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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Three Junes in June

Our book group selection this time was Three Junes by Julia Glass, a National Book Award winner from a couple years back and a very enjoyable read. Part of the book takes place in Scotland, which I thought presented the perfect opportunity to make the recipe on the page before the Salmon-Wrapped Poached Eggs from last time: Oatmeal Brûlée with Macerated Berries from The Gourmet Cookbook. The weather has also been ideal this week, plus I didn't feel like cleaning my projects off my dining room table, so I set up a small table and large umbrella on the back patio. Instead of having a floral centerpiece, we were surrounded by my profusely blooming backyard. Unfortunately, I am lame so there aren't pictures--I didn't remember until everything was entirely consumed.

We started with a simple cheese course: Valentine from Ancient Heritage Dairy (featured this week in the Oregonian FOODday section), a soft sheep's-milk cheese, and fresh goat cheese with dill from Country Pride (both purchased at the Portland Farmers' Market this morning). Then on to the Oatmeal.
First, you macerate the berries in simple syrup with chopped fresh mint. I knew I would want to use the same berries for the strawberry shortcake for dessert, so I doubled the recipe here, using two pints of berries, two tablespoons of chopped fresh mint, and a simple syrup made from 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C water. The recipe says to macerate for at least four hours. I think I ended up with about two hours before I started serving them, and they were very juicy and delicious. I think with our juicy local berries, it would probably be fine (and save a step) to macerate in just sugar, without making the syrup.

Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 400 F.

Make the custard in two small bowls. In one you whip 1/4 C cream with a handheld mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. In the other you whisk (I used my handheld mixer, without rinsing the beaters in between) together another 1/4 C cream, two eggs, and 3 T brown sugar. Then gently combine the contents of the two bowls.

Then, cook 1 1/2 C old-fashioned oats in 3 C water (the usual proportions, according to the side of the Quaker box) until it's thick and tender. Divide between four flameproof shallow soup bowls and smooth with the back of a spoon. Pour custard over oatmeal. Bake until set, switching positions after 5 minutes. The recipe says 12 minutes, but I think a minute or two shorter would have worked. Remove from oven, sprinkle top of each with 1 t sugar (recipe calls for granulated; I used turbinado), and melt/caramelize with a blowtorch. Top with a scoop of the macerated berries and serve.

For dessert we had strawberry shortcake, using the other half of the macerated strawberries, lightly-sweetened whipped cream, and Southern-Style Shortcakes I made from a recipe that ran in the Oregonian (which I can't find online for some reason). I mostly ignored their method instructions, and used my regular method of cutting very cold butter into the dry ingredients using the Cuisinart, then adding the liquid and just barely mixing them before transferring the dough to a bowl for a last 5-second hand knead to stick everything together. I also skipped rolling and cutting (this dough was quite sticky) in favor of my scone method of patting the dough into a thick round and cutting into wedges with my bench scraper, and reserved a tablespoon or so of the liquid ingredients to brush on (and then sprinkle with sugar) before baking.
2 C all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt (I used 1/2 t kosher salt instead)
1/2 C butter, almost frozen, cut into cubes (they called for softened, which is asking for tough biscuits IMO)
1 egg, beaten slightly
2/3 C half-and-half

We talked about picking our next book, but didn't do it. I would really like to read something meaty and juicy, along the lines of past favorite reads like Ahab's Wife or Daughter's Keeper. We mentioned The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood as a possibility. And I've read interesting things about The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (yes, I know you hated it, Janet). Any other marvelous suggestions from you, my faithful yet mostly silent readers?

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Blogger hm-uk said...

I became a joiner today just so I could post a comment on your blog. I comment on Janet's blog and sort of lurk around the periphery of all of her friends' blogs - I know, it's strange...I had worked out a nice little recommendation for a book I've recently read and tried to post it here. Alas, I failed to read the bold-type notice that says you do not allow any anonymous comments. So I joined Blogger. Not only did I join, but I also started
my own blog!! It was not solely because of your blog and my desire to comment, though that did have a part to play. I guess I'm tired of lurking. Confessions aside, I'd like to recommend that you next read 'In Siberia' by Colin Thurbron. It's a brilliant read though like a Dostoyevsky novel you cannot always say exactly why.

June 4, 2007 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Hevansrich said...

I REALLY REALLY liked The Historian but can acknowledge it is not a book for everyone. Multiple narratives, cool locales, mystery and DRACULA!! so so so up my alley. I accrued $6 in late library fines because I kept it long enough to finish it. (wasn't renewable at the time due to demand)
I'm sure you've read The Life of Pi, (Yann Martel) another high one on my list of recent reading. I did not like The Time Traveler's Wife, (Audrey Neffenegger) but it seems that just about everyone else did. I also enjoyed the book Wicked that the musical is based on (though barely resembles) and the sequel Son of a Witch. (Gregory Macguire) i'm sure there are many more that I cannot think of right at this moment. but I like this line of discussion....

June 4, 2007 at 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome, hm-uk--how do you know Janet?

Thanks for the book suggestions. We're going to start with The Robber Bride, and then maybe God's Secretaries by Adam Nicolson (about the translation of the King James Version), and possibly Pope Joan or The Last Chinese Chef (the author of which lives in my neighborhood).

We've talked about The Time Traveler's Wife--you're the first person who's told me she didn't like it. And we read Life of Pi two years ago, right before Ahab's Wife, leading to an unintentional cannibalism thread!

June 4, 2007 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Janet M Kincaid said...

I'd answer how HM and I met, but since you asked her, I'll be polite and let her answer.

I wish I had liked The Historian. It was the must-read hit of the summer a couple of years ago, but for some reason it just didn't resonate with me. I mean, after slogging through all of that narrative only to discover that Dracula's obsession was rare book collecting was just plain silly. And the length and the price paid for this book was, IMHO, ridiculous. All of that said, if this book some how finds its way to the "Classics" list in 20 years, I'll buy a copy again and eat it.

And oatmeal, JaneAnne?? How pedestrian of you! ;-)

June 9, 2007 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Janet M Kincaid said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 9, 2007 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Janet M Kincaid said...

Oops. That should have said "...and the length of time it took to write the book..." Although, the actual length of the book itself was a bit much. The editor could have trimmed a good 100 pages off.

Okay, I'll stop now.


June 9, 2007 at 7:40 AM  

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