Labor Day weekend has always represented the end of summer to me; practically if not technically. As a child in Manhattan, this weekend meant the sad end of the old year and the beginning of a new one; even more so than New Year's Eve in January, which always felt more like the end of the Christmas season than the beginning of anything new.
Yes, for me, Labor Day always marked the end of all the long lazy days spent reading, daydreaming, and wandering through a nearly empty city enjoying all the parks, museums and other amenities that New York had to offer a curious child with a hunger for everything, including food.
Street vendors with tiny carts that rang little bells to announce their presence offered delights like Italian frozen ices, Puerto Rican piraguas which are shaved ice snow cones filled with exotic syrups like guava, tamarind and guanabana (my favorites with just enough sweetness to make them palatable but a touch of sourness to make them refreshing on sticky 95 degree, 95 % humidity days) as well as coconut ices called coquitos which were creamy frozen concoctions much more like fruit granitas than frozen ices, and there was, of course, the Good Humor and Mr. Softee trucks with their sweet musical melodies resounding through the streets who were welcomed by the neighborhood children during the dog days of summer like conquering heroes freeing the wretched and oppressed.
As an adult now living in San Francisco, the advent of Labor Day has come to mean something quite different. The strange confluence of nature with its Bay Area topography makes San Francisco's weather from late May to early September the greyest, coldest, gloomiest, 55 degree and foggy time of the year; as can be attested by any tourist who had the misfortune of coming here during the summer months and took home a pair of sweats with "San Francisco" emblazoned on them as unintended souvenirs. Rather than marking the end of summer here, Labor Day represents its beginning. The sunniest, warmest weather of the year in San Francisco starts now and ends the first days of November. Labor Day now means to me the best of summer's produce: yummy, ripe, amazing heirloom tomatoes in all shapes & colors, avocados, peaches and figs. While we chill in San Francisco, the surrounding areas north, east and south of us are sweltering in the more typical summer heat producing lush fruits that are just now at their most abundant and ready to be harvested.
So for all of you who will be spending this long holiday weekend at home either picking fruit from your garden or your favorite market, here are a few simple delicious recipes that will allow you to showcase the "fruits" of your labor and share goodies with your family and friends. These recipes are an excellent way to use fruit that may not be picture perfect because they've somehow gotten bruised on their way from the market or the garden to the kitchen. (By the way, tomatoes are definitely fruits; just ask the chefs at Oliveto's whose annual tomato dinner we attended last night, and who had mostly great success with them as desserts particularly the amazing fried ravioli filled with tomato jam & topped with confectioner's sugar. Delicious!)
We start with a fresh bruschetta of caponata and burrata with prosciutto crisps, and an easy bake pizza using a store-bought lavash crust, roasted heirloom tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella, shitake mushrooms and sweet Italian sausage. Next, we grill skewers of ahi tuna, cherry tomatoes & Greek haloumi cheese as well as Niman Ranch baby back ribs with a side of grilled corn on the cob. We then add an additional side of Caprese pasta salad made simply with fresh boccocino (tiny mozzarella balls) or feta (if you have o.d.'ed on mozzarella), calamata olives, fresh heirloom tomatoes, basil & olive oil. For dessert, warm blackberry & apricot crumble with mascarpone ice cream garnished with balsamic syrup and mint leaves. (There is definitely a bread, fruit & cheese theme running through this meal; they are often the best ingredients for a satisfying summer meal.)
This is a feast that's impressive to see, easy to make and even easier to eat! As always, substitute anything you like for the ingredients in the recipes except the ribs which have no good substitute and are a Labor Day tradition in my home. If you really don't like ribs grill a steak or pork tenderloin just don't use the ribs' recipe instructions as the heat & timing are intended for the slower cooking method more conducive to ribs.
Menu For A Labor Day Weekend Feast
All recipes for the Labor Day Weekend menu serve 4-6 people.
Bruschetta with Caponata, Burrata and Prosciutto Crisps
Note: Burrata is fresh mozzarella with a creamy curd interior and a very short shelf life of about 2-3 days If you can't find burrata in your market (Whole Foods, Fresh Market or other specialty grocers usually carry it) substitute fresh buffalo or cow's milk mozzarella from Italy or a good fresh creamy ricotta from your local dairy farmer; otherwise, skip the cheese because Polly-O while ok on a pizza will not be good over the caponata.
- 1 fresh loaf of Ciabatta or other country-style Italian bread, sliced into 3/4" rounds
- 1 lb. of fresh burrata, left at room temperature (about 1 hour)
- 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 lb. of very thinly sliced prosciutto
- 1/2 large onion, sliced & cut into fine dice
- 1/2 large red pepper, cut into strips then chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed then minced
- 2 japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch dice, erring on the side of larger dice if in doubt
- 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice, same size as eggplant
- 1 tablespoon italian tomato paste
- 2 lbs. of heirloom or roma tomatoes, stemmed, seeded and cut into small dice (or 28 oz. can of plain crushed tomatoes)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh calamata or black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons of capers, drained
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 handful of fresh parsley, minced
- 3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves only, minced
- 10 large basil leaves, thinly julienned
- 1 pinch of herbes de provence
- freshly ground salt & pepper to taste
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fire up grill.
2) Heat a large saute or braising pan to medium high. When hot, add half the olive oil letting it heat up for a few seconds then add onions and 1 grind of salt & pepper mill.
3) Saute onions for a minute then add red peppers & garlic, lower the heat to medium and add the eggplant followed by the zucchini, stirring to coat vegetables evenly with olive oil & aromatics. If the eggplant has absorbed the oil in the pan and still appears dry add additional olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the eggplant appears moistened.
4) Now add the red pepper flakes & herbes de provence, gently stirring until fragrant (10 - 15 seconds) followed by the tomato paste. Coat the vegetables with the tomato paste and let the mixture cook for 2 minutes until paste loses its raw color.
5) Add the tomatoes, gently stirring to completely incorporate, then add the parsley, oregano & olives. Lower heat to low. Allow the sauce to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to insure that sauce does not burn. When sauce has thickened, add lemon juice, capers & half the basil, stirring gently, careful not to break up the eggplant or the zucchini. Taste sauce. Add salt & pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and let cool or keep at the lowest simmer possible and cover pan with lid to keep warm.
Caponata can be prepared & refrigerated after cooling up to 4 days in advance then either reheated or served at room temperature.
6) While sauce is cooking, place prosciutto slices on a baking sheet that has been covered with either foil or parchment paper. Bake prosciutto uncovered in middle rack for 5- 7 minutes until crisp. Do not let it burn. When prosciutto is crisp, remove from oven & let cool. When cool, crumble each slice into smaller pieces like large bacon bits. Set aside in a small decorative serving bowl.
7) While prosciutto, cools lightly brush bread slice on both sides with remaining (or additional) olive oil and place on grill. Grilling both sides about 45 seconds or so each side until bread is warm & has grill marks.
8) Now assemble the platter: On one very large or two smaller platters, place a bowl filled with the caponata & a serving spoon in the center, the burrata with a serrated cheese knife, the prosciutto bits in another bowl, the remaining basil and the bread slices around the perimeter. Have each guest serve himself. Take a slice of bread, top first with the caponata, then the cheese, sprinkle with the basil & the prosciutto. Mangia!!!
Pizza with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, Shitake Mushrooms, and Grilled Italian Sausage
Note: I have greatly simplified this dish by using store-bought Middle Eastern lavash not the crispy cracker kind but the soft, large rectangular sheets of Armenian flatbread used for levant and other kinds of sandwiches. the result is a very pleasant crisp crust that reminds me of pizza you'd find in Rome. You can use any flatbread you like including whole unsliced pitas or large flour tortillas; just remember the thinner it is the less cooking time you'll need when you pre-bake the bread. A great sweet French baguette like the San Francisco Bay Area's bakery "Acme's" sweet baguette also works beautifully. Please don't use Boboli. It is a calorie rich, flavor-deficient, sodium laden brick of dough that is not worthy of summer's loveliest ingredients. If, however, you are more adept than I am at making pizza dough & have decided to make your own crust, by all means, more power to you!
As to cookware, I prefer the use of a preheated pizza stone that you can find at William-Sonoma, Macy's or on the internet. It really makes a difference; but, if you don't have or want one, a preheated cookie sheet would work, too.
As for the tomatoes, I choose to roast them for two reasons: 1) roasting the heirlooms really concentrates their flavor & sweetness 2) a wetter, more traditional sauce would be too watery for the lavash and would result in a soggy, messy crust that falls apart when you try to eat it. Definitely not appetizing!
