The Quickest Fruit Compote Isn’t Just For Dessert

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If you’re anything like me, you buy a whole bag of apples with the intention of providing healthy snacks for yourself and your family all week long. The problem in my case is that I try to convince myself that two people in a household can finish them before they lose their crunch.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

And sometimes husbands request an apple dessert, not just an apple. How quickly the suggestions for applie pie and apple tart came forth from mine. He even offered to buy the crust.

I wasn’t in the mood for tarts and pies and I surely didn’t want a store-bought crust (unless it was the Trader Joe’s brand, which is the closest to homemade I’ve ever had). In fact, I was just too tired to bake.

I decided to come up with this quick fruit compote that would be a versatile dish, not just for dessert, but also a snack with yogurt or a topping on tomorrow’s breakfast oatmeal. I hope you’ll enjoy it using your own local, freshest combination of fruits.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Ingredients
8 small Michigan Golden Delicious apples, cored and seeded, but not peeled. Cut into quarter pieces
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/8 cup of sugar, or more to taste
3 TB. real lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
2. Butter the bottom of a large, oval or round Pyrex baking dish.
3. Place apples and blueberries in dish. Sprinkle with sugar and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice. Cut butter into small pieces and put in different places around and under fruit.
5. Bake for approximately 1/2 hour or until apple skins have browned well.
6. Remove from oven and use a spoon to turn fruit to mix. With the back of spoon, mash up the apple pieces and combine with blueberries, but don’t over mix (unless you want applesauce!). Remove apple skins if you desire.

Serve warm as-is or on top of ice cream. You can also add to oatmeal or farina at breakfast. Or, top the compote with creme fraiche, whipped cream or real heavy cream for a delicious and elegant dessert.

Bon Appetit!

Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Olives Plus Oranges Equals…Brownies?

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Last October I visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. I never knew this region could cultivate olives until I heard about the mill from a relative who lives nearby. After doing a bit of research on the place, I just had to see it before heading back to the Midwest. We sure can’t grow olives in Chicago!

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I’ve always been interested to know how any type of Mediterranean food grows. I suppose I feel the need to learn so that one day I might be able to grow any number of them myself: olives, pomegranetes, lemons, dates, apricots, almonds. I’d probably need an orchard first, though. Right?

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I really feel bad that for the number of times I’ve visited Sicily, I’ve never really gone to the olive groves to learn more about from where some of the best olive oil in the world really comes. I enjoyed eating- a lot- in Sicily, yet never really bothered to venture further than the wonderful jovedi (large Thursday market) where I could delight in the colorful produce and fresh, exotic Mediterranean seafood. There, things like olives and cheeses were very expensive, yet tempting enough to buy just a handful and be comforted to know that this land of olives would forever supply us with them.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Needless to say, upon hearing about the Queen Creek Olive Mill, I was instantly interested in going there to see first-hand just how and when olives are hand picked and perfectly pressed to make the purest olive oil one can find in the U.S. Who would have known that in this little Arizona town one could grow olives when conventional thinking would lead you to believe that California is the only American place cultivating these precious trees?

1132553_olives_

Upon arrival, we decided to take the $5 tour of the mill where we would learn all about the process of olive cultivation, picking and pressing. We were first escorted out onto the terrace where a young employee of the company explained to us the very basics of how the Queen Creek Olive Mill was started and about the unique temperature here that makes it possible for these olives trees to flourish.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

The business of producing olive oil for sale started just over five years ago here at the base of the San Tan Mountains, an area known for its fertile soil. In this micro-climate, the olive trees will amazingly not experience any mold or fermentation.

Harvesting goes from mid-October to mid-December, so our visit was just two weeks shy of the olive picking season. During the season, olives are harvested at this pesticide-free grove daily by raking and combing them off the trees. Fallen olives are never used because they are considered to be either over-ripe or invaded by pests.

Each olive tree will give anywhere between 50-200 lbs. of olives. One ton of olives will go on to produce 55 gallons of the extra virgin olive oil. Queen Creek’s trees include a variety of Italian, Spanish and Greek ones such as the Mission, Manzanillo, Sevillano, Pendolino, Grappolo, Lucca, Frantoio and the Kalamata.

Olive Fruit on the Tree

Olive Fruit on the Tree

During the harvesting season Queen Creek bottles their olive oil every three weeks and blends their oils every three to five weeks. Their base oil produced from these trees is made of a Tuscan style blend, from which they make some very interesting flavored and cold pressed oils (Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange were two of my favorites), all of which you can taste yourself before purchasing at the store.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Back in the mill we learned more about the technicalities of the oil extraction process and the machines that make that happen. For example, the motors on the machines are all from Italy and preventative maintenance is done on them before and after the harvesting season. The owner even goes to Italy every summer to continue educating himself about olive cultivation and the oil-making process.

