Thursday, August 25, 2011

All by myself

I was standing out front by myself, doling out food during service, when it hit me. I wasn't the new girl anymore. It was my third round of service (there are generally 3 per day),  every single one of them had been done alone, and that didn't bother me in the slightest. When I first started in the kitchen I was slightly intimidated by service. There are a lot of people to feed in a small amount of time. Also there is the lunch lady. The lunch lady's job is to make sure everyone gets what she feels is the appropriate amount of food. My job is to make sure that everyone gets food. Sometimes we disagree on the definition of the appropriate amount of food. At the beginning I was positively afraid of her. She can be an imposing lady. For a while, I would try to hide behind C while doing service, just to avoid her biting commentary. But eventually I realized that the only way service was going to work for me was for me to grow a backbone and stand my ground. So I grew a little backbone and tried my hardest to stand my ground and the lunch lady and I have grown to respect each other. I daresay, we might even like each other. That's what happens when you're no longer the new girl. 

I have a complicated relationship with recipes and cookbooks. For me, the word of some cookbook writers like Hazan, Waters, or Lebowitz, for instance, is the gospel truth. I will not veer an iota from their recipe. If I don't have, or can't use a certain ingredient listed in their recipe; or, if I can't manage a technique, I won't make it. On the hand, there are other writers- Bittman, Oliver, Hesser, to name a few- where their recipes serve me more as guidelines than instructions. I liberally substitute ingredients and change things around. Maybe it's a generational thing; or a gender one; or a stylistic issue, but some writers I will tweak and others I will not.  My tweaking of a recipe is not a qualitative judgment. I value my Bittman cookbook just as much as I do my Hazan.  But these are things I have been thinking about lately. When do you change a recipe? How do you know when  to use your creativity and instincts in cooking, and when to lay those things aside and follow directions? When is a recipe so changed that it leaves the domain of the original writer and enters yours? For instance, the muffins I made today were based on a Kim Boyce recipe, but I left out the ginger, swapped in yogurt for sour cream, browned the butter and added vanilla. So is that recipe still Kim Boyce's, or mine? Will there be a time when I will pick up my copy of The Art of Simple Food and not follow a recipe as it is written? (And if I do, will Ms. Waters hunt me down?)

The following recipe for plum crumble, or Plumble, as it has affectionately come to be known, is the bastardization of a few recipes. Mostly it is part of my ongoing quest to find and create non-dairy dessert recipes that can be served with a meat meal in accordance with Kosher dietary laws. Baking without butter sucks. The fruit part of this crumble is based on a Martha Rose Shulman recipe printed in Cooking Light in 2004. The topping of that crumble calls for (among other things) butter and oats. It's a great crumble, but not for a meat meal. So taking my inspiration from an apple crumb cake my mother makes that calls for oil, but didn't have the recipe for on hand,  I used the bottom of Amanda Hesser's peach tart from Cooking for Mr. Latte (which also calls for oil) as the topping for my crumble- subbing some of the white flour for oat flour to replace the oats in the Shulman recipe. (Confusing, I know). So without further ado, Plumble.

Liberally adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser  and Martha Rose Shulman in Cooking Light July, 2004

Ok, actually there is more ado. Some notes. One- the topping is not very sweet, if you would like it sweeter, make it so. Two- the topping is kind of crumbly flaky. Three- the topping is sparse. Four-I would love to try this with olive oil, or coconut oil (if I could get my hands on some). Five-there is no five.

Preheat the oven to 375

The Topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 oat flour
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbl soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

 Sift together dry ingredients. Add the soy milk and vegetable oil, mix until crumbly.

The Fruit:
8-9 plums, sliced into about 16 cresents
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbl dry red wine
1 tsp vanilla (or a 4 inch vanilla bean, if you have one)
zest of one orange

Combine  ingredients in a bowl.


Place the fruit in a 8 inch baking dish. Scatter the topping in clumps over the fruit. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, until the plums are bubbly and the topping is browned.

Also- New and exciting changes are coming to Hungry Souls soon. Stay tuned.

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