Peeling and Pureeing Kiwi

I bought a box of kiwis a while back.  With the stress of getting the second draft of my research proposal out and starting my new transcription project, I kind of forgot all about them and they got a little over-ripe.

Not to worry.  I decided to purée them and freeze the purée for later use.  Easy peasy.

Now we all know that Kiwi is one of those super-foods, loaded all sorts of good stuff, including more vitamin C than an orange.  They’re handy things to keep around.  What you may not know is that the kiwi originated from China in the 14th century, and only slowly made its way to New Zealand, where it was renamed from gooseberry to kiwi, after the fuzzy bird it so resembled.  What you may not also know is that there is something called the Arctic kiwi that comes out of Nova Scotia.  It’s kind of like a cross between a gooseberry and a kiwi, and it’s about the size of a grape.  It’s green and missing most of the fuzzy stuff, but tastes pretty much exactly like a sweet bite-sized kiwi.  I think they’re cool.  So does some one else.

This is an interesting fact for you: I am allergic to kiwi skin.  No joke.  If a little hair from that fuzzy stuff touches my tongue it swells up and it’s exceedingly painful.  I have to be very careful about how I prepare kiwi so that I can avoid that discomfort.

To make sure I get all the skin off at once, I first slice off the top and bottom of the fruit.  Then I take a teaspoon (a tablespoon if it’s a bigger kiwi) and insert it in between the skin and the fruit. I run the spoon all the way around to separate the skin from the fruit in one piece.

Then you can simply squeeze out the fruit and compost the peel.

I popped my little kiwis in my blender.

Look at them whir away.

Then I poured the pulp into some novelty ice cube trays for freezing.  I plan to add them to smoothies, drinks, and even soups later on.  When you pop them out they look super cool.  Hen told me this is how she makes baby food, as well.

Fun fact: you can use kiwi purée as an antioxidant exfoliator.  Simply rub a few tablespoons of purée onto clean skin.  Leave 7 to 10 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.  Blamo kablam: a kiwi facial.

Aeble-what?

I happen to own, because I am that awesome, an æbleskiver pan.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” you ask.

Æbleskiver.  It’s a Danish treat using apple slices (it’s Danish for ‘apple slices’).  They’re like small spherical pancakes/popovers with stuff in them.  It’s a food traditionally served with glogg during Advent.  You might be reminded of the commercial knock-off, Pancake Puffs, which have recently come on the market.  ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS!

I have the pan because my mother gave it to me.  She found it at a second-hand store.  Hers came from a relative.  We use ours to make the family recipe for Molasses Gems (don’t worry, I’ll give you the how-to for those later).

Anyway, I figured I might as well experiment and see if I could put the pan to its intended use.

Peel two apples and chop them into 1/2″ pieces.  I found this made me end up with quite a bit of extra apple, but better to be safe than sorry and you can always serve it on the side.

Your æbleskiver pan is cast iron, and will take a little while to heat up thoroughly.  Put it on the burner at medium high heat and leave it while you do other stuff.  Just remember that the handle will also get very hot, so be careful.  We have these handy silicone sleeves we slip onto our metal handles.  You can pick them up pretty much anywhere.

In another pan, sauté the apples in two tablespoons butter until softened but still firm.  Sprinkle them with cinnamon and set aside.

In a clean bowl, whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside.  The eggs will fluff up the best if you bring them to room temperature first.  To do this I put my eggs in a bowl of warm water before separating them.

In another bowl, whisk together your two egg yolks and one tablespoon sugar until creamy.

In yet another bowl, sift together two cups flour with one teaspoon baking powder.  Slowly add this, alternating with one and one-half cups buttermilk, to the yolk mixture.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Test your æbleskiver pan to see if it’s hot enough.  Butter should sizzle on its surface.  Reduce the heat to medium and drop about one-eighth of a teaspoon butter into each little well to grease.  Use a pastry brush to cover all the sides of the well.

Spoon enough batter into each well to fill it halfway.  Drop in an apple piece and press it down bit. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Fill the wells to the top.

Allow to cook until the edges of æbleskiver turn brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a metal or wooden knitting needle (traditional method), skewer, or fork around the edges to loosen the æbleskiver and flip it over inside the well. 

It takes a little bit of practice to do this without getting batter everywhere.  By the end of it, though, I had it down.  Allow to cook through until you can give it a poke and nothing comes out stuck to your skewer.

Remove the æbleskiver to a plate and sprinkle with (or roll in) icing sugar or dip in jam to serve.  Maybe try maple syrup.  Or home-made fruit sauce.  You can of course experiment as well with what goes in the æbleskiver – try other forms of fruit, like mango or strawberry or perhaps something savoury like a nice hard cheese.  Here we have it with whipped cream, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and leftover apples.