Before you can dip your tasty bread into a dish of golden olive oil, these tiny fruits must go through quite an ordeal for you. A defoliator will remove the stems and leaves and the olives will then get a two-stage bath. Afterwords, they must be put through the three main parts of the mill: 1) the mill itself, which pulverizes the meat, pit and seed into a paste; 2) the malixer, which without it there would be no oil; and 3) the centrifuge, where as the paste enters all the solids and water in the olives is extracted.

After learning the delicate process of growing and pressing the olives into oil, who would want to spoil this healthy food? We were given additional tips on selecting the best oils and storing them properly that I’d like to pass on to you:

*There is no such thing as black olives- they are lye-cured and chemically-altered to turn black. Choose only naturally-cured olives (brine-cured)
*Never let your oil smoke
*Every oil has a regional flavor. For example, Tuscan oil is spicy; Spanish oil is fruity; and Greek oil is heavy.
*If you go away for a period of time, you can store your oil in the fridge for 2-3 months
*The shelf life is about one year, but olive oil prefers an ambient temperature- it can be safely kept at anywhere from 80-95 degrees farenheit

I learned many interesting things during my visit to Queen Creek, but the one thing I know will help me the most was this: you cannot change the nutritional value of oils. As a result, you must select your product wisely and in order to do that, you must know what all of the labels mean. The owner of Queen Creek explained the following:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- means the oil is extracted without heat (all extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed, otherwise, it cannot be called ‘extra virgin’); 100% natural
Pomace Oil- 100% refined, with heat and solvents; made of olive pits and flesh after pressing; could be moldy
Extra Light Olive Oil- made with 95% Pomace oil and 5% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

So you may be wondering when I’ll get to the brownies- and what in the world is a blood orange? Well, you’ll be relieved to know there isn’t any blood in a blood orange, it simply refers to the noticeable red color that runs through this citrus fruit.

As far as where the blood orange comes into play in the brownie recipe, I was really surprised and impressed to see that someone came up with the idea of mixing chocolate with this unique citrus fruit in the form of a flavored oil.

I’ve known about blood oranges since I was a child because of my Sicilian heritage, as this is a popular fruit on the Mediterranean island, but it is virtually unknown in the typical American diet. I actually found the recipe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill store where they give away for free many recipes utilizing their olive oil products.

Blood oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C, potassium, carotene and dietary fiber. Use them in salads, to make juice or cut up as a snack like you would eat any other type of orange. They are a releatively recent crop for U.S. growers in Florida, California and Texas, so look for them in your grocery store. (obiolla.com)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

In this particular recipe, you will not need to buy any blood oranges becauase the oil is already so aromatically flavored. Below are the ingredients and the instructions for the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies. Please see the resource list at the end of this post to find the special ingredients in this recipe.

You can also find the recipe online at http://queencreekolivemill.com/borangebrownies.jsp.

I have, however, made a few changes to the recipe by adding my personal suggestions for ingredients and instructions based on my experience making them. Feel free to take a look at this one and the original to see which works best for you. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (try 60-70% dark, organic chocolate)
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (mine were orange-flavored, but yours definitely don’t have to be)
1 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached (I recommend King Arthur Flour brand products)
1 tsp. baking powder (try to find it without aluminum, as many baking ingredients contain it. I use the Hodgson Mill brand)
3/4 tsp. salt (if you are using sea salt or kosher salt, be sure it is finely ground before baking)
1-2 cups raw cane sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like your desserts & how sweet your chocolate is)
1/2 cup butter (measured before melted)
1/2 cup Queen Creek Olive Mill Blood Orange Olive Oil (you can also use grapeseed or sunflower oil, but do not use a very heavy extra virgin olive oil as the flavor will overpower the entire dessert)
4 medium eggs, preferably free-range
1 TB. vanilla (be sure to use either imitation extract or 1 real vanilla bean. Pure extract is normally obtained by soaking the vanilla beans in vodka)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then measure all ingredients before beginning. It’s best if you have a digital food scale to measure accurately, especially for the chocolate. In baking, accuracy is a must!

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

2. Spray or grease a 9 x 12 baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (can be found at such stores as Wal-Mart, restaurant supply stores or gourmet food shops). This helps prevent the batter from sticking when done.

3. In a small saucepan, melt all of the chocolate over low heat. Stir constantly. When completely melted, set aside to cool.

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar to this mixture.

5. Melt butter. In a large mixing bowl, pour the melted butter, then add the Blood Orange Olive Oil or your oil substitute. Add one egg at a time to this mix, incorporating each one fully.

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

6. Add the vanilla (extract or bean) to the cooled chocolate mixture and combine well. Add this mixture to the butter and olive oil mixture in step 5. Then, fold all of the dry ingredients plus the walnuts into your large mixing bowl with all of the previously mixed ingredients. Combine everything well, but don’t over mix the batter.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

7. Pour the entire mix into baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies pull away from the side of the pan.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Buon Appetito!

