Post 262

A Recipe for July

So what do you like? Apricots, strawberries, peaches or plums? The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook tells you how to make fruit cobbler with nine different fresh fruits.

Here’s how you make the filling part:

Apricots: Take 1 3/4 pounds of apricots, halve and pit them and add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, half to two-thirds of a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 a teaspoon of almond extract.

Blackberries: Take 6 cups of blackberries, rinse them, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Blueberries: Take 6 cups of blueberries, rinse them, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

Cherries (sour): Take 1 3/4 pounds of fresh sour cherries, stem and pit them and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 2/3 to 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of almond extract and 1 tablespoon of kirsch (cherry brandy).

So alphabetically, the next one up is plums, but I think won’t go there because four choices is enough. You can always go online for more recipes if you want more.

Besides, you know what St. Hildegard of Bingen said about plums.

I always wondered, after hearing that plums were described as a fruit to avoid, what the deal was with plums. Aren’t all foods equally good?

Sure, sure.

Just ask Adam and Eve.

: )

Seriously, though, not all foods are good for all people at all times. We know human instances of this, but we also know biblical instances of this. It’s about context and about intention. Is there anything wrong with pork? Not really, but Tobit was right in refusing to eat it. How about ‘strong drink’? Again, it depends on the context. St. John the Baptist acted rightly in refusing that. It was revealed to St. Peter that all foods were fair game, but that does mean that, from then on, all foods are fine at all times?  Well, let’s see. You don’t have a full-on barbeque on Good Friday, do you?

So what about plums?

Ah, it’s complicated, as Shakespeare would say.

I figured it out about plums. If you are (or should be, due to your calling,) highly sensitive to the spiritual quality of various objects, in the sense that you are aware that this painting is inspired and that one with multiple heads is very much not, and in the sense that you are aware that this textile design is inspired and that freaky snaky one is very much not, and in the sense that you are aware that this lattice work is inspired and that one is very much not, then you might want a break when you turn to your food, and it might be best if maybe you do. It might be best to take a pass on the black fruit whose insides are golden but stained with red.

That’s all. It’s nothing weirder than that. Sure, all fruits are good, in the same way that almost everything in nature and most man made practical objects are good, given the right context and use.

Some people are just meant to avoid certain things which are fine for others. In the physical realm, little Pip might need to avoid cabbage, while little Estella might need to avoid caviar. The doctors and scientists are stumped as to why. Is the spiritual world more or less complicated that that? Does it not have its quirks and its mysteries? Indeed, it does, and you won’t catch WiseOne eating any lamb.

As for the reason for these spiritual quirks, at the risk of delaying this time-sensitive post past midnight Mountain Standard Time, let me explain.

It’s simple. It’s a test. How do you react upon hearing that such-and-such is off-limits for you, right now? How do you react upon realizing that eating this snack will jeopardize your pre-Mass fast? Are you looking forward to your Ash Wednesday ‘meal’? The Church regulations about food are minimal if you’re Catholic, and certainly they are nowhere near the modern in-vogue notions about cholesterol and omega-3 and anti-oxidants and fermented everything, but there are still a few hurdles. There are still a few times when a Wanna will battle a Mustn’t.

In the same way that you can see the caring of a mother who prepares special meals for her sensitive child, though it costs her extra time, money and effort, you can sometimes see the devotion that a person has for Christ in his dealings with food. Mind you, food is so often a very private matter, so you may not see or hear about a sacrifice like that. And indeed, hopefully you won’t be quite so vocal about all of your Lenten choices. Only God should know if you gave up that cup of coffee today and yesterday and the day before yesterday and you’re not counting, but . . . (An addictive drink is good because why again?) Only God should know if you skipped a meal just for him. My point is that our lives are full of choices, as they should be, and though it is true to say that all foods are good, one of the expressions of our love for God can be through our use or avoidance of food. It’s all about context and intention.

Okay, so let’s say you have the intention to make a dessert, but you’re undecided as to which one to choose.

Let me suggest:

Fruit Cobbler

Serves: 6 to 8 people
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes (includes 50 minutes baking and cooling time)

While the fruit is baking, prepare the ingredients for the topping, but do not stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until just before the fruit comes out of the oven. Baking a cobbler on a baking sheet helps to catch any juices that spill over, and lining it with foil makes cleanup a snap.

1 recipe fruit filling [see above for 4 examples]
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fruit filling in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake until the fruit begins to release liquid, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. While the fruit is baking, whisk the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla together. In a third bowl, toss the cinnamon with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

3. Once the fruit filling has begun to release liquid, gently stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula unti the dough is just combined and no dry pockets remain.

4. Remove the cobbler filling from the oven and stir. Pinch the biscuit dough into 8 equal pieces and place them on top of the hot filling, spaced 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar.

5.Remove the cobbler to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Let the cobbler cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

If you don’t have fresh fruit, this cookbook (America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) tells me that you can use 2 pounds of frozen; you just have to remember to double the amount of cornstarch stated in the fresh-fruit version of the recipe. Preparation is a breeze because you don’t have to thaw the fruit before using it, as long as you increase the baking time in step one to 60 minutes.

And it also mentions that if you want to make this ahead of time, then you can bake it, cool it, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature. To reheat it, put it into a 350-degree oven until it’s warm, about 10 to 15 minutes.

There’s nothing like a warm fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream.