Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cherry Orchards

Up until last week, the closest I had ever gotten to a cherry orchard was reading Anton Chekhov's masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard. And if you're familiar with that play, you know it doesn't end happily for the family or the cherry trees.

Thankfully, life is much happier in the state of Washington, especially the Leavenworth region, where scores of cherry orchards heavy with fruit line the highways. A fully fruited cherry tree is gorgeous — the clusters of cherries are dramatically suspended from branches, like firework starbursts.

Despite having eaten over three pounds of cherries in three days while we were in Washington, we're still craving them. So last night  I made Smashed Cherries, Amaretti and Ricotta, a delightful, no-cook summer dessert from Cheryl Sterman-Rule's new cookbook, Ripe: A Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables. I had tested this recipe for Cheryl last year and have made it numerous times since. No doubt, you will too. 

If you'd like to learn more about Cheryl's book, then please see my full review at One For The Table, which also includes a tasty recipe for Radish and Olive Crostini. 

Smashed Cherries, Amaretti and Ricotta 
A no-cook summer dessert.
Serves 4
Printable recipe.

4 cups (1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
2 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 amaretti cookies
1 teaspoon cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips

Thwack the cherries with the flat side of a heavy knife so they flatten. Discard the pits. Divide the cherries among 4 pretty, clear glasses.

In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, sugar, milk, and almond extract. Spoon pillows of ricotta over the cherries in equal proportions. Crumble one amaretti cookie over each serving and sprinkle with the cacao nibs. Serve immediately.

Tip: You'll find amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons) in larger supermarkets or Italian grocery stores, though you may substitute toasted, chopped almonds if you like.

Third photo credit: Photography © 2012 by Paulette Phlipot

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Minding My Peas and Mushrooms

I miss the way my grandmother used to say "mushrooms." It was "mushroonz" with a hard "n." I don't know why she pronounced it that way. Maybe it was a Rhode Island-Italian mash-up. Maybe it was just her.

When she was alive, I never missed an opportunity to remind her of it: "Hey, Nan, whatcha cooking over there? Some peas with mushroonz?" I'd say, suppressing a giggle. Invariably, she'd reply, "Ooh, you're so fresh." Then she'd make me sit down with her and eat some. Although I didn't like peas and mushrooms, I always liked Nan's, slick with butter and speckled with black pepper.

Even since Jeff and I moved away from Rhode Island 15 years ago, I've been cooking Nan's recipes — Italian chicken and escarole soup, Pizzelle Cookies, her famous Easter pies — and saying words like she did (well, only when I'm home). I'm not making fun of her. It's just the opposite: It's a way to remember her and talk about her.

The other night I had a pot of cooked fresh peas and mushrooms resting on the stove top. When Jeff came home from work, he walked straight to it, scooped a spoonful into his mouth, and said, "Mmmm.... good peas and mushroonz just like Nan's."

Yup, just like Nan's.

How about you? Did you grandmother or other loved one have funny ways of pronouncing words or doing things? I'd love to hear about them in the comment section below. 

Peas and Mushroonz (or Mushrooms)
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 (10-ounce) bag of sliced mushrooms
2 cups fresh peas (about 10 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add the shallots and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly browned all over. Add the peas and cook 2 to 3 minutes, if you like them al dente like I do. If you prefer them softer, then cook them longer. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy.

Since it's fresh pea season, here are more peas recipes you might enjoy:
Spring Pea Guacamole recipe from Everyday Southwest
Sweet Peas Hummus recipe from My Man's Belly
Orange Spiked Peas with Dill recipe from Food Blogga
Spring Pasta with Fresh Peas recipe from Arugula Files
Fresh Peas with Vegan "Bacon" recipe from May I Have that Recipe?
Warm Three Pea and Radish Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Creamy Minted Fresh Pea Almond Soup recipe from Healthy, Happy Life
Lemony Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ricotta and Mint recipe from Food Blogga
Spring Salad with Dandelion Greens, Asparagus and Fresh Peas recipe from Sass & Veracity

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thinking of Dad this Father's Day (Plus, a Give-Away)

As I was thinking of what to write about for a Father's Day post, I started to recall the times I talked about my dad on this blog. Turns out, it's a lot of times. So, rather than create a new story, I'm going to share some of the spark some good memories of you and your and dad. And, to dads everywhere, thanks, and Happy Father's Day.

There's a give-away too! 

In the comment section below, please share a fond memory of your dad. It can be sentimental, funny, quirky, food-related, sports-related, whatever. It's completely up to you! I'll choose 5 winners and mail them a signed copy of my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know

Deadline for entry is the end of the day, Sunday, June 10th so I can mail you the books in time for Father's Day on June 17.

Tweet about the contest, mentioning @Susan_Russo, and I'll count that as another entry. Good luck!

See a video of my dad trying to crack open a 14-pound crustacean. This is good viewing, folks.

My dad share's his perfect pepper biscuits for my Christmas cookie round-up.

My attempt at an intervention regarding my dad's obsession with stockpiling food. 

Dad + Jerry Lewis + bushels of peppers = Labor Day celebration

Buddy may be the Cake Boss. My dad is the Pizzelle Boss.

A story about my dad's overzealous appreciation to spaghetti squash.

Me: Wisdom teeth, pain. Dad: Shamrock Shakes. Lots of them. 

One of the first posts I had written on Food Blogga highlighted two of my dad's favorite things:
pizza and football.