Coronation Grapes + Blue Cheese Muffins

Coronation Grapes + Blue Cheese Muffins

1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 cups spelt flour *2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50gr (about 1/4 cup) blue cheese, crumbled (i.e.: Rockfort, Danish blue cheese, Blue Claire by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks)
1/4 cup grape seed (or other vegetable) oil
1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs
72 Coronation grapes or so, removed from the stems (about 1/2 cup). 

- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Add crumbled cheese and stir together. 
- Beat the eggs lightly. 
- Measure oil and buttermilk and add to the eggs.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir just until well blended (over stirring will dense the consistency and add too many air pockets!)
- Butter a 12-hole muffin pan, and spoon the batter into the pan, dividing the batter evenly.
- Press about 6 grapes onto the top of each dollop of batter.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm with butter or slices of cheddar cheese or wine-marbled cheese (i.e.: Tipsy Jill by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks).

Note: You may also mix the grape into the batter; however, this might result in some fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan. And the muffins won't look quite as pretty!

* Whole wheat or white flour will do too. I personally like spelt for many sweet breads, cakes and muffins as it gives off a nutty and melt-in-your-mouth moist texture to these baked goods. Besides, it's a healthy alternative to wheat for those who tend to be a bit sensitive to it (and I'm meeting more and more people who do, as a result of wheat in North America being genetically engineered or else with an unusually high level of gluten). 

Coronation Grapes + Blue Cheese Muffins

Asian Pear & Fennel Salad

Fall fruits are flavourful, fragrant and full of interesting textures. Such are Asian pears (Pyrus serotina) - they absorb the summer sun and turn it into a crisp, crunchy texture full of intriguing subtle flavours reminiscent of pineapple and ripe quince rosiness - yet without that very hard core or need of cooking. Its aroma is subtle yet floral and robust. This must be because of the unique esters in it - which if you get a tree-ripened fruit, will really shine through. The supermarket variety just don't cut it (though they still got the crunchy texture).

I particularly enjoy using Asian pears in savoury salads, as their texture is firm and they hold their shape through the tossing, turning or even marinating that I like to put my sturdy vegetables through. They are also not nearly as sweet as other pears, and are just a little more neutral and readily get along with other flavours.

Asian pears are particularly fantastic with crunchy, fresh fennel bulbs. I slice them as thinly as possible, add some shaved carrots (creative use for your vegetable peeler!) and toss them with pine nuts, goji berries and some pomegranate seeds if I happen to have some. And the best part is that this salad will taste amazing the next day, once the fennel seeds have soaked up some moisture and release more of their licorice-like sweetness. For this particular salad I used fresh, still green fennel seeds, so no marinating was necessary. If you are lucky to have some growing in your garden - or out in the wild - this is a marvelous way to use fresh spice.
I also was lucky to have a jar of marinated sweet & spicy butternut squash around and add it the first time around. I will post a recipe for marinated butternut squash another time!

1 bulb fresh fennel laved or quartered and then thinly sliced
1 ripe and firm Asian pear, cored, halved and thinly sliced
1 carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1-2 Tbs raw pine nuts
2 Tbs dried goji berries
2 Tbs fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (I prefer the Lebanese, Israeli or Greek oils; the majority of Italian olive oils that are imported to North America are dull and inferior)
Juice from half a lemon (about 1 Tbs)
1/2 tsp dried fennel seeds

Prepare all fruit and vegetables and toss in a salad bowl with the dressing. Garnish with pine nuts, goji berries and pomegranate seeds (if available). Serve immediately, or the next day (it will taste wonderful each time!).

Guava Odour

Guava vendor by Coshipi
Guava vendor, a photo by Coshipi on Flickr.
Few scents signify the scent of fall for me better than guavas. The lush, in-your-face ripeness of this sub-tropical fruit has always been a topic of controversy. You'd either love it, or hate it with a passion!

How can I describe it to someone who never smelled it?
Would it be of any help if I told you that 173 components were identified in guava GC, with (E)-beta-caryophyllene, alpha-terpineol, alpha-pinene, alpha-selinene, beta-selinene, delta-cadinene, 4,11-selinadiene, and alpha-copaene being the major ones. Aliphatic esters are the most important contributors to guava's flavour. I have a suspicion that guavas have some sulphur in them,

A single fruit is plenty to scent a room with an unmistakable odour that is simultaneously pungent, ripe, rude and opulent. As Flavors of Brazil blog points out, the scent is "strong aromatic, sometimes alarmingly so... very flower and heady".  It has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes. But perhaps the disturbing or funky part is somewhat, just ever so slightly reminiscent of stinky socks (especially when the fruit is over ripe - which is very common in store-bought guavas).

Guavas are native to South America, and from there they have spread to different tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. Their significance in the culture of the tropics is exemplified in the book title Fragrance of Guava, which is conversations with Nobel Prize Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They are even grown with much success and popularity in Israel, and there is no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than eat a fruit freshly picked from the tree. My personal favourite variety is a cultivar called "Ben Dov" which is most fragrant and has a very firm yet creamy texture. The pink guavas, in my humble opinion, are watery and not nearly as fragrant - and this variety is what is used for most guava juices. The fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C - and, most unusual for any fruit - also in calcium.

Guavas are mostly prepared as fruit juice, candy, jam and the ever so popular South American guava fruit paste called goiabada which has an intriguing consistency and texture reminiscent of quince marmalade. It has such a distinct, stand-alone aroma that it usually takes centre stage in desserts such as sobretto or gelato, and stuffing dessert empanadas (usually with cream cheese or coconut); although it pairs really nicely with creamy bananas and even in refreshing, aromatic fresh fruit salsas, as in Cuban tomato and guava salsa.

Have you experienced fresh guavas? How would you describe their scent?
Back to the top