- 2 soft lavash , carefully folded in half & brushed with refined olive oil (not extra virgin) on both sides; or 2 sweet baguettes, sliced in half horizontally; then cut in half vertically
- 4 large or 2-1/2 lbs of heirloom tomatoes of different variety & color, cut into 1/4" slices
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed then minced
- 1/2 of a large red pepper, sliced into strips
- 6 large grilled or fried Italian sausages with fennel seed, cut into long slices lengthwise after grilling; then cut each half slice into quarters again (should be about 48 pieces); or, alternatively, remove the uncooked sausages from their casings & saute the ground meat in a pan breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until cooked through
- 1/2 lb of shitake mushrooms, sliced, sauteed in extra virgin olive oil & seasoned with salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of herbes de provence
- 10 large fresh basil leaves plus more for garnish, julienned
- 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon each of fresh ground salt & pepper, to season tomatoes
- 1 lb. of fresh mozzarella, patted dry with paper towels & sliced thinly (Polly O is ok here, if necessary)
- 1/2 cup of fresh parmagiano-reggiano, shaved or coarsely grated
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more on hand for drizzling
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place pizza stone in center rack. Adjust oven so as to have an additional rack on the top for the roasting of the tomatoes.
2) Prepare a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place tomato slices & red pepper strips in one single layer on sheet. Tomatoes on one side, peppers on the other side. Use two baking sheets if necessary. Season vegetables with salt, pepper, oregano, herbes de provence a pinch of parsley & basil and minced garlic. Drizzle half of the oil over the vegetables, using your fingers to completely coat them in the oil, tops & bottoms, and distribute the seasonings evenly over them. When oven reaches 450 degrees, place the tomatoes in the oven & roast about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned, soft and fragrant. Do not leave them completely unattended as the garlic as well as the tomatoes can burn quite easily. When done, remove tomatoes & peppers from oven & let cool completely
3) While the tomatoes roast, organize the remaining ingredients to be prepared for assembly of the pizzas.
4) While the tomatoes cool, blind bake the lavash (one at a time if your pizza stone is small and you only have one) for 2 minutes each crust. It is very important that you use light or refined olive oil to brush the lavash with; extra-virgin olive oil will burn in the dry heat of the stone & ruin the taste of your crust. Carefully remove the pizza stone from the oven (it's hot & heavy) and assemble your pizza. Turn the oven temperature up to 500 degrees.
5) With the crust still on the hot stone, start assembly by brushing the lavash with any remaining oil in the tomato roasting pan, then, using half the tomatoes and a flexible spatula or your fingers to remove them from the baking dish; you should almost be able to spread them like a jam on your crust. Sprinkle them with half the parsley & basil & add a very light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as the moisture from the cool ingredients should not prevent the e.v.o.o. from burning.
Next, place half the sausage evenly over the tomatoes. Taking care to leave a 1/2 inch border around the crust free of the ingredients to prevent crust from prematurely cracking under their weight.
Repeat with half the shitakes, finding the open spaces between the sausage pieces. Do the same with half of the roasted red peppers.
Sprinkle half of the parmagiano over the entire pizza, followed by half the slices of mozzarella, being careful not to overload the crust. If the stone is large enough to fit both, repeat the above assembly using the other crust. If not just bake one at a time.
5) Place the pizza on the stone in the center rack of the oven & cook 5-7 minutes or until mozzarella is bubbly, lightly golden & melted. If the mozzarella has not yet melted, leave pizza stone in center rack but turn on the broiler & broil watching very carefully the entire time until cheese reaches desired texture. Once you're happy with it, turn off the broiler, remove the pizza stone, let the pizza stand, for two minutes then slice with a pizza cutter & serve with an extra sprinkle of fresh basil.
Grilled Corn with Grilled Baby Back Ribs
Note: This is the easiest thing to make on the menu. I find it completely unnecessary to boil the ribs first, then slow smoke them, then grill them. A rack can be cooked completely on a gas grill in 40 - 45 minutes replete with a beautifully glazed crust & tender, succulent meat if you know where your hot spots are & don't leave them completely unattended ( one bathroom or wine run is ok). Use Niman Ranch pork if you can. Although the ranch is much larger now than when they started almost 30 years ago, their pork is still humanely raised & slaughtered and the proof is in the taste of the meat which you can just tell came from a contented pig. A happy pig is a tasty pig!
