Poached Pears w Syrup & Chocolate Sauce

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          For a whole day she traveled without food, and as night came on she found herself near one of the royal gardens. By the light of the moon she could see many trees laden with beautiful fruit, but she could not reach them because the place was surrounded by a moat full of water. She had been without a morsel to eat the whole day, and her hunger was so great that she could not help crying out, ‘Oh, if I were only able to get some of that delicious fruit! I shall die unless I can obtain something to eat very soon.’
          Then she knelt down and prayed for help, and while she prayed a guardian fairy appeared and made a channel in the water so that she was able to pass through on dry ground.
          When she entered the garden the fairy was with her, although she did not know it, so she walked to a tree full of beautiful pears, not knowing they had been counted.
          Being unable to pluck any without hands, she went quite close to the tree and ate one with her mouth as it hung. One, and no more, just to stay her hunger. The gardener, who saw her with the fairy standing near her, thought it was a spirit, and was too frightened to move or speak.
          After having satisfied her hunger, the maiden went and laid herself down among the shrubs and slept in peace.

–”The Maiden Without Hands”, The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, 1981 Chatham River Press.

The next night, with the fairy’s help, the maiden eats another pear and is discovered by the king who takes her in and befriends her, and gradually falls in love with her. After silver hands, marriage, separation by war, the birth of a son, intercepted and deviously altered letters, fleeing the castle and finding a safe haven, eventual regrowth of hands, and reuniting after seven years, I imagine a celebratory feast would include these beautiful pears as a symbol of the first time the maiden and the king met. This recipe is also known as ‘Belle Helene’ or ‘Beautiful Helen’ (‘Birne Helene’ in German), inspired by the comedy operetta of the same name (“La Belle Helene”) written by German-born composer Offenbach, which in turn is based on the Greek story of Helen of Troy’s elopement with prince Paris.

Poached Pears w Syrup & Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Pears (concord & bosc varieties are good for cooking)
  • 3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Broken up Dark German Chocolate Bar (~70% cocoa is great)
  • Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream

In a medium-large, heavy bottomed pot, over medium-low heat, combine the 1st 5 ingredients & heat until the sugar dissolves, creating a sugar syrup. Turn the heat to low. Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact, & then slice a little bit off the bottoms so that the bottoms are level. Take out as much of the cores as you can without breaking the pears, & then place them in the pot, turning them around to coat in the syrup. Cover the pot & let simmer for about 5 minutes, & then turn the pears & spoon syrup over them. Cover again & wait another 5 mins & turn again & spoon syrup. Continue to turn the pears occasionally & coat with syrup until the pears are tender & a fork or knife can easily slide into them, about 20 mins or so. Turn off the heat & carefully transfer the pears to a container in which they can stand upright & spoon more syrup over them. Place them in the freezer to cool for several minutes (this is the quickie way, otherwise let cool in the pot, upright).

Heat the heavy cream in a small bowl in the microwave for about 45-60 seconds, or until hot to the touch. Add in the chocolate pieces & stir until fully melted & smooth. Add in a spoonful or 2 of the syrup from the pot & stir to incorporate. Spoon more syrup over the cooled pears. Place a large scoop/dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream in the center of a serving dish & place an upright cooled pear on top (if using ice cream, create a little crater for the pear to sit in). Spoon more of the syrup over top & serve with the chocolate sauce on the side.

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Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 6: GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES

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Rapunzel Parsley & Hazelnut Pesto Salad

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In the German translation of the Rapunzel tale, the mother of Rapunzel craves lettuce and makes a salad of it once obtained. The Italian and French translations of the story say that the desired plant is parsley. This recipe honors various translations with a simple salad of small leafy greens tossed with a parsley pesto, and also nods to Disney’s “Tangled” with the hazelnut inclusion, which happens to be a common ingredient in early German cooking. Because rampion, which has a parsnip-like root, is also sometimes connected with this story, I’ve included an optional addition to the salad of roasted parsnips. (Note: if you are pregnant, perhaps do not eat this pesto as it’s loaded with parsley. But [ladies] if you want to regulate your menstruation, this pesto might be helpful.)

pesto salad w parsnips

Parsley & Hazelnut Pesto Salad

  • Salad Mix of Small Leafy Greens such as the Wellness Blend from Taylor Farms Organic
  • Pesto
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Italian/Flat Leaf Parsley, stemmed (equals about 2 cups of leaves)
  • 3/4 Cup Roasted & Skinned Hazelnuts + a few more, chopped, for salad topping
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Minced Garlic (or 2 crushed garlic cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt, or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 Cup Oil + more as needed (I used a combination of hazelnut oil & olive oil)
  • Roasted Parsnips (optional)
  • 4 Small Parsnips (the smaller ones tend to be sweeter, the larger ones, more bitter, especially the cores)
  • 2 Tbsp. Hazelnut Oil (olive oil is fine)
  • 2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

If making the roasted parsnips to go on top of the salad, heat your oven to 375ºF & line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the parsnips into french fry-like strips (~ 1/4″x3″) & toss them with the oil & maple syrup. Spread them on the tray in a single layer & bake for about 30-40 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce them.

For the pesto, Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or standing blender & pulse until smooth & vibrant green. Add a little more oil or lemon juice (to taste) if the mixture is too thick/clumpy.

Place a handful of salad mix into a serving bowl & toss with about 1/2 a tablespoonful of pesto to evenly coat. Place several roasted parsnip pieces on top if desired, and then sprinkle the salad with chopped hazelnuts.

Pesto closeup

Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 6: GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES

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Grimm’s Fairy Tales

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Nibble, nibble…mmmm, children…

Diana and Carrie discuss the enchanting but often depressing Grimm’s Fairy tales.

