Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Refreshing Summer Dessert

I've done a terrible job of posting this summer -- I know. It's not the produce -- the berries are beautiful, the greens are abundant, and the sweet corn is sweet as can be, despite the warnings of bad crops because of our warm March and frosty April. Peaches are sweet and juicy, we've already preserved many pints of strawberries (which are still around in some markets!) and blueberries (from Ontario and all the way from B.C.), and I think I've eaten my weight in green beans (although some yellow and purple ones may have slipped in!) and cherry tomatoes. Recently, I'm seeing beautiful local sugar plums and fresh, pretty speckled roma beans and in certain markets, baskets of beautiful red currents.The basil (purple, and regular) on my balcony is flourishing, as is the thyme. The dill had it's run, but the Italian parsley is hanging in there, and the lavender is still very happy.

But alas, despite the market bounty, I've still sucked at posting this summer. I apologize. This is what happens when I take a course: July wizzes by in a blur of papers, reading and typing, and then when it's over, I feel like doing nothing, and then all of a sudden I'm panicking about planning for September. I now remember why it's been 7 years since my last course. However, procrastinating was definitely a part of this process, and for me, procrastinating always means time in the kitchen.

This time, it involved internet re-runs of the cooking show French Food at Home.  Have you seen that show with Laura Calder? She's incredible, and the other day, I watched her make a wine jelly: a beautiful molded jelly with red and green grapes trapped inside. Beautiful. I wanted to make a non-alcoholic version and take it one step further by trapping bubbles (i.e. carbonation!) in the jelly with the fruit. I also used a vegan substitute for gelatin: agar. It's a jelling agent derived from seaweed and very popular in vegan baking. You could probably get pure, fancy agar flakes at the health food store, but I got mine at an Asian grocery store, and it also contained sugar, so it pretty much worked just like gelatin -- check out this website for details.  Laura used white wine sweetened with sugar in her recipe -- I used white grape juice (totally delicious!) and mixed it with lemon flavoured sparkling water to make up for the extra sugar.  The result was awesome: beautiful summer fruits in a tingly, sweet jelly -- the carbonated water totally worked, and made this dessert extra special. I'm sure if you're in the mood for alcohol, a nice sparkling wine (Prosecco perhaps?) would work nicely. Whatever you choose, go the sparkling route. the jelly leaves a nice tingly sensation on your tongue and makes you savour and enjoy every bite.

Summer can't be over yet, right? Right?!

Sparkling Jelly with Summer Fruit
inspired by Laura Calder
serves 4

1 large peach
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries
1 cup of white grape juice
1 cup of lemon flavoured sparkling water
1 tablespoon of sugar-agar powdered mixture or gelatin
2 tablespoons of water

1. Cut your peach into quarters. Cut each quarter into six little cubes and place them in 4 half-cup ramekins. Divide the raspberries evenly between the ramekins. Set aside.

2. Dissolve the agar in the water and let it sit for a bit. Meanwhile, heat up the grape juice in a small pot. As it just comes to a simmer, add in the agar-water mixture and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat immediately and add the sparkling water.Stir well.

3. Pour the liquid mixture into the ramekins. Let them sit at room temperature until they cool down. They will probably set as they cool. Place them in the fridge to chill.

4. Enjoy!

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