Sunday, 3 July 2011

Apricot Tart

Yesterday I traveled to Chikuma City. Chikuma is well-known for its apricot orchards. Myself, and a couple of friends visited an orchard and picked apricots together. We had apricot soft cream. It was the most delicious soft cream I have tasted while in Japan!

The apricots we picked were not quite ripe yet. However, in a couple of days, they will be good for jam! I wanted to find some apricots that were ripe for baking and eating soon, so we stopped at a small farm stand run by an old couple. They let us try each of the varieties of apricots that they were selling. The apricots were so juicy and sweet. It was a flavor from my childhood. In Japanese there is a word for something that takes you back to a place of nostalgia. Natsukashii. That aroma was it. I planned to but a kilogram, but instead I bought two. It was also one of those moments that I was aware that my Japanese is not nearly as bad as I make it out to be. I can communicate easily.

I made a apricot tart today. Ripe apricots tossed in sugar and arranged in pate brisee.

My hands are so warm, I forgot how much easier it is to work with chilled dough. A few minutes in the freezer and the dough was ready to work with again!

The apricots I bought at the farm stand were ripe and ready to be eaten. I cut them and tossed them a quarter cup of sugar and a pinch of salt before arranging them in the tart crust. I baked the tart for 40 minutes at 180C (400F)

The finished tart was delicious. Something magical happened in the oven. The apricots became the best they could be. Summer is a delicious time of year.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Mulberry Tree in My Front Yard

The mulberry tree in my front yard
A week ago, black berries began falling from the tree in my front yard. They looked delicious,but my better senses warned me about eating anything wild that I was unfamiliar with. What if they were poison berries! I sure k
new that the birds were eating them by the blueish splatters all over my driveway and house! Until
a couple of days ago, I resisted the temptation to give them a try. That is, until one of my young neighbors asked if she could pick a couple! "What are they," I asked. "Kuwanomi" she replied. A quick look on Jim Breen`s WWWJDIC (the holy grail of Japanese dictionaries), revealed that there was a mulberry tree growing in my front yard!
The berries are plump and juicy. Their flavor is sometimes sweet and sometimes sour, but always delicious. My hands, and garden boots are stained blue.

The mulberry tree is fertile and full. There are enough berries for me to eat my fill, bake a new dish every night, freeze berries for future use and leave some for the birds!

Last night I baked a cobbler with freshly picked mulberries.

Recipe for Mulberry Cobbler
2 cups mulberries, de-stemmed
1/4 cup melted butter (or 1/8th cup, if you are trying to lay off the butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/8 cup sugar to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat oven to 350F (~180C)
2. Mix sugar, flour, baking powder and milk
3. Pour melted butter into a baking pan ( even better, melt the butter in the pan while preheating the oven)
4. pour batter into the pan. do not mix with the butter.
5. pour the berries over the batter. If the berries are very tart, sprinkle more sugar over the top.
6. bake for half an hour, or until the batter has risen and has formed a nice crust.
This batter works well for any fruit. One of my favorite cobblers is peach and blueberry.  Adjust the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of your fruit!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Lately, my family has been frequenting our local farmer's market. The fruits and vegetables we've picked up at the famer's market have gone into all kinds of dishes. Chili rellanos, pizzas, roasted potatoes, calabacitas, peach cobblers, the list goes on! This Sunday I made a tomato, feta and spinach quiche. My family had leftover quiche for dinner yesterday and I packed the last slice in my lunch today. Sitting in the sun while eating a slice of cold quiche was one of the high points of my day!


No Knead Bread

No Knead Bread

My first attempts at making yeast bread without the aid of a bread maker were, well, a bit of a disaster. My crusty white bread usually turned out to be a dense flavorless mess. The positive overwhelmingly positive response to the No Knead Bread recipe printed in the NY Times a couple of years ago prompted me to lift my self imposed white bread ban and once again try my hand a baking bread. The results were brilliant. Four ingredients and 16 hours of waiting yielded crusty, chewy and flavorful bread. Now it's five months later and I'm on my 10th loaf. My family can't get enough!

The end result.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Crunchy in Japan

I spent my year abroad in Japan. While in Japan, I had many delicious and crunchy things. I might not have learned the amount of kanji I should have...but I did learn to navigate the farmer's markets, read Japanese recipes, and find the best places to grab a bite in town from locals!

A street on the Okayama University campus covered with crunchy leaves during autumn.