Monday, April 19, 2010

the unexpected perfection of simplicity

Hey Kathryn,

So, it's been awhile. Since, I last posted, I moved to Chicago! I now live in a lovely apartment with two fetching roommates, in an historic Swedish neighborhood called Andersonville. I had a lovely internship at a museum, and am now employed at a wine and cheese shop.

I guess this transition hasn't been all ponies, sunshine, and champagne bubbles. I've struggled a lot with learning how to cooking for myself. On the one hand, it's great! I have complete control over everything, and no longer have to contend with my family (whom, I love so dearly) raiding the fridge and using the ingredients that I had mentally reserved for certain dishes. On the other hand, I have to buy my food. Since, the farmer's markets have opened up again, I've been thinking a lot about the most cost-effective ways to prepare my fresh produce, so that I can extract the most pleasure out of them

Case in point: On my latest trip to the farmer's market, I found an herb vendor that sold lemon verbena. I was tickled to find fresh sprigs, and I immediately fell in love with its scent. I bought it and wanted to find the perfect dessert item that would trap its bright, herbaceous fragrance and translate it into tender lemony morsels. I began my search and found some promising results - recipes for custards, cookies, cakes, scones, but I found some fault with all of them along the way. As my search ensued, the leaves began to brown, and eventually, I gave up and adapted a recipe for lemon raspberry muffins. I thought I was on the right track by substituting the lemon zest with triple the amount of the chopped lemon verbena leaves, and then blooming them in the melted butter. However, the butter masked the flavors, and I was left with muffins with nodes of grass and instead of fragrant sun-kissed lemon fields.

All was not lost though - I saved 12 of the lemon verbena leaves, and stuck them in a tupperware container in the refrigerator with a cup of sugar. After a couple days, the sugar had absorbed the oils and had the same intoxicating scent of the lemon verbena leaves. I ended up using the sugar in a most simple fruit salad of pears and raspberries, finished with a dash of cream. It was unexpectedly complex with the contrasting textures of the fruit and the lingering lemon taste, and totally satisfying. In the end, all you need are fresh ingredients, prepared simply.

Pears and Raspberries with Cream

4 Pears, finely chopped
1 cup Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons Lemon Verbena infused Sugar
The juice of half a lemon
1/4-1/2 cup cream

Combine the pears, raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl. Let marinade either at room temperature (if using frozen raspberries) or in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving. Spoon unto the center of small bowls or ramekins, leaving a small rim clean. Drizzle cream along the rim, and serve. Serves 6.

Optional flavorings to salad:
1/4 tsp Almond Extract, 1 tbsp lemon zest

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Yum, Allison, this looks delicious! I would never have thought to infuse sugar with lemon verbena, but now I want to try it. I'll be on the lookout when I go to the farmer's market this saturday!