Eton Mess

This is my version of the old English school pudding. It originated at Eton College. It’s called a mess because there is no perfect way to assemble this and, well frankly, it can look a mess. However, as it is oh so delicious, no one will mind!

Serves 8 people

For the meringues:
Makes 15–18 large meringues
3 egg whites
7 oz (1 cup) sugar

For the simple strawberry-pomegranate jam:
2 pints strawberries — hulled and halved
5 oz (3/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
8–10 grinds black pepper
1 Meyer lemon — halved and juiced, rinds reserved

To assemble an Eton Mess:
2 pints strawberries — hulled and halved
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
  2. To make the meringues, whisk the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  3. Drop large tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until dry and just crisp. The meringues should be a pale cream color when finished. Do not overcook. Start checking them after 30 minutes. They are ready as soon as you can peel them off the parchment paper.
  4. Place all of the ingredients for the jam, including the lemon rinds, in a large saucepan over medium heat. As the strawberries begin to render some juice, mash them using a large fork or potato masher. It’s okay if there are some larger pieces. The jam is supposed to be chunky.
  5. Cook for 10–13 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms. The jam is ready when it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  6. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it forms soft peaks. Do not overwhip the cream.
  7. Spoon a little of the strawberry jam into eight glass dessert bowls or pretty glasses. Cover the jam with a few berries and a meringue. Spoon some of the whipped cream on top of the meringue. Top this with more strawberries, a spoonful of the jam and another meringue.

SAUTÉED PLUOTS

Pluots are also wonderful sautéed in a pan with a little butter, a pinch of cinnamon and a little brown sugar. The juice from the fruit caramelizes in the pan. Served warm with some vanilla ice cream this makes a quick and easy summertime dessert.

Serves 8 people

1oz butter

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

16–20 pluots—quartered

Fresh mint—chopped

  1. Place the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is foaming add in the cinnamon and sugar and stir for 1 minute. Add in the pluot quarters and cook for 5-6 minutes – they should be slightly caramelized. Serve warm with the chopped mint on top and some vanilla ice cream or fresh cream alongside.

Since the truly bumper harvest of nectarines from my garden a few weeks ago I have been keeping an eye on the plum tree, which I believe has been inspired by its fruity neighbor. It too has produced prodigious, beautiful sweet fruit. Great mounds of them in fact: 20 lbs ripening at a time, and still more to come. So much so that the nectarine frenzy of last month has been surpassed with an abundance of plum filled dishes, jams, ice creams, tarts and cakes. Thankfully we are all plum aficionados here.

Plums which were first cultivated in China are now grown commercially in many parts of the world. California is the United States largest producer of this fruit with much of the crop coming from the San Joaquin Valley. Many of our local farmers grow plums which the almost daily farmers markets showcase in great abundance. Santa Rosa plums are one of the most popular varieties in California. They are sweet and slightly tangy in taste, have a beautiful red/purple color, with an amber flesh and are perfect for the tart set out below.

PLUM TART

For the crust:

24 gingersnaps

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 pinch ground cinnamon

1 pinch allspice powder

  1. Place all the gingersnaps in a food processor and pulverize to fine crumbs. Transfer them to a large bowl and add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar and mix together.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a 12” spring form pan and press down with your fingers to make an even layer. Place the pan in the freezer and chill for about 15 minutes. If you are making this earlier in the day, place the tart base in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the tart.

For the filling:

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons sugar

16 plums – stone removed and thinly sliced

16oz goat cheese at room temperature

Zest of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons cream

6 tablespoons plum jam

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet placed over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook for 2 minutes and then add the plum slices. Cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside until you are ready to assemble the tart.
  2. Just before serving remove the tart base from the refrigerator. In a bowl combine the goat cheese, cream and lemon zest to form a smooth paste and spread this mixture carefully over the ginger crust.
  3. Spoon the jam over the goat cheese so that it forms a smooth layer.
  4. Arrange the plum slices by slightly overlapping each slice and placing them on top of the plum jam. Start from the outer edge of the tart and work towards the center in concentric circles. The tart looks like an open flower when it is finished. As with many summer tarts, this one is delicious served with crème fraiche or a dollop of vanilla ice cream.



WHITE PEACH CARPACCIO

Serves 8 people

8 white peaches – thinly sliced

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

½ bunch mint – leaves finely julienned

½ pint strawberries

½ pint raspberries

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

  1. Place the thin slices of white peach on a serving platter in concentric circles. They will look like a giant flower.
  2. Squeeze the lemon juice all over the peaches and sprinkle the lemon zest all over the ‘petals’. Sprinkle the mint leaves all over the peaches and set aside.
  3. Place all the berries and powdered sugar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Place in a small serving bowl and refrigerate.
  4. Serve the carpaccio on dessert plates. Offer the berry sauce on the side.

This is yummy with lemon cookies or lemon shortbread.

As I walked around the farmers market over the past two weeks I was struck by the colorful plethora of summer fruits that were on display. Peaches – white and yellow, juicy and sweet, plums, nectarines, pluots in myriad shades of pink, purple and red, the last of season’s apricots – golden and luscious, and tables beautifully arrayed with berries in every color. It was a feast for the eyes and for my basket as I filled it with a sampling of all of these wonderful fruit.

Then to my amazement I saw figs! They are early this year and as sensuous and tasty as ever. On the way back from the market I picked up some incredible ham and some goat cheese. Paired with some fresh basil from my garden I made a sandwich with the ham and goat cheese and the figs with the chopped basil and a drizzle of lemon olive oil. Amazing. Since then I’ve been making all sorts of things with figs including the poached ones below.

FIGS POACHED IN SPICED GINGER SYRUP WITH MASCARPONE CRÈME FRAICHE

Serves 8 people

¾ cup sugar

1 ¾ cups water

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cinnamon stick

4 cardamom pods

¼ cup crystallized ginger

16 white figs

8 black figs

  1. Place the sugar in a pan with the water, lemon, cardamom pods, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil, making sure that the sugar dissolves completely. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully place the figs in the syrup and bring the liquid slowly back to a boil. As soon as the syrup comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and let the figs cool down in the pan.
  3. Serve in shallow bowls or ramekins with a dollop of the mascarpone crème fraiche.

For the mascarpone crème fraiche:

6 oz crème fraiche

8 oz mascarpone

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon honey

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together well. This mixture will keep well for at least 24 hours.
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