The corn can be grilled with the husks on for added moisture but a hot husk is a wicked thing to try to remove when your guests are hungry. So husk them first, rinse them in water to remove any remaining cornsilk and leave them damp when you wrap them in foil to allow them to steam. You can lightly butter the foil or corn before you wrap them but you are only inviting flare ups in the grill. Butter & season them before eating.
- Dry rub & wet rub, as directed in the directions to follow
- 2 racks of baby back pork ribs, preferably from Niman Ranch
- 12 ears of white corn, prepared according to the preceding note
- 1 stick melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (plus more for the table) of your favorite barbecue sauce (Mine is Bryan's Smooth and Spicy Barbecue Sauce, a private label sold by my favorite butcher shop, Bryan's)
- salt & pepper, at the table to taste
- lime wedges for corn
1) For seasoning, I use a dry rub that I mix of garlic powder, hot Hungarian paprika or Chipotle chili powder, ground cumin, a tiny amount of fresh ground sea salt (too much salt toughens grilled meat) and a more generous amount of fresh ground pepper. I usually use 2 parts of garlic powder to one part cumin & chili powder or paprika. The actual amounts depend on the size of the slabs, how the seasonings taste that day to me & my mood. Mix more than you'll need and save the mixture for another time in a empty spice bottle.
2) Let the ribs with the dry rub sit at room temperature for an hour.
3) Preheat the grill to high heat.
After the meat has reached room temperature, prepare a wet rub of about:
1/4 cup refined (not virgin or unrefined) olive, peanut or sesame oil
2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sherry or cider vinegar (do not use balsamic)
1 teaspoon of sriratcha or other hot sauce
Whisk the ingredients together.
Cover the ribs well with the marinade and let them sit on the counter for another 15 minutes before you pat them gently with a paper towel to remove excess marinade.
4) Grill is hot when you can barely hold your palm 1 foot above the grill for a count of five; about 15 - 20 minutes after lighting it, depending on the grill.
When grill is hot, turn temperature down to medium and place ribs directly over the hottest part for about 3 minutes on one side then 3 minutes on the other side. At this stage, we want to sear the meat to caramelize it and seal in the juices but we don't want to burn it. Repeat cycle of 3 minutes per side once more, this time either turning down the heat slightly again or alternatively, moving the ribs away from the hottest part of the grill but still keeping it over direct heat. Watch for flare ups and be prepared to lower heat further or move ribs to the coolest part of the grill, if the flame seems too hot.
5) After about 12 minutes or so, move the ribs to the coolest part of the grill and lightly brush the top side with your favorite barbecue sauce. Let ribs cook on that side for 5 minutes then turn and baste ribs with the barbecue sauce cooking the other side for an additional 5 minutes.
Here is where the grilling becomes more of an art than a science. You must be cognizant of how much the glaze is browning, to avoid burning it but some charred bits are absolutely essential for that grilled flavor. Keep basting and turning each side every 5 minutes until you have cooked each side for about 15 minutes. Don't be afraid to test the ribs for doneness by hacking a little piece off. Don't forget to also change the right side / left side orientation of where the ribs are on the grill as well as turning their tops & bottoms. The right side (as well as the front portion) of my grill is always hotter than the left side (and the back portion) of it.
6) When the ribs are tender, baste them one final time each side; moving them to the hottest part of your grill for a few seconds each side if the glaze is not as browned as you like it. Just be careful not to burn the glaze. Remember, the sugar in it burns very quickly. Remove from the grill to a warm platter & loosely cover with foil, keeping them in a warm place until ready to serve.
7) Place damp corn in its foil wrap over medium heat on the grill about 5 minutes each side while ribs rest. After 10 minutes, check 3 ears of corn: the one on the hottest part of the grill, the coldest part of the grill & the middle part of the grill & gauge cooking time accordingly. Serve with melted butter, salt & pepper & lime wedges.
Grilled Ahi Skewers with Heirloom Tomatoes, Haloumi and Mint Pesto Dipping Sauce
Note: It is important that the Ahi fillet be at least 1" thick so when you cut it into cubes & grill it, it will be remain moist & rare inside with a good char outside. Ahi is expensive & you don't want to spend $20 per lb. for something that tastes like styrofoam from overcooking. Ask your seafood purveyor to cut it to order if you don't see a thick enough piece. You can also use swordfish as a substitute since the swordfish is oiler, can be 3/4" thick & stand being fully cooked. Sea scallops or shrimp would also make excellent substitutes and have the added bonus of naturally being the perfect size for skewers.