Make sure to repeat the buttering process each time you put batter into the wells of the pan.  You can keep the cooked æbleskiver warm on an oven-safe plate in the oven at 250°F while you’re making the other batches.

This recipe makes about 28 æbleskiver, which is four batches in my 7-well pan.

Sweet and Sour Pork, Thai Style

This little hummer (to channel my dad) is on page 210 of 400 Recipes: Wok & Stir-Fry edited by Jenni Fleetwood, which I gave the Pie for Christmas years ago.  I also gave him a wok, which has since self-destructed, but enough about that.

We made this recipe precisely because we had exactly those ingredients in our fridge and we needed to use them up.  And I got to use my new scale on this recipe, too, which was a plus.

Slice yourself up 350g/12oz lean pork (about four small boneless porkchops).  If you put the pork into the freezer for about 30-40 minutes beforehand it will be easy to slice it into thin pieces.  I didn’t do this, and that’s why my pork bits are fat.  But they are happy with the way they look, thank you very much.Cut one small red onion into thin slices (we had half, so were content with that).  Seed a red pepper (see my how-to on doing this quickly) and dice it.  Seed half a cucumber (cut it into quarters and slice off the seed part) and cut it into thin strips.  I misread the recipe at this point so mine ended up in chunks.  Pauvre moi.While you’re in the process of seeding, why don’t you take the seeds out of two plum tomatoes (we used roma) and cut them into wedges as well?  As a finishing touch, cut 115g/4oz of pineapple into chunks (more if you like the stuff, see my how-to on coring) and slice 2 spring onions or scallions (we used 4 green onions) into thin strips.  I set all the veggies in a nice mise en place for the Pie so he’d have everything at hand.  In a small bowl, mix together one tablespoon brown sugar with two tablespoons fish sauce and some ground black pepper.Heat two tablespoons oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Drop in four cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or, if you are us, 4 spoonfuls of garlic in a jar).  Cook over medium heat until golden, then add the pork and stir-fry for four or five minutes.  Slide in the onion slices and toss.

Add your fish sauce mixture and toss over the heat for three or four more minutes.

Drop in your fruits and vegetables and stir-fry for another three to four minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Spoon into a bowl (we served ours over rice) and garnish with more sliced onions or fresh cilantro if that floats your boat.  Serves four.

Fruit Sauce

I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia.  As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike.  I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same.  For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns.  As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child.  But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.

My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach.  Helicopters would land in the field behind my house.  The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden.  Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them).  Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean.  Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit.  There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in.  And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.

It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.

We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.

My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it.  We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it.  It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.

Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want.   Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce.  Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well.  Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook.  I will try to quantify the amounts for you here.  If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.

Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot.  I used blueberries this time.  Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar.  You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.

Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.

Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.  

I recommend Pound Cake.

Pineapple Corer – A perfect gift

I know what you’re thinking.  A pineapple corer is some elaborate gadget that you don’t really need.

I was like you.  Then my mother-in-law, knowing my obsession with fresh fruit (seriously, offer me a plate of cut fruit and a plate of chocolate and I’ll take the fruit every time and eat myself sick), gave me one for Christmas a few years ago.

HOLY SMOKES.  This is the best thing ever.

Normally when cutting a pineapple you slice off the outer skin, then you either cut the fruit away from the core or you manhandle your way into cutting through the core and you cut it away after.  This little gadget does away with the core all together.

Pick a nice large one with lots of leaves.  You can smell a good one by sniffing its bottom.  If it smells nice and fruity then it’s good.  You can leave less aromatic ones to ripen on the counter for a few days.  And in my experience, a wee bit of mould at the bottom is okay.

Simply cut off the top and bottom of your pineapple and set it in a pan to catch the juice.  You can leave the bottom on if you want to use the shell for something decorative but it’s a neater job if you cut it off.

Put the corer on top and start twisting it like a corkscrew.  The jagged teeth will bite in a circle around the core.

You can see the pineapple fruit start to feed itself through the little hole as you twist it further and further into the fruit.

The juice will start to bubble up around your cuts.  This is why you have the pan.

Keep twisting until you break through the bottom.

Lift the corer out of the pineapple shell.  It’ll make a lot of revolting sucking sounds.  It’s great.

The fruit has been cored and already sliced in a nice spiral for you.

You can just pop the handle off the corer.

Tip the corer upside down to get your spiral off.

Push the core out with your thumbs into the compost.  And you can drink all the juice you produced.

GENIUS.

