Monday, September 22, 2014

Tuscan Tomato Basil Soup

We have a favorite soup that comes from the Safeway deli...a zippy tomato and basil bisque.  Here's my version of that I make in fall when the tomatoes are plentiful.  I'm sure it could also be made with canned tomatoes...but fresh is always better.  It also freezes be enjoyed later. 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes (or 4 cups canned diced tomatoes)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon thyme or oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup cream (or 1/2 cup milk and  1/2 cup sour cream)

  1. Heat olive oil in large pot, over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper.  Cook and stir for about 10 minutes, or until soft.  
  3. Add broth, squash, tomatoes, basil and thyme (or oregano).
  4. Cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, or until very tender. 
  5. Purée soup in a blender (in small batches).
  6. Return pot to stove and re-heat on medium-low heat.
  7. Add seasonings and cream and heat until steaming, stirring as necessary.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Damson Plum ~ Jam, vinaigrette and plum sauce

Damson plums are a beautiful fruit from a bygone era...and often hard to find in this modern age. They are a European variety of plum that originated in England and around the Black Sea.  Damson plums are small, round and dark purple with intense colour and flavour...which makes them perfect for jams, jellies and preserves.

Here in the Fraser Valley, they are ripe for the picking in September...just as summer is about over. We happen to have friends with Damson plum trees on their yard and have enjoyed many delicious gourmet treats from these wee plums in recent years.  

The downside to preserving Damsons is that most varieties are not freestone, so removing the pits can be a bit of a challenge.  The simplest way to do that is to simmer the plums and then pick out the pits by hand.  Here's how:

  • Wash and pick over the plums.
  • For every 8 cups of  plums add 3 cups water. 
  • Combine the plums and water in a large heavy-bottomed pot. 
  • Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Allow to cool enough to handle and then fish out the pits.
*I put them through an old-fashioned food mill (the kind with the wooden pestle), and then removed the pits from the pulp left left behind with gloved hands. The pulp goes back into the plum mixture.

Damson Plum Jam:
  • 6 cups prepared plums
  • 4 cups sugar
Measure the plum puree into a large heavy-bottomed pot.  (For every cup of prepared plums, add 2/3 cup of sugar. You can cook up slightly larger or smaller batches than the one posted here.)
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
While stirring, continue to boil rapidly for 20 minutes...or until mixture coats the stirring spoon.
As the jam cooks, remove any pits you may have missed.
Remove from the heat; stir and skim for several minutes.
Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.

This makes a soft-set jam...perfect for spreading on biscuits or breads.  Damson plum jam is also a great addition to sauces and dressings.

 Plum Sauce:

  • 1 cup plum jam
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Allow to cool; store covered in the refrigerator.
*Serve with chicken or with pork.

Plum Vinaigrette Dressing: 
  • 5 tablespoons Damson plum jam
  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  •   salt and freshly ground pepper  to taste
  1. In a blender, pulse the preserves, vinegar, and mustard until smooth.
  2. Slowly add the oil until smooth. 
  3. Add the onions, salt, and pepper; pulse briefly. 
  4. Refrigerate in a bottle.
This dressing goes well with a salad of mixed greens, chopped red onion, fruit (peaches or nectarines), feta cheese and toasted almonds or pecans.
* * * * * 
Those are a few of the Damson plum dishes we have enjoyed here recently.  These are not my grandma's Damson plum recipes however.  She baked Platz (coffee cake) using this delectable fruit.  It tasted great but should have come with a warning attached...beware of pits!
Have you got a Damson plum memory, recipe or story you would like to share with us?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Frozen Peach Pie Filling

Everything has been coming up peaches around here lately...and now is the time to stock the freezer with one of my favorite fruits.  I clipped this recipe from a newspaper many decades ago...and have used it often through the years.  Freeze the peach pie filling in 9-inch pie plates lined with several thicknesses of plastic wrap.  When you are in pie making mode, just remove the pie-shaped frozen filling and set into a pastry lined pie pan.  Bring the taste of summer to your winter table!

  • 9 pounds fresh peaches
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Fruit Fresh (fruit preservative)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Line four 9" pie plates with several thicknesses of plastic wrap, allowing wrap to extend 5 inches beyond rim of pan.
  2. Scald and peel about 9 pounds peaches.  
  3. Slice and measure 16 cups.
  4. Combine sugar and Fruit Fresh. 
  5. Add to sliced peaches along with tapioca, lemon juice and salt.
  6. Divide filling evenly among the pans.
  7. Loosely cover each filling with extended wrap and freeze until firm.
  8. Once filling is frozen solid, remove from pans and wrap tightly.
  9. Return to freezer until needed.
To make up pie:
  • Pastry for 2-crust 9" pie
  • 1 frozen block of peach pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Line pie plate with pastry.
  2. Remove block of peach pie filling from freezer.  Unwrap and place into pastry lined pie plate. Do not thaw.
  3. Dot with butter.
  4. Cover with top crust and seal edges well.  
  5. Cut several small slits near center of crust.
  6. Bake at 425°F for 45 minutes; lower temp to 350°F and bake an additional 20-30 minutes (until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown).