Yesterday, I approached my day like a racehorse coming out of the gate. By 6:30 AM, I had an agenda for all the tasks I wanted to complete―a bit of house cleaning followed by yoga class, then a trip to the farm for this week’s vegetables, followed by some photography for Gathering Flavors, some research for a new client, and some wall repair in my son’s room, which I am about to paint. I was confident I could get it all done before dinner. About half way through my list of chores, I went down to the basement in search of a tool I needed for the paint project. In addition to locating the paint supplies, I found a sea of water. Our basement was rapidly flooding. I rushed upstairs, called my husband from his work and together we spent a couple of hours bailing water in the hopes of limiting the damage to our home while we waited for the plumbers to arrive.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to every task on my list. Instead, I opened myself up for contemplation on what is important, and why I challenge myself to do so much in relatively short periods of time. Thoughts went to a favorite film, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud. Monsieur Arnaud is an elderly, retired judge taking stock of his life when he hires a beautiful young protegé to help him write his memoirs. At one point he complains that people busy themselves to prove their own self-worth, their own importance. I regret that I have a bit of that need in me. When I feel productive, I also feel a bit more important, like I’ve made the best use of my time. I’ve proved my worth.
Our homeowner’s crisis made me slow down and in its own way the incident lead me into the best part of my day. The basement is filled with relics of earlier parts of our lives—a couch from a small, romantic-getaway cottage we owned on Lake Michigan when Al and I were first married, toys from when the children were younger and boxes of family photos. Surrounded by these reminders of our life together, my husband and I laughed and talked while we bailed water one bucket at a time. During those two hours, I was reminded how good Al and I are at solving problems, at facing crises head on and getting on with life. I was reminded of how much I love my husband and how much we rely on each other every day. Everything else could wait.
Today, the light was better for these photos. My new client let me know he didn’t need my report until next week, and the painting will get done when it gets done.
So, I approached today more slowly and when I found myself speeding up, I reminded myself to take it easy. There’s nothing to prove. A life well lived is one that is creative, full of love and connections.
I photographed these Blueberry and Peach Cobblers for you while the sun was moving west toward the horizon. I created them in honor of the meal I told you about last week, at the charming restaurant in Bruges. Delicate blueberries and sun-ripened peaches are topped with a cookie crust made with sesame seeds and toasted pine nuts. The look of the dish reminds me of the cobblestones we traversed everywhere in Bruges that week. The smokey flavor and crunchy texture of the topping are a perfect match for the delicate, sweet fruits below. I hope you’ll make these and enjoy them with your loved ones.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
P.S. Thanks to the help of some wonderful plumbers, our basement is now dry and we have a shiny, new stainless steel water heater to keep us comfortable in the years ahead.
INDIVIDUAL COOKIE CRUSTED COBBLERS
Yield: 8 Servings
For the cookie crust:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup pine nuts, lightly roasted and cooled
- ¾ cup white sesame seeds, lightly roasted and cooled
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
For the fruit bottom:
- 4 large, ripe peaches, stone removed, rinsed and cut into large chunks (about 4 cups)
- 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
- Zest of one lemon or lime, finely minced
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Fresh cream (optional)
- Fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Whisk the eggs together with the vanilla extract until blended. Set aside.
- Put the pine nuts, sesame seeds and one tablespoon of the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the pine nuts are very finely chopped, but not oily or pasty. Turn the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
- Put the remaining sugar, flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse once to combine. Add the chunks of butter. Pulse again until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
- Add the eggs and the sesame seed/pine nut mixture. Pulse until the ingredients are fully combined. You will have a sticky dough. This is what you want.
- Pour the dough onto a clean, work surface and form it into the shape of a small rectangle (about 8 by 6 inches). Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours, up to 24 hours.
- While the dough chills, put the blueberries, peaches, lime zest, sugar and all-purpose for into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Divide the fruit evenly between eight 5-inch round ramekins.
- Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 32 small squares. Top each of the fruit-filled ramekins with 4 of the squares. (The don’t need to touch, you want some of the fruit to show through.) Place the prepared ramekins into the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake, place a flat cookie sheet in the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Place the prepared ramekins on the heated cookie sheet. Bake until cookie crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle liberally with confectioner’s sugar.
- Garnish with a bit of cream and fresh mint, if you like.
- Serve and enjoy.
- The cookie crust recipe was adapted from Baking with Julia by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan.
- You can substitute almonds or walnuts for the pine nuts in the cookie crust. If using almonds, also substitute almond extract for the vanilla.
- You can also use other fruit combinations at the bottom, such as mixed berries, apples and cranberries or plums and nectarines.
- If you would like to make one large cobbler instead of eight individual, place use a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Spread the fruit across the bottom and sprinkle the cookie chunks across the top. Baking time will be slightly longer.
- If you do not eat all of these right away, cool and wrap with plastic wrap. They’ll will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat lightly in oven before serving.