Resources:
Queen Creek Olive Mill- http://www.queencreekolivemill.com/index.jsp
Viovi Organic Blood Orange Juice-http://www.viovi.it/
Hodgson Mill- for all natural baking ingredients. http://www.hodgsonmill.com/
King Arthur Flour- for baking tools, ingredients and products. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/

King Arthur Flour comes to Chicagoland

Scanning through the local paper can prove to be a rewarding endeavor for the thrifty cook these days. I found myself lucky to see a tiny ad in the Chicago Tribune about the King Arthur Flour Company coming to Palatine, IL for a free baking class, one of their many free national classes!)

There were actually two classes taking place in the Hotel Indigo that day (Thursday, November 13)- one in the early afternoon called “Sweet & Savory Yeast Breads”, the one I attended; and another in the evening called “Festive Cookies & Pies”. I was fortunate to see the ad Wednesday night, sufficient time to plan my day around this opportunity.

I arrived at the Hotel Indigo early enough to get a good seat near the front where I could clearly see and hear our baking instructor. I didn’t want to miss a thing- sort of a deja vous of my college days attending lectures by famed authors or politicians.

I was kindly greeted by a friendly, slender young woman in a black fleece vest who handed me a booklet entitled “Baking with King Arthur Flour”. At my seat, I perused the book for a few minutes, skimming through the various bread recipes. There were tips and hints on baking and on the last page a valuable coupon towards the purchase of any variety of King Arthur Flour. I made a mental note to hit my local Shop ‘N Save on my way home, knowing full well they carried this brand of flour—and it was on sale this week.

Before the class started, an employee, baker and editor of King Arthur’s bimonthly baking newsletter, The Baking Sheet, Susan Reid, warmed up the crowd by testing our knowledge of baking and even telling a personal story about how she joined the 100% employee-owner company of King Arthur Flour, located in Norwich, VT. She also explained the interesting history behind this company, which dates back to Boston in 1790.

Once the actual program began, all eyes were on the instructor, Carolyn Hack. Her gentle and inviting presence seemed to make everyone comfortable. As planned, she began to introduce the Sweet Bread Dough recipe she was to prepare.  Her witty humor about dough, baking and life garnered everyone’s attention, even the latecomers that filled up the back rows quietly. From Carolyn we all shared in the experience of learning valuable instructions about yeast, water temperature, flour and eventually kneading the dough. Here are just a few of the things I was surprised to learn:

  • Water to proof the yeast should be like the temperature of warm bath water
  • When putting water in your yeast, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your yeast
  • Yeast is a living thing. You “proof it” in order to see if it’s viable
  • Once the yeast is in water (proofing), you don’t have to get all the lumps out, just get everything wet
  • If your yeast doesn’t proof properly, it could be due to one of the following reasons: the yeast was improperly stored; maybe there was soap left in the container you used to proof; there could be too many chemicals in your water; perhaps the water used was too hard or too soft.
  • It’s very important to measure ingredients properly when baking.
  • If you bake a lot it might be a good idea to get a kitchen scale, for accuracy.
  • Sprinkle flour into your measuring cup- don’t pack it in, otherwise you’ll be using more flour than necessary
  • Don’t sift flour unless your recipe calls for it.
  • Cake yeast has a very short shelf life.

When the dough was finished but not yet baked, she explained some creative ways it could be used. One idea was to make an almond-filled braid out of the dough; another to make a batch of cinnamon swirls. Both ideas sounded delicious. Ms. Hack made these seem so easy to make, I thought even I (the lazy baker) would be willing to give a try to the braided dough recipe.

At the end of the program, the company gave out door prizes to many lucky winners- dough whisks, aprons, and gift cards among them.  Although I wasn’t too disappointed that I didn’t win any of these, my heart broke when I didn’t win the only King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book given away. And then, just as if the employee-owners read my mind, they wouldn’t let us leave empty-handed. Everyone- yes, everyone- was given a $10 King Arthur Flour gift card, a ¼ oz. package of Red Star Active Dry Yeast and a King Arthur Flour  labeled dough scraper. We even got free samples of whole grain bread on our way out.

A free program, door prizes and even more gifts upon leaving, made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Red Star Yeast company. I must say, not only was I impressed but it made me want to give my business to Red Star Yeast and of course to this quality company, King Arthur Flour, made up of nice people who love to bake, love to educate and are generous with their knowledge and time.  Needless to say, I immediately used my gift card to purchase a King Arthur dough whisk, a tool Ms. Hack taught me was an important baking tool and one that would probably last me a lifetime.

(For a complete list of King Arthur’s free national baking classes, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html

For information on their free online baking classes, visit: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/online-baking-classes.html

If you’d like to order their newsletter, “The Baking Sheet”, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakingsheet/bakingsheet.htm

For more information about the King Arthur instructor at this program, go to:

Carolyn Hack: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html#nbc-instructor

Yeast products recommended in this program can be found at:

SAF Yeast: http://www.safyeast.com/

Red Star Yeast: http://www.redstaryeast.com/products.html

 

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