fruit

Red, White and Blue Dessert

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(From the archives. If you're planning a big Fourth of July party, consider this very colorful, cool dessert, which I made for a party several years ago. There are a lot of steps involved, but you can cut corners with storebought meringue and sugar cookies if you prefer. Originally published in July 2006 (!))

I love outdoor parties in the summer, especially when it means a barbeque. July the 4th barbeque parties are the best, and I miss them sorely when I am not in the U.S. This year though, we are going to have a July the 4th party on Sunday (since the 4th is not a holiday here), complete with grilled hamburgers, wurst, and chicken. Someone else is going to do all that grilling, so I am making the dessert. continue reading...

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Pasta With Peaches and Basil

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Juucy fragrant peaches work surprisingly well in this summertime appetizer pasta. continue reading...

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Monday photos: Kaki (Persimmons)

Persimmons (kaki)

To me, persimmons or kaki (柿)are the quintessential fall fruit. Although there are by some counts around 1,000 different varieties of persimmons in Japan alone, they can be broadly divided into two types: sweet (amagaki) and bitter or astringent (shibugaki). The ones in the photo above are the sweet kind, which can be eaten as is as soon as they are ripe. continue reading...

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Homemade Umeboshi (Japanese salty pickled plums) - now with troubleshooting notes

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Update: I’ve revised this, possibly the most popular umeboshi recipe in English online, to include some key troubleshooting notes. Originally published June 18, 2009. My mom has been making a batch of umeboshi every year since, and I’ve also added some more notes from her.

My mother came for a visit this week, bringing along a pot of her homemade umeboshi. I asked her to tell me how she makes them; not only did she write it down for me, she even had pictures she’d taken of her attempts in the past couple of years! So, here is my mom’s version of how to make homemade umeboshi. I’ve freely translated her Japanese explanation to English.

My mother [my grandmother - maki] used to make umeboshi every year. When I lived in New York, I was too busy working to do much cooking, let alone umeboshi! But now that I am retired, I’m trying to remember how to do things the old way. Homemade umeboshi is so much more delicious than store bought, so they are worth the effort. continue reading...

Strawberry Jam in copious detail

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I’ve left it until rather late in the season, but here is a recipe for a a very straightforward strawberry jam. continue reading...

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Shopper's Guide to Pesticides iPhone App

3 years ago, I mentioned a handy list of produce ranked by how much pesticide is used to grow them. The higher (=more pesticides) the ranking, the better it would be to stick to organically grown.

I recently got a new iPhone (yes…I’m the very opposite of an Early Adopter of tech gadgets) and discovered that the same list is available as a free iPhone app called DirtyProduce. Here’s a screenshot of the opening page:

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It doesn’t do much beyond list the Dirty Dozen (the most heavily pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables), the Clean 15 (the last pesticide-used) and the full list of 47 produce items, but it’s handy to have around with you. Who knew for instance that peaches were the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable? I tend not to peel my peaches, and I ate, oh I don’t know, a few tons of them over the summer. I may start peeling them next season, or look for non-treated ones.

Anyway, if you do have an iPhone, take a look. And if you don’t, there is still the PDF list to print out and carry in your wallet.

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Homemade Umeshu (plum wine) and Ume Hachimitsu Sour (ume honey-vinegar drink)

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Since so many people liked my mom’s umeboshi recipe, here are two more recipes using ume plums from her. She doesn’t have photos for these, so I’ve taken a picture of her notes, with a little illustration she did of how to layer the ume and sugar for the umeshu (plum wine). continue reading...

Real breakfast: Summer breakfast smoothie

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Full fruity smoothies are a summer indulgence. continue reading...

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Nature has the best recipe

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At the moment, cherries are everywhere here in Switzerland. Roadside signs proclaim “Kirschen” or “Chriesli” (the Swiss-German dialect for cherries), luring you to farms and fruit groves and farm stores. They’re on sale at the Migros supermarket too, for the busy person to pick up in a hurry.

When I get started on cherries, I can’t seem to stop until I’ve had my fill, and I do mean fill, of that sweet, dark juice with a hint of sourness. Fresh cherries are so good that I just can’t bring myself to do anything more than pop them in my mouth one after another, methodically spitting out the pits. I know there are numerous cherry recipes out there, but as delicious as things like cherry pie and cherry clafouti are, there’s really nothing to beat the naked, unadorned cherry. continue reading...