Things we discuss include: German cultural identity, DNA of fairy tales, commonplace starvation, herbal abortion, the beautiful imagery of a handless maiden eating a pear, and lots of recipes and recipe ideas.

Things we completely forget to mention: the resurgence of fairy tales in pop culture, including many, many current TV shows, movies, a books. Oops. We were firmly stuck in 1812 for this one (and a touch in the 1980s).

Recipes

Bonus Recipe: Hazelnut & Parsnip Soup w/ Hazelnut Crackers (for Disney’s “Tangled”) on Diana’s site “Food Adventures in fiction”.

References

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Juniper and Almond Baked Apples

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“The Juniper Tree” is one of the darker stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales which contains many motifs that appear in many of the tales, including the wish of a mother, a wicked stepmother, a clueless father, burial beneath a tree, a magical bird, the eating of children, a violent demise and a happy rebirth.

These baked apples are flavored with piney-scented juniper berries. The recipe I referenced, Baked Apples with Pine Nuts, Juniper Berries, and Orange uses pine nuts, which sounds delicious. I used almonds as a nod to “The Almond Tree,” (as “The Juniper Tree” is called in some editions), but I think slices would have given a better texture than the slivers I used. I will also likely make these again using sherry instead of orange juice (which I substituted for the brandy in the original recipe).

Juniper and Almond Baked Apples

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers or slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, brandy, or sherry
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat oven to 350°

Core the apples and place in a baking dish. Mix together the brown sugar, crushed juniper berries, butter, salt, almond slivers, all spice, orange zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the orange juice. Spoon the mixture into the apples (it’s ok if you have some leftover).

Mix the orange juice, brandy, or sherry with the water, and pour over apples along with any leftover sugar/almond mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until apples are soft. Check occasionally to make sure almonds don’t burn; if they start to you can tent the dish with foil.

Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 6: GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES

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Leg of Lamb

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Jerry Horne comes into Ben’s office, swinging a huge leg of lamb, gifted by the lovely Icelandic Heba. “Garlic, a little mint, that’s rotisserie heaven!”

I’d never cooked a leg of lamb, or even a beef roast (gaping hole in my repertoire I just discovered and closed, bam), so I looked to The Kitchn for guidance. It assured me that this is one of the easiest cuts, hard to mess up if you follow the guidelines. I adjusted the cooking time since my leg was smaller; where says to cook for an hour, I did mine 45 minutes.

It came out perfectly cooked. Thanks to the Kitchn and creepy, amusing Jerry Horne, we enjoyed it, along with a mint pesto, for Christmas Eve dinner!

Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto

From The Kitchn’s How to Roast a Leg of Lamb

For the lamb

  • 3 pound, bone-in leg of lamb
  • salt & pepper
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped (I could have chopped it a little more finely)
  • Fresh or dried herbs, such as mint or rosemary. I used about a teaspoon of dried mint

Trim as much fat as you want – I removed the thick layer of fat (the fell) which has a strong muttony flavor, but I wasn’t very thorough about trimming the rest.

An hour before cooking, take lamb out of the fridge to allow to come to room temperature (I also left mine uncovered, I think by drying out a little it helps it to form a crust?) Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a large roasting pan.

Heat the broiler, move a rack close to the top, and broil the leg for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and lower the heat to 325° and move the rack to the middle of the oven. Cover lamb with chopped garlic and herbs, and tent with foil. Once the oven has reached the right temperature, cook for 45 minutes and begin checking the temperature. I cooked mine to 340° (it will keep cooking once you remove it from the oven) for medium rare.

Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Carve by cutting slices perpendicular to the bone, then cutting off the bone.

For the mint pesto

  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 4 ounces blanched almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup+ olive oil
  • squirt of lemon juice

In a food processor, combine mint, almonds, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil to make a paste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Before serving, freshen it up with a squirt of lemon juice.

We ate this on Christmas Eve as sandwiches – whole wheat bun, mayo, mint pesto, slices of lamb, slice of tomato – I think Cooper would have liked it as well!

Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 5: TWIN PEAKS

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Twin Peaks

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Diana and Carrie talk the weird and wonderful Twin Peaks. We discuss quirky characters (mostly Jerry, he’s the best), meatloaf, giant ice cream cones, soup of the day, The Great Northern’s interesting clientele, awkward family dinners and inappropriate jokes. Join us for a slice of cherry pie and some damn good coffee.

Recipes

Bonus recipe! Diana’s Cherry Pie at Food Adventures in Fiction

References

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Jerry Horne’s Butter & Brie Baguettes

TP Baguette h w tag txt htmlClick here to watch the baguette clip from S.1 Ep.3.

Jerry’s Baguettes w/ Butter & Brie

  • Long Baguette, cut into 4 equal pieces, or 2 short baguettes
  • Brie Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup (1/2 stick) Butter, room temperature (though you might need more because butter is amazing)
  • 3 Tbsp. Apricot Jam (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together the butter & optional apricot jam until smooth & creamy. Slice the Brie into ~1/4″ thick pieces. Cut the baguettes in half horizontally. Slather butter onto the open baguette halves & then place Brie slices in a single layer on one slice of each bread pair–If you plan on baking your baguettes, only place a line of cheese in the center of the bread, so there is space on either side of the cheese (so when it melts & spreads out it won’t get crazy gooey). If you’re not baking your sandwiches, simply close & enjoy! If you are baking them, place the halves, buttered & cheese sides up, on a baking sheet & bake for 5 minutes in a 375ºF oven. If serving for a gathering, slice the completed sandwiches into ~1 – 1 1/2 inch wide pieces.

TP Baguette Bite w html

Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 5: TWIN PEAKS

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