Use metal skewers, if you have them. You don't need to soak them first like you do bamboo skewers and you won't be contributing to our overloaded landfills because the stainless steel skewers can be used over & over making them more "sustainable" (my new favorite word) & economical.
Cherry tomatoes are great for the skewers. There are all kinds of varieties of heirloom being sold in bay area supermarkets now. You can use larger tomatoes cut into chunks, of course, if you need to. Haloumi is a cheese from Cyprus traditionally made from sheep's and goat's milk with a firm texture and salty flavor that holds up well to grilling and broiling. If you can't find it in your market, you can substitute smoked mozzarella or smoked provolone but may have to use larger chunks of cheese and cook them at a lower temperature to prevent a cheese meltdown all over your grill.
The dipping sauce is a minty pesto sauce which should offer a cool sweet counterpoint to the hot, spicy skewers and the salty haloumi.
This recipe will make 12 skewers.
For the skewers:
- 2-1/4 lbs. of 1" thick sashimi grade Ahi, cut into 36 1" thick cubes
- 48 large cherry tomatoes
- 1-1/2 lbs. of haloumi, cut into 24 1" thick cubes
- 12 metal skewers that have been oiled or 12 wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for one hour
For the marinade:
- 1/4 cup of refined vegetable oil: olive, sesame or peanut
- 2 Tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon of sriratcha sauce or 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
For the dipping sauce:
- a handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- a handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs of oregano, leaves only
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- the juice of one lemon
- salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1/4 cup of unsalted roasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup of chicken stock
- 1/3 cup of high quality extra virgin olive oil
1) Assemble skewers: each skewer will have 3 pieces of ahi, 4 cherry tomatoes & 2 pieces of haloumi arranged with ahi, then add cherry tomato, then add haloumi, another cherry tomato, another piece of ahi, cherry tomato, halomui, cherry tomato and ends with a piece of ahi.
2) Arrange all twelve skewers in a shallow baking dish trying to keep them in a single layer. Now combine all the ingredients for the marinade whisking them in a medium mixing bowl. When well combined, pour marinade over the skewers making sure to coat them completely using a pastry brush or your hands to insure the marinade has evenly coated each skewer. You can at this point cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for as little as 15 minutes up to 24 hours.
3)Preheat grill on medium high.
4)Prepare pesto: Using a food processor (or you can make it by hand with a large mortar & pestle if you like a more rustic texture), add the mint, parsley, oregano, garlic, shallot & lemon & pulse together lightly for a two seconds to mix the herbs together. Then add the walnuts, pulsing for a few seconds until the mixture begin to look like a paste & walnuts are very finely chopped. Then with the processor running slowly add the olive oil until an emulsion forms and the mixture resembles pesto. Then add the honey & pulse for two seconds to incorporate well. Finally add the chicken broth in a slow steady stream watching carefully until the pesto is smooth but not too runny. Remove the sauce from the food processor, place in a serving bowl and set aside. (You can heat it in a microwave for 20 seconds before serving but it really isn't necessary if the pesto has been kept at room temperature.)
5) Remove skewers from refrigerator. Blot off all the excess marinade with a paper towel then carefully place as many skewers as will comfortably fit on your grill, you may need to cook the skewers in batches depending on the size of your grill. Grill skewers for one minute each side for a total of two minutes each skewer. The ahi & haloumi should blacken slightly but don't overcook the fish. Place skewers on a warm platter, brush lightly with some of the pesto sauce & serve with the remaining pesto on the side.
Pasta a la Caprese with Boccocino & Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
Note: It really doesn't get any easier than this dish. Cook the pasta, add the other ingredients raw, stir & voila. It's great hot or cold. You can use any small shape pasta you have on hand: fusilli, shells, orrechiette, farfalle are all good choices. Boccocini and cherry tomatoes have a natural affinity for each other; being as perfectly sized for each other as they are. You can obviously use small chunks of larger mozzarella & tomatoes or get away from Capri & head to Greece by substituting chunks of feta & oregano for the mozzarella & basil. I add calamata olives to the dish; not a traditional part of the caprese salad but then neither is the pasta. Olives add a nice bite and acidity to the dish and balances the sweet mild flavor of the mozzarella & the cherry tomatoes. Remember the quantity of each ingredient can & should be adjusted to suit your taste. This recipe like most is just a guide, an outline; it's up to you to color between the lines and make it the way you'd like it .