Yes! We have no bananas Banana Bread

There are so, so very many bananas in my freezer.  I swear that the Pie doesn’t eat the fresh bananas simply so I will chuck them in the freezer in anticipation of me having a banana bread fest.  He loves banana bread.  More than he loves me. Honest.

This recipe comes from my magic book, though I think Kristopf actually gave it to me, ages ago.  Who knows where he got it from.  I was about ten or twelve at the time, which would put him at about fourteen or sixteen.  What teenage boy makes banana bread for fun?

Anyway.

Me being me, I of course have modified the original recipe, and I generally use more bananas than is really necessary.  It makes the finished loaf a little more crumbly but it ups the banana-y-ness to the max.  I also generally make these loaves in bulk, usually three at a time (I have three pans) but sometimes more, and then I wrap what we don’t eat tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it for another day.  Or give it to KK.  Or both.

I thawed the bananas in a bowl on my counter overnight and they were nice and blackened and soggy.  Today I made the recipe below, but I did it in triplicate.  If you make the single version that I’ve outlined below you should end up with two loaves.

The Pie, having nothing to keep him occupied, decided to help me today.  He has never made banana bread before.  He absolutely refused to touch the bananas in their black skins.  He promised me he would do all the raw chicken touching for the rest of our lives if I would do the banana stuff.  I’m okay with that.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

You’ll need 5 defrosted or very ripe bananas. Peel those gooshy suckers into a bowl.

Dissolve 1 tablespoon baking soda in 3 tablespoons hot water.  Of course, it doesn’t really dissolve, but if you keep stirring it you can get a temporary suspension.

Pour this into the banana mixture and mush it in with a fork until the bananas are all separated into small pieces.  The Pie helped me with this part, but under duress.  Set them aside for the nonce.

In a large bowl, beat together 2 eggs, 1 cup room temperature butter (that’s half of one of those 1-pound blocks), and 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar until fluffy.

In yet another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 3 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  Set that aside, too.

Pour your banana mixture into your egg mixture and stir that up as well. 

The mixture should look slightly curdled at this point, and weird tendrils of banana fibre will stick to your mixing utensil and may gross you out.  The Pie said, at this point, “This – making banana bread for the first time – is kind of like seeing a woman give birth.  It’s something that you can’t un-see, and it will always affect how you see it in the future.”

Fold in your flour mixture, a little at a time.  If you want to put in chocolate chips or walnuts or whatever, now is the time to do so.  The Pie is a purist, however, so we have ours plain.

If you are following my lead and doing more than two loaves, do all your batches separately (in case of measuring mistakes) and don’t mix your wet and dry ingredients together in the other batches until you are ready to bake them.  Don’t want no chemical reactions to start too early.

Divide your batter between two greased loaf pans and smooth the tops.  I’ve been having trouble getting my extra-crumbly loaf out of the pan in one piece, so this time I decided to line them with parchment paper to ease the passage.  It was an experiment that worked out really well because it was a snap to use the edges of the paper to lift out the cooked loaves.  Then I just peeled off the paper and left the loaf on the rack to cool.

Bake for 60 minutes until dark brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Turn out and let cool on a wire rack.

This stuff is good hot, it’s good cold, and as I said above, it freezes really well.

Strawberry-Glazed Angel Food Cake

Angel food is one of my favourite cakes, always has been, even since I was a child.  My mother would rarely make it because without a stand mixer it’s kind of a pain in the ass.  With my lovely Kitchenaid this whole shebang is a breeze.

This is one recipe where I follow the rules to the letter.  You really can’t mess with the science of this cake. Angel food is basically an enormous meringue with flour and sugar suspended in it, so you have to be pretty rigid with how you make it.  You also absolutely NEED a tube pan or bundt pan to make angel food cake.  The batter won’t cook evenly without that empty space in the middle.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Bad things happen.  Tube pans are generally better to use than bundt pans simply because the tube on the pan is generally taller than the rest of the pan to allow you to invert it, or the pan comes with legs on the top that let you do the same thing.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Cooking for Engineers, and I think it’s fantastic.  It’s a good way to fancy up an easy cake.  The only change I made to this recipe was to double the amount of stewed strawberries, as the last time I made it I didn’t feel like I had enough.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups cake flour or all purpose flour and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Then sift that stuff together with a sifter.  I like the handheld squeezy sifters because they make my life easier and they’re fun.  You want to sift your solids a couple times to make sure the sugar and flour are fully incorporated.

Now you need the whites of 12 eggs (about 1 1/2 cups).  You can either separate them yourself or buy them in a carton – the choice is yours.  Just make sure that if you separate them yourself you don’t get any yolks mixed in with the whites – whites don’t get all that fluffy when there is fat mixed in.  We’ll figure out something to do with the yolks another time, but until then you can wrap them tightly and put them in the freezer.  Bring the whites to room temperature.  You can do this quickly by putting the bowl of whites inside another bowl of warm water. Room temperature whites will make a bigger foam than cold whites.  FACT.

