Tales from the road: cobble, cobble, cobbler

This is a story from my road trip, about some pie that I had, and the cobblers it inspired. 

Just a few hours from home, fueled by a hankering for pie, Joe steered us from the highway to the Arrowhead Drive-In Restaurant in Milton, Pennsylvania. This was our last taste of the road.

I had been saving myself dinner at home, but sitting at the counter surrounded by octogenarian regulars I caved. We split an order of chicken and biscuits - Special Number Two.

Though the menu was for some reason irresistible, pie had been the draw and it was pie that proved to be the most redeeming of the joint's offerings.

The owner made each pie from scratch, and liked to go out back, behind the restaurant, where she planted a messy tangle of rhubarb, to give her baking a local flare.

I came home wanting desserts made with summer fruit I wished I had growing in my backyard. All summer I had been yearning for berries and peaches and plums and cherries. Quite by chance I found myself faced with two bundles of blueberries and an eagerness to not only throw them atop my morning yogurt, but also to let them star in the wonderful concoction known as cobbler.

With the opportunity to make two cobblers in the span of a week I got to try to recipes that I had my eye one. Below is a combination of the two, the recipe for a darn good cobbler.

Mostly blueberry cobbler with cornmeal biscuit 
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts and Smitten Kitchen

1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature, for dish

For fruit filling:

4 cups peaches
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
2/3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon
1/2 fine sea salt

For biscuit topping: 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup buttermilk

To skin the peaches: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Slit an X in the bottom of each peach. Slide into boiling water and let sit for about 30 seconds, just enough to blanch, but not enough to cook at all. Remove them, and once cool, being peeling off the skin from the X. It should slide off easily. Pit the peaches and slice.

Preheat oven to 425°. In a medium-sized bowl, toss peaches with blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt. Butter the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish and gently pour the fruit mixture in.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture using your fingertips to blend until it has formed pea-sized balls. Stir in buttermilk with a rubber spatula until a wet, tacky dough comes together.

Plop spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling; don’t worry about covering entire surface. Bake until the cobbler’s syrup is bubbly and the biscuit tops are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Best enjoyed almost immediately, but keeps for a few days in the fridge.


A cooperative eggplant

The first time I tried to make this was a disaster. It was during my second year away at school. I was living in my first apartment, cooking for myself for the first time. Vowing to steer clear of ramen, I relied on basic takes of my mom's classic recipes.

She called me one afternoon, as she often does, to rave about a recent find - an eggplant salad, calling for feta, one bowl, and only a half hour of oven-time.  An eggplant enthusiast, I planned to make the dish for my next meal. With no copy of the recipe in front of her, she advised I search the New York Times website. It has to be the only eggplant salad you find, she said. Indeed I did only find one. It just wasn't the right one. And what ensued wasn't bad, but it sure wasn't good (due to no fault but my own).

Though my mom mailed me a color photocopy of the real recipe shortly thereafter, I was never again inclined to make the dish. I've had it several times since then, when upon eying the jungle of mint leaves crowding her pots my mom whips it up each summer. I've loved it every time, for, as the newspaper article accompanying the recipe proclaims, it's a cool, clean take on eggplant. It wasn't until I made the dish, though, and became enchanted by its simplicity that I truly understood what all of the original fuss was about.

Summer Eggplant Salad with Feta and Mint
found here, from the New York Times

I followed the recipe almost exactly. The dressing becomes clouded and muddy in the most delicious of ways. I used about half of what the recipe calls for. It keeps well refrigerated.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds eggplant (any kind, or a mixture), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 pound mixed bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Toss eggplant with 1/3 cup vinaigrette, reserving the rest. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden around edges, about 30 minutes. Let eggplant cool somewhat. (It can be warm but not hot enough to melt feta or wilt mint.)

Whisk garlic and capers into reserved vinaigrette. In a large bowl, combine eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and mint leaves. Toss with vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately or within several hours.


Tales from the road: of goat cheese and farms

This is a story from this summer's road trip.

From San Francisco Joe and I continued our route northward to Applegate, Oregon, a spot not too far past the state border decorated with farms and two-lane roads. It was to one farm in particular where we were headed, a family farm where some of Joe's friends work for the summer.

It was Sunday. We packed the car early and bid adieu to chilly San Fran and our bed - adorned with not one, not two, but three duvets - that we borrowed for our stay.
The day steered us along terribly windy roads miniatured by Redwoods, to a teeny overpriced gas station, and a lone general store that offered the makings of an ideal lunch: a well-stocked deli counter and thick homemade brownies.