuits if you leave out the sugar)

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any type of berry or fruit in season. Peaches, blackberries, blueberries or raspberries make delectable shortcake. 

2 c. sifted flour

1 T. baking powder

½ t. salt

¼ t. baking soda

2 T. sugar

6 T. butter 

1 c. buttermilk

Blend dry ingredients, cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix lightly, just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Pat into a loose ball, turn onto a floured board and roll out to about ½” thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes.

Let cool a few minutes, split with a fork and layer with sweetened fruit and top with whipped cream.