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Happy-Gourmand

Fall's flying fairies

It’s official – fall is here.

I have gotten over the initial shock of the seasons changing, and now I am working to soak in the magic of autumn.

I am not looking forward to getting up in the dark, but I’m adjusting to the idea of long pants and sweaters. It’s chilly on my scooter in the mornings now – no more bare legs of summer for this girl.

The pears and squash have arrived at the market – the signal that fall is well underway. The best thing is just to grin and bear it, and see the light that shines through those autumn clouds.

I believe there are fairies that help with just that kind of thing on dreary days….

Have you ever walked through an orchard on a dark day? If there is sun through the clouds, especially in the morning, it has a magical effect.

I walk with Simon and Ella every morning through the trees, and this time of year, the pears look like they have been lit from within.

It’s as if we are wandering through some secret pathway where the fairies have left the lanterns lit to guide you on your way. And if you eat one of those pears, the taste is magical too.

The canned pears of my youth tasted nothing like the ambrosia I am fortunate enough to sample most mornings in September at Rabbit Hollow.

You can tell it’s the fairies that do this work because their playful rings are everywhere of late. Do you have tiny mushrooms growing in your grass? I bet if you do, you will see the circular patterns in how they grow.

They are left behind after the magical chants the fairies sing as they dance in a circle at night. Did you know that?

Did anyone ever tell you why you should polish an apple when you pick it off a tree? That’s because you need to make sure you don’t eat too much fairy dust.

It falls off as they fly by, playing their games in the dark. Too much fairy dust can make you giddy.

I am hoping the fairies can clear the way for a bit more sunshine. I have tomatoes still to ripen, and plums to pick for jam, and tomatillos and peppers that want more time too.

I know those fairies are dancing through the night, making every moment count. When the geese fly and the cold winds blow, they have to fly away too.

Jack Frost owns the winter season, and he only tolerates winter fairies with their skates when he is in town.

I’m taking a lesson from the fall fairies, enjoying my morning pears and frolicking in the grass with my dogs. I wonder what would happen if we danced in a circle?



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The taste of melancholy

The days are still sunny – thankfully, we even have blue skies – and wearing shorts and T-shirts is still not out of the question, but fall is coming.

When I walk the dogs in the morning, the air has a chill, and the sun is peeking over the hill noticeably later every day. Most of all what I notice is the taste of fall.

All summer long I munched on fresh fruit – apricots, cherries, and then peaches all fresh off the trees. They were luscious and juicy, sweet and flavourful. Their colours even seem to advertise summer with all those warm tones of orange and red.

Now though, the pears are in season, and as much as I love the floral and honey flavours in a freshly picked pear they make me a bit sad. They remind me that summer is over.

Pears are the perfect symbol of autumn with their more reserved appearance and muted flavours. I admire their character.

However, I find pears remind me of getting back to more formal routines and more structured tastes. I am one of those people who doesn’t give summer up easily. If melancholy has a taste, it tastes like the first fresh pear of fall.

Pears can be elegant; they are used as a design element in some homes through paintings and sculpture. We don’t eat pears just like that, the way we munch on summer fruit.

They like to be prepared, even if it’s with a cheese platter. Poached pears are like a work of art on a plate in their minimalist style, and even pear butter can have a refined taste and texture.

Since I’m in a rebellious mood, I’d like to offer up a recipe that is a bit more unusual. The pears offer a beautiful flavour but served face down in this tart they show off a more casual presentation.

I learned how to make Pear Tart Bourdaloue when I lived in France, and it remains one of my favourite desserts, only made in pear season.

It’s an old French recipe that dates back hundreds of years and is still made in many pastry shops.

I hope you don’t think I’m trying to present a case for eating one’s way out of a blue funk. (That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the odd cookie or spoonful of ice cream to cheer me up…)

Think of this as an outside-the-box experience, a way to ease into the autumnal season with a rustic dish. It’s like wearing shorts and sandals even when the temperature starts to dip a little, or sitting on the patio wearing a sweater.

PEAR TART BOURDALOUE

For the pastry

  • 1 2⁄3 cups flour
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. chilled butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 2 1⁄4 cups sugar
  • 4 Bosc pears, peeled
  • 2⁄3 cup blanched sliced almonds
  • 1⁄3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 1⁄3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. chilled butter
  • 1⁄2 cup (approx.. 6) crushed Amaretti cookies

Method

Sift together flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or your fingers. Stir together egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, then work into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add 3 tbsp. ice water, 1 tbsp. at a time, mix until dough holds together, then form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out dough into a 14'' round on a lightly floured surface; ease into a 12'' tart pan with removable bottom and prick all over with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and set shell aside to cool. Do not turn off oven.

For filling, bring 4 cups water and 1 1⁄2 cups sugar to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, halve pears, and poach until tender, 20–25 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then cut out cores.

Combine 1⁄3 cup almonds and icing sugar in a food processor. Grind just until fine. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk and heat till warm in a small saucepan over medium heat. Combine eggs, remaining sugar, and flour in a large saucepan.

Slowly whisk in hot milk and cook, whisking, over medium heat until thick, 3–6 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add almond meal and butter, and stir until butter melts. Set aside to cool.

Spoon cooled custard into tart shell. Lay pears, stem end in to the centre, in custard and bake until crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle amaretti and remaining almonds on top of tart, dust with icing sugar, and broil until brown, about 2 minutes.

Tart can be eaten warm or cold.



Do you like leftovers?

We had a discussion this week about leftovers, and how sometimes even though we put them in the fridge use they sometimes disappear into the nether regions and reappear in another (much less desirable) form later.