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Fresh is really best- a 'doh' moment

Everyone knows in theory that the fresher the vegetables, the better they are. But I think that many of us fall into the habit of buying a bit too many vegetables, storing them in the fridge, and using them as long as they haven’t rotted away or become science experiments in some form. You know, things like carrots and celery, apples and other rather indestructible produce.

But once you see how produce does deteriorate, you start to wonder. Case in point I had some rhubarb stalks left over, and stored in the fridge for about a week after I bought them. (Normally I cook rhubarb right away, but it was cheap at the market so we’d bought more than we needed.) So, yesterday I took them out - they looked crisp and perfectly fine - and turned them into rhubarb crumble pie. continue reading...

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Rhubarb berry trifle

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On rhubarb, stewed fruit and England

I first saw this curious plant called rhubarb during the time we lived for 5 years in Berkshire, England. I was 5 when we moved there. The rhubarb grew like a small jungle in a corner of the vegetable patch of the house we were renting, alongside some equally puzzling gooseberry bushes. Neither existed at all in Japan at the time, and my mother was at a loss as to what to do with them, until our next door neighbor lady told her how to stew them. The neighbor lady believed in stewing most fruit - she told my mother to stew or jam all of the raspberries too, since eating them raw may lead to upset small tummies. Thankfully my mother didn’t take her advice for all of the raspberries, and I still have memories of stickily enjoying bowls and bowls of red, ripe raspberries with clouds of whipped cream. One of the first things I did when I got my own garden was to plant several raspberry canes.

Stewed and cooked fruit figures quite prominently in my memories of English food at the time. This was in the ’70s. Whenever I was invited to tea at a friend’s house, there was usually always some sort of cooked fruit dish, be it a compote of peaches in the summer or apple and blackberry pie later on in the year. I think we only ate fresh, raw fruit at home, except for bananas and strawberries. I didn’t even know that gooseberries could be anything other than sour, green and only edible stewed with sugar, until I came to Switzerland and saw them left to ripen on a bush, turning a bright reddish-purple.

That penchant for cooking fruit does mean that there are many terrific fruity desserts (aka puddings) in British cookbooks. One of them is trifle. I’m in the midst of my annual rhubarb orgy period, and it’s one ‘fruit’ (though it’s botanically a vegetable) that needs to be cooked. Hence, the rhubarb trifle.

The slightly modernized trifle

A trifle is small pieces of sponge cake soaked in a sweet, fruity liquid, and topped with custard or cream. Some versions of trifle are quite alcoholic, but this one has no alcohol in it since I imagine my 8 year old self tucking into it. The components are simple: the fruit-liquidy mix, the cake, and the creamy topping. The key part that makes this trifle different is the rhubarb soaking liquid part, which is quite sour and not too sweet. I’ve added a few frozen berries (raspberries from last summer’s crop in fact) to make the red color more intense - if you have fresh strawberries by all means use those instead.

Trifle is traditionally topped with custard, cream or both. Here I have combined the two so to speak and topped it with vanilla ice cream instead - this is the slightly modernized part. It’s homemade but you can use a good store bought ice cream if you don’t want to bother, or don’t have an ice cream maker.

I think that the key to a good trifle is to not overload it with sponge cake, which makes it go rather stodgy. Add just a few pieces for the interesting texture. Note that I’ve used pieces of store bought roll cake here (called Swiss roll in England, but not really Swiss as far as I know) which adds some extra flavor. You can assemble it all in a big bowl, or in individual glasses as I’ve done here.

This is my pre-planned entry for Sam’s Fish and Quips event celebrating British food. See also my other two British-theme posts this week, Tasting Guinness Marmite and The Edwardians and their food. continue reading...

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Rhubarb, ginger and berry smoothie to chase away a cold

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I have a raging cold at the moment. Stuffed head, fever, ringing ears, streaming eyes, the lot. What makes it worse is that the weather is glorious outside, and here I am stuck inside, groaning a lot and feeling sorry for myself.

