Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall is here! (Well, more or less.)

I am so ready to say goodbye to subway station saunas, sidewalks that feel like rotisseries and sweaty bangs plastered to my forehead - and say hello to piles of crisp apples at the greenmarket, hot spiced cider with bourbon and finally getting to wear my favorite cozy gray sweater. Oh, and soup!

Like this rich, spicy corn and crab bisque, which made quick work of a ton of CSA ingredients. A bunch of onions, five ears of corn, two banana peppers, one large yellow pepper and two big cloves of garlic went into the bubbling pot of soup - and if I wasn't living with a confirmed cilantro-hater, I might have put some of our cilantro in, too.

The bisque is seriously awesome - with two cups of cream and another two of whole milk, it's definitely not health food, but it is warm and spicy and lovely - exactly what you want to come home to after a cool, rainy day. I made a few changes to the recipe for convenience - substituting chicken stock for fish stock and leaving out the crab boil and Worcestershire sauce. I also added sliced grape tomato for garnish, because while this soup tastes great, it is decidedly un-photogenic and I hoped that a garnish might distract from that. (Did it work?!)

This next photo should be a little easier on the eyes:

Hello, gorgeous! That right there is a white chocolate and raspberry cake I made for a colleague's fortieth-work-anniversary party. As usual, I was besieged by one problem after another while baking this cake - I realized (too late) the recipe I had called for three eight-inch cake pans, while I only had two nine-inch ones; one cake baked up severely lopsided; the top layer of cake basically turned into crumbs when I tried to place in on top of the buttercream-and-jam-filled layers. In the end, though, it tasted brilliant and wound up looking pretty beautiful. The French buttercream frosting was flavored with framboise (for the layers) and melted white chocolate (for the outer frosting) and layered with raspberry jam from the greenmarket. Um... yes, please.

I only rarely have the time, patience or occasion for such elaborate baking, though - which is why I'm glad for recipes like this plum crostada.

It's so easy, especially with a pre-made pie crust. (I dig Trader Joe's, since it comes in a nice flat round instead of pre-tucked into a pie plate.) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take about a pound of ripe plums - these are Italian prune plums - and slice them into quarters. Toss with 1/4 c. sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and a light sprinkle of cinnamon. Lay your pie crust out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and heap the plums into the middle, leaving a two inch border of crust. Fold your crust upwards over the plums, pleating as necessary, then sprinkle crust and plums with sugar and pop your crostada into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and fruit looks cooked. Serve warm or cool, by itself or with some softly whipped cream.

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