Saturday, August 30, 2014

Plum-Delicious Dessert

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first. ~Ernestine Ulmer

Who would argue with that advice? Not me, not today. The stovetop refused to heat, it was w-a-a-y too hot to bake and I couldn't find the energy to walk to town for lunch or even an ice cream cone. Broiled stone fruit to the rescue! I considered making Nutty Nectarines, but after checking the galley fruit basket, decided on a simple plum preparation instead.

Just plain plums would have been an adequate snack, but brushed with Triple Sec, sprinkled with brown sugar, broiled and topped with whipped cream... well, after all that they were divine. I did contemplate using a torch to caramelize the sugar instead of heating up the broiler, but that seemed too dangerous on this hot, lazy day. Today was a day to enjoy a fresh-fruit treat, not to have a blazing adventure.

Sweet but not too sweet, the melted sugar balanced the slightly tart edge of the red plums. Next time I might add a sprinkle of chopped nuts to up the crunch factor, almonds or pistachios would be my first choice. The broiled plum dish was a perfect snack, tempting enough to enjoy again as dessert as we relaxed on the boat deck, watching a dramatic neon sunset develop across the marina. 

Life is good... and so are Broiled Plums.

Plum-Delicious Broiled Plums

3 or 4 large, ripe plums, halved and pitted
a Tablespoon or two of Triple Sec or Brandy
a Tablespoon or two of brown sugar
whipped cream, Honey Greek yogurt, or ice cream (optional but good!)
  1. Place the halved plums in an oven-safe pan, cut side up. Brush the fruit with Triple Sec and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar. 
  2. Preheat the boiler, setting the rack so the top of the fruit is about 6 inches below the flame or element.
  3. Place under the broiler and heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until the sugar is melted and shows some color.
  4. Eat it plain or serve with Honey Greek yogurt, crème fraiche, ice cream or whipped cream.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fresh-Herb Flatbread

#TwelveLoaves: Summer Herbs

This flatbread recipe began with an unscheduled visit to the old Goose Bay Cannery in Rivers Inlet. The cannery ceased operation in 1957 but the building complex remained. The site functioned as a fishing lodge for a period after that, but that venture closed and the site seemed destined to end up as just one more crumbling historic ruin. 

Enter a group of Burnaby, B.C. firemen who purchased the cannery ten years ago and have given the place a new life. Some Vancouver, B.C. firemen joined the group and I believe the ownership has now expanded to 27 members. The new owners undertook an impressive rescue and restoration project, both structural and cosmetic. The visible exterior changes range from restored boardwalks, new piling, a covered ramp to a huge concrete floating dock, roofing and siding repair and fresh paint everywhere you look. The visible improvements barely hint at the energy and effort involved in restoring the cannery complex.

We arrived at the site late in the day, an impromptu stop following a waterside photo shoot of the cannery. We accepted an invitation to tie up and tour the site (thank you, Ray and Tom) and join a group of visiting firemen and friends for dinner. My small taco salad-for-two was a puny contribution to the meal as we dined on scrumptious Firehouse lamb burgers, tiny red potatoes, fresh sweet corn and a giant Caesar salad. At least our box of red wine was a welcome last-minute addition to the menu.

How could we say thank you for such generous sharing? - with a little home cooking, of course. The visiting firemen filled their day with fishing and hiking, and had their entire trip menu well planned in advance, though their meal schedule seemed more… well, random and spontaneous. Flatbread was a perfect choice since fresh bread works, either as an anytime appetizer or snack or accompanying a meal. Pull it apart, dip a chunk in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and it’s heavenly. Slather a sliced baton with butter if that’s your thing. Eat a wedge plain and let the flavorful herbs shine in every bite. Cut a square and slice it horizontally to use for a sturdy, flavorful Panini base. Try a savory bread pudding. The possibilities are endless.

I formed four flatbreads using a basic pizza/focaccia dough recipe plus flavored olive oil and a bouquet of mixed herbs. Pitted Kalamata olives topped two of the loaves, an impulsive last-minute addition. We had to sample one loaf, ostensibly to check the timing and to taste-test before sharing. Success! The bread smelled heavenly, its fragrant aroma perfumed the galley and our entire end of the dock. As for the taste, well we ate the whole thing... slice by slice... one after another... until it was gone. No adjustments required on timing or ingredients.  

The three remaining loaves, still warm from the oven, were enthusiastically received by a few of the sailboat crew. As I walked away I heard them debating whether to enjoy them right away with a glass of wine, or wait and share them with the rest of the guys when they returned from fishing. We left the dock at dawn the next morning, before anyone else stirred, so I don’t know if the flatbread was a hit or a miss. I’ll assume the best; after all, who can resist fresh bread? At least I never saw any bread chunks floating in the saltwater.

Update 3/30/2014: Rod (a dock neighbor at the Goose Bay Cannery) caught up with us in Campbell River and reported the flatbread was delicious with the guys' late night seafood chowder dinner, and greatly appreciated. I guess the herbs made it a hit, not a miss.

Flatbread with Fresh Herbs

yields 4 small loaves

2 pkg (1/4 oz each) dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (abut 115 F)
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ cups AP white flour
1 ½ cups semolina flour
1 tsp salt
2 TB herb-floavored extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup assorted fresh herbs, chopped (I used oregano, thyme, Italian parsley)
Additional all-purpose flour as needed
More flavored olive oil and any toppings of your choice (optional) 

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and the AP flour. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Dough should be the consistency of a thick cake batter.

Cover lightly with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm spot until bubbles and lightens, usually 30 to 40 minutes. 

At the end of 30 minutes, stir dough and add the semolina flour, salt, and flavored olive oil. Mix well. Place dough on a floured surface and knead well for about 8 minutes, adding just enough additional AP flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Form the dough into four balls. At this point, you can freeze the dough for later use or make it into flatbread immediately.

Roll or press a dough ball into an oval about 1/2 inch thick. If dough resists, let it rest for a few seconds, then continue shaping. Each ball should make a 12-to-13 inch flatbread. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet; brush lightly with seasoned olive oil and add any optional toppings. Prick here and there with a fork to minimize gas bubbles. Repeat with remaining dough balls - you will need a second prepared baking sheet. Let the loaves rest until dough lightens a bit.
Bake in the middle of a preheated 450 degree F oven until top and bottom crusts are golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack

Note: 8/29/14
I have submitted this to #TwelveLoaves, my very last-minute link to recipes from an inspiring group of bakers who work with a different theme each month. The August 2014 theme is Summer Herbs. This month our hostess is Sherron from Simply Gourmet.

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