In times like this the only things I can even think about eating and drinking are fruity yogurt, juices, and tea. This smoothie, which is an adaptation from a recipe in the adorable Innocent Smoothie Recipe Book, combines two of those elements and is tart yet spicy in a nice chest-clearing sort of way. It also tastes wonderful. Although, I’m pretty sure it would taste even better if my mouth didn’t feel like cotton wool.

It’s a good thing I took this picture against the clear blue spring skies before the cold took over at full steam. continue reading...

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Fake strawberries

It smells like spring, and it feels like spring. It was so warm today that we left the windows open all day, and the garden is covered with snowdrops and wild pansies. And, there were strawberries! on sale! at the supermarket. They looked so red and tempting, I bought two boxes. By the time they got home though, some were already bruised beyond repair. The rest? Hard and sour, or tasting moldy in an odd way.

I guess I have to wait a couple more months for the real thing.

On a brighter note though, this felt strawberry cake from etsy seller kenshop looks nearly good enough to eat:

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I wonder if I am alone in finding comfort in imitation food when the real thing doesn’t satisfy… continue reading...

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Produce: Grapes

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Let's start this with an important question. When you eat grapes, do you: continue reading...

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Produce: Plums, plus plum jam

To me, plums are like the last gasp of summer before fall settles in. They are related to other summer stone fruit, like peaches and apricots, but they have a much more elusive flavor.

Plums continue reading...

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Summer berry and lemon verbena jelly

The tall, willowy plant with the long, narrow leaves waved around in the breeze, behind the rows of neat balls of mini-basil. Wondering what it was, I stretched out a hand and rubbed a leaf.

Immediately, my senses were filled with a lemony, refined aroma. It was like a lemon scented geranium, but not quite. It was like lemon balm, but not as minty. The sunburned, kindly faced owner of the market stall said that it was verveine. He went into a long explanation, of which I understood perhaps half, about how to care for the plant. I nodded ernestly and took notes. continue reading...

Weekend project: Peaches poached in red wine

Summer is slowly drawing to a close. Sure it's mid-August, and the weather here has actually warmed up since the cold spell we had around the beginning of the month. But I can tell that summer is now an old lady because the taste of some produce is already changing. Peaches for instance. They were so sweet and juicy just a few days ago, but the ones I've bought the last few days are already either a bit too hard, a bit too sour, or rather mushy (showing they've been 'ripened' after being picked). continue reading...

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Produce: Pluots and donut peaches

Pluots and donut peaches Pluots in the foreground, and donut peaches to the right. In the back are a white nectarine and a white peach. continue reading...

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Let's hear it for ugly fruit

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A common complaint that food lovers and cooks have with supermarkets is that they sell smooth, perfect looking fruits that are hard and tasteless. Tomatoes and peaches come to mind as the top offenders. continue reading...

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Back Home, and the Essence of June

I'm back home after spending an amazing two weeks in Provence, not to mention the three days before that in the Bourgogne (Burgundy). My sunburned skin feels a wee bit tender and is about the color of milk tea - brown with a decided reddish undertone. My head is bursting with ideas and thoughts and recipes, and I have more than 4,000 photos to sort through (not all of them of food, but a good amount are!) Chances are, you'll be reading a lot of these beautiful areas of France in the next few days around here. continue reading...

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Fantasy Strawberries

Although we can get mediocre strawberries now year-round, and even decent ones from warmer climates starting in late April or so, around these parts and in many of the chillier areas of the northern hemisphere, June marks the real start of the season. continue reading...

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Baked Early Rhubarb

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Here in the central part of Europe we have had a ton of snow over the past few days. In our corner of Switzerland we had about half a meter (about 19 inches) of the fluffy white stuff descend on us over the weekend.

In spite of that, there is a definite sign that spring is almost here: rhubarb is back in the stores! continue reading...

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Strawberry, strawberry

This monster strawberry, that looks like - and was the size of - 3 regular strawberries all fused together, showed up in a batch bought some days ago, and since then I haven't been able to look at any strawberries at the store without a twinge of fear.

Scary_strawberry continue reading...

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Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

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We are starting to get good fresh strawberries now. They are being shipped from places like Spain and Italy, which is not quite the same as the freshly picked ones that will be available from local sources in a few weeks. Still, they are much better than the real long-distance travelers from places like Israel and California with woody insides that are sold out of season. continue reading...

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