Put your whites in your mixer and let ‘er rip.  When the whites begin to look frothy, add in 1/4 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar.

When the whites have formed soft peaks, whisk in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and then whisk in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, a little bit at a time.

Soft peaked meringue

When the whites have formed stiff peaks (ones that don’t droop), stop yer mixin’ and take the bowl out the mixer.

Stiff peaked meringue

Sift the flour mixture onto a thin layer on top of the whites, a bit at a time, and fold in gently with a wide spatula.  Be very gentle so you don’t disturb the millions of little bubbles.  Keep adding layers of flour until you’re out of stuff to sift, and keep folding until it’s all in there.

Fold gently - don't disturb the foam!

Gently scoop the mixture into a spotlessly clean and un-greased tube pan (grease + meringues = not so good).  Level the top with a spatula and ease it into the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is a lovely golden brown.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the pan.  I like the old wine bottle trick, where you invert the pan and stand it on the neck of a full bottle of wine.  Inverting the pan prevents the very fragile cake from collapsing on itself as it cools, and putting it on a wine bottle allows for sufficient air flow underneath to speed the cooling process.  Don’t touch the cake for a couple of hours until it is completely cool.  Not to fret – the cake will not fall out on its own – you didn’t grease the pan, remember?

The old wine bottle trick

While the cake is baking/cooling, you can make your strawberry goo.  You can also do this the day before, which is handy if you’re having a dinner party.

In a pot, combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 8 oz frozen strawberries.  Now, the last time I made this recipe I didn’t have enough strawberries, so I decided to up the amount.  Therefore, I dumped in an entire package of frozen strawberries, which was 600g, or about 21 oz.  This was a goodly amount for my purposes, but it does end up leaving you with a lot of extra glaze.  I froze my extra glaze for some invention at a later date.

Anyway, stir your pot mixture to dissolve the sugar while you bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes.  I don’t recommend covering the pot and walking away.  Bad things happen.  My house still smells like burnt sugar.  Keep an eye on that sucker.

The strawberries should be super gooshy at this point.  Remove the pot from the heat and strain your solids from your liquids by pouring the mixture through a sieve into a measuring cup.  Make sure to get as much liquid as possible from your solids and set them aside.

Mmmmetric . . .

Return the liquid to the pot and bring it to a simmer again.  Whisk 1 tbsp corn starch into 3 tbsp water and pour the suspension into the syrup.  Bring the syrup to a boil again, stirring often.  This will activate the starch and cause the syrup to thicken.  When it does, remove it from the heat.   Set the syrup aside to cool, then refrigerate for a while until cold.

Cooling the goo.

Now back to the cake.  Once it is completely cool you can set it upright again.  Run a thin knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it.  Make sure to run the knife around the tube as well.  If your tube pan has a separating bottom, you can now just lift out the bottom panel and run your knife around that to free the cake.  If not, jimmying the knife around and jiggling the cake itself generally helps to get it out of the pan.

Knife that sucker.

Put the cake on a clean surface, and using a long serrated knife, cut the cake equally in half horizontally.  Try to keep your lines straight.

Cut it in half horizontally.

Remove the top half of the cake and set it aside.  In the bottom half, use a spoon or your fingers to scoop a shallow trough in the cake all the way around, like a wee moat.  You can eat the bits that you scoop out, mmmm.  Fill the moat with your strawberry solids, all the way around.

Fill the trough with solid goo. I mean strawberries.

Put the top half of the cake back on and pretend that you never cut it at all.

Take your chilled glaze and, using a spatula, silicone brush, spoon, or whatever is easiest, coat the entire cake, even in the little hole, with the glaze.

Blazing Glaze!

Put the glazed cake aside until you are ready to serve it.  A little bit of time also allows the glaze to set a bit.  Right before serving, whip yourself up some cream, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream, with 1 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  Over-whip the cream a bit so it’s stiffer and maintains its shape.

Slather the whipped cream all over the cake, even in the hole in the middle, until it’s evenly covered.  You can go for the smooth-looking approach by using a long knife, or you can go crazy with whorls and cowlicks and whatever.  I like to dump about 2-3 cups of fresh sliced strawberries all over the top and into the hole before serving. Oh man, oh man . . .

Slather with whipped cream and strawberries right before serving.

Cover left-over cake (hah, as if that’s even possible) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week, if it lasts that long.

Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and it will keep for a few days, though it will sag a bit.