- 1 lb. box of small shaped pasta like fusilli, shells, etc.
- 1/2 cup of very good quality extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved if large
- 8 oz. of fresh boccocino, patted dry
- handful of basil leaves, julienned
- 2 oz. pitted calamata olives, halved
- 2 oz. freshly grated parmagiano reggiano
- 1 clove garlic, grated (optional)
- the juice of one lemon (optional)
- fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1)Put a large pot to boil with salted water.
2)When water is rapidly boiling, slowly add the pasta, stirring it in and being careful not to stop the water from boiling. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturers instructions.
3)While pasta cooks, assemble all the ingredients (have them on hand). Place a large pasta serving bowl next to range & add garlic, whisk in olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Add basil, mozzarella, olives & tomatoes gently stirring them in & coating them with olive oil. You can refrigerate it at this time, if you'd rather keep the mozzarella from melting. Just be sure to bring the bowl next to the pasta pot (if you want to eat the pasta warm) so as to have it handy when you are ready to combine it with the pasta.
4)When pasta is cooked, turn off the heat & using a large slotted spoon or pasta fork, slowly remove the pasta from the pot, one spoonful at a time, allowing the water to drain completely before adding each spoonful to the large pasta serving bowl. When all the pasta is added, stir gently to combine all the ingredients, sprinkle the parmagiano over the pasta. Drizzle additional olive oil if desired & serve. Garnish with basil leaves.
If you prefer this as a cold salad, you can simply cook the pasta one minute less then drain the pasta in a colander, fill half the pasta pot with cold water & ice and plunge the colander in the pot for two or three minutes to cool it before draining and adding to the other ingredients.
Warm Blackberry and Apricot Crumble with Mascarpone Ice Cream
Note: Sorry, there is no real recipe for ice cream here. There are too many high quality premium ice creams available out there for me to suggest that I have a better way to do it at home. Instead, I think you should buy a pint of your favorite vanilla ice cream, allow it to soften at room temperature for an hour and then mix in well half a pint of mascarpone that has been "lightened" by whisking it with 3 oz. very cold heavy cream, 2 Tablespoons Frangelico liqueur, & 1/8 cup of confectioners sugar. Make sure you use a stainless steel bowl that's large enough to accomodate everything & then cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap & put it in the freezer for a few hours. You could even do it a day ahead. The balsamic syrup adds a nice finishing touch to the dish but is not essential. Omit it if you like.
For the fruit:
- 2 cups blackberries or blueberries
- 3 cups of apricots or peaches, pitted & sliced thickly
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (don't use flour)
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
For the crumble:
- 1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 3/4 stick of unsalted butter, very cold & cut into 1/2" cubes
For the balsamic syrup: (optional)
- 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar (don't use your finest, just a good $5-$10 vinegar will do)
- 2 Tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
- a few sprigs of fresh mint
For the ice cream see note
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine well all the ingredients for the fruit and pour into a small to medium lightly buttered gratin/baking dish (about 3-4 quart baking dish, Le Creuset or Emile Henry are the best & prettiest).
3) Using a food processor (or another large stainless steel bowl, if you're doing it au naturel), place all the ingredients except the butter in the bowl and pulse until ingredients have combined well; then, add the butter & pulse (or use your fingers, if food processorless) until the butter is the size of very small peas or the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
4) Crumble the dry ingredients over the fruit, and gently pat down on top of the fruit. (you may have leftover crumble mixture). Then place baking dish in oven & bake for 35-40 minutes until top is golden brown & aromatic and fruit is bubbling. Remove from oven.
5) Let crumble cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes. While crumble is cooling combine 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar with 2 Tablespoons of honey and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice by whisking together in a small saucepan set over low heat. Keep vinegar mixture over heat until reduced by half, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning. When done, remove from heat & allow it to cool slightly. Serve crumble with a scoop of mascarpone ice cream a, a drizzle of balsamic syrup and garnish with a sprig of mint.