This is unfortunately a sign of the bounty we live with. I dislike wasting food, so we try our best to use everything. But did you know that in some cultures it is a sign of respect for the host to leave a few bites of food on your plate?

In North American kitchens, it has generally been the rule that you were to clean your plate. You probably got the same speech I did as a kid: “There are people starving in Africa, don’t be wasting anything.” 

Even the crusts on a sandwich were not to be left on a plate.

Leftovers in our house are something to be used, often creatively. We all know the many permutations of cooked turkey that occur after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There is a charming dish from England called “bubble and squeak” made from pan-frying the leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables, which is then served with the cold meat.

Many casseroles come from using up combinations of leftover ingredients. (Fried rice and paella can work this way, too — the idea was obviously not unique to this side of the ocean.)

Usually, the problem arises when there is a large amount of one food. You can only eat so many bowls of turkey soup after having had turkey lasagna, hot turkey sandwiches, turkey cacciatore, turkey burritos…

It occurs to me that the best time for an enemy to launch a sneak attack would be in the week following Christmas, as we all have enough tryptophan in our systems to make us just this side of comatose.

Here are a few bits of leftover trivia for you:

  • Did you know that Australia is trying to ban the “doggy bag” in restaurants, to avoid people consuming food they didn’t keep at proper temperatures?
  • If you love crossword puzzles, remember the word “ort” – it is another word for a leftover
  • Did you know that Tupperware was really invented by Mr. Tupper? Earl Silias Tupper started the company in 1946, and was one of the pioneers of home-based marketing with the home parties he created. It is now sold in over 100 countries.

In our house, I am the one who eats or prepares many of the leftovers. I love leftovers for lunch. Cold pizza is a great lunch treat.

I should include the warning that you need to put your leftover pizza in the fridge; even the USDA is sure to advise college students that although it will keep for three to four days, that is only true if you use the fridge.

Leftover veggies can be added to omelettes, soups or burritos. Leftover meat can be used for sandwiches as well as with the veggies.

Of course, with the advent of the microwave, the simple act of warming up a dish has become a standard. I remember my Mom used to warm things up in the electric frying pan; do they even make those anymore?

The one caveat to eating leftovers is that you should still take the time to enjoy the food. We seem to be so focused on going at mach speed that eating sometimes takes a back seat.

I have been guilty of eating lunch at my desk many days, and I can tell you that it doesn’t taste nearly as good as when I took the time to stop to enjoy it, especially with a bit of company to wash it down.

Ideally, fresh food is best, but if you have something left over then the good old internet has recipes galore to try. There are even apps that will find you recipes with ingredients you list.

I have had good success with Yummly. If you are finding you consistently make more than you can eat, perhaps that’s just a sign to invite friends over for dinner. (I’m free most Thursday nights if you need a chair filled.)



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Six of one, half dozen of

Every once in a while someone will look at me funny.

First, I wonder if I have something on my shirt or a cowlick in my hair, but then I realize it’s because I have uttered one of those expressions that puzzle people.

I grew up including sayings such as this week’s title in my vocabulary, so sometimes I forget that everyone isn’t aware of what they mean. It made me wonder what other signature phrases may go right over people’s heads…

My Gramps was famous for expressions, and made-up words for things. If you were around him enough as I was when I was young, then it was easy to know what he meant by “hand me the thing-um-a-jig in the whats-ummy there in the corner” (read: pass me the spatula in the drawer, so I can flip the pancakes).

He also used some words that do really exist in dictionaries, but you might not think they would… like “flibbertigibbet”. You know, as in “That Mrs. So-and-so was a real flibbertigibbet, keeping you at the fence all afternoon with her chatter if you weren’t careful."

I loved hearing words like that. I used to think that it must have been my Gramps who invented cool words. I figured he gave Mary Poppins the idea for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

I tried to look up “six of one…” to see if there was an interesting story behind it, but I couldn’t find anything except that the saying has existed since the 1800s.

It means,of course, that two alternatives are equal. “Shall we take Main Street or the back way home?” Gramps would reply,” It’s six of one, half dozen of the other."

The most interesting twist to all this is that he also used an alternative: “One horse, one rabbit." This phrase was used in the same way, although I am not sure how horses and rabbits could be interchangeable.

The more time I spent with my Gramps, the more easily I came to understand all his sayings and habits. It became something special between us. We were like two peas in a pod. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

I have had the good fortune to develop many special relationships in my life, one of the current ones being with my husband. We met working in the kitchen, and we still cook together often. It seems many expressions exist around cooking and eating, and since Martin is a francophone, he has even more sayings that he brings from his mother tongue.

The other day I was making raspberry sauce for a trifle and we had to cool it down, so we poured it from the pot into a bowl and Martin said, “Just put its bum in the water.”

There was a larger bowl half full of water sitting on the counter, so I knew just what he meant. He said the same thing about the herbs I washed for garnish. I put their bums in water, too. It made me feel special knowing that I could keep up with what he needed.

It’s fun to share a special moment with someone close. I got the same cozy feeling as when I tasted the trifle later.

I suppose I could get quite corny at this point, “going whole hog” on the food expressions or on cute little ditties about the poignancy of friendship. But that would really “take the cake," don’t you think?

(Did you know that comes from cake walk competitions in the 1800s? They were something like musical chairs only the last person left got to “take the cake” as a prize.)

Here’s to good times shared with loved ones – if you’re not sure how to find any of either, here’s a trifle recipe. You can use it as an excuse to invite friends over.

Remember that old saying, “Eat, drink and be merry!”



More Happy Gourmand articles

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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