A Holiday Wish and More

May the wonder of the season bring

peace and joy

to you and your loved ones

this holiday season and throughout the new year!

If you have read my blog before you know I love to research different fruits and vegetables that I find at the Farmers’ Market. I love learning not only about how to eat or cook them but about where they originated and how they came to the US, so I guess it really isn’t a surprise that just as I was about to post this photo and holiday wish, I thought, I wonder why we associate the poinsettia with the Christmas holiday season. So to satisfy my curiosity I did a quick little search and here are the results.

The Christmas Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as poinsettia or noche buena, is a species of flowering plant indigenous to Mexico and Central America. The name “poinsettia” is after Joel Roberts Poinsett,  the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl=residue, and xochitl=flower) meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil.” The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as “Flor de Pascua”, meaning Easter Flower. In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as “Crown of the Andes”.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

More on this beautiful plant, including misconceptions about it’s toxicity, can be found at Wikipedia.com.

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Apricot Crisp for the 4th of July

Here’s a sure fire way to get compliments on your 4th of July dessert. Make a fruit crisp. They are easy to make and there are all kinds of variations that help to make them extremely versatile. First thing will be to get out to your local Farmers Market and pick up some nice fresh fruit. Peaches, apricots, pulots and plums are in season here in northern California. I love apricots, so that’s what I chose for my crisp.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to see what my mentor, James Beard, had to say about crisps. I know everyone’s more familiar with Julia Child, especially since the movie, but James has always been my favorite. His cookbook is one of the few, on my shelves, that I still use, both as a reference guide and for a few recipes that have become favorites. And, yes Julia’s books are there too.

Fruit Crisp or Crumb Pie

American Cookery ©1972

“These are often made without a crust and served as a pudding topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Place the fruit in an unbaked shell with fluted edges. Melt the butter in a 1 ½ to 2 quart saucepan. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, flour, spices, and salt. The amount of sugar will depend on the type of fruit used. Apricots and some tart plums may take more sugar.  Apples, pears, peaches and prunes may take slightly less than 1 cup. Brown sugar is generally preferred for apples, peaches, and pears. The amount of spice will depend upon taste. Cinnamon is generally used for apples; nutmeg, mace or allspice is good with peaches or apricots. Add just a suggestion of clove along with cinnamon and nutmeg to prunes or plums. Pears are good with the addition of ½ teaspoon ginger. Scatter the mixture over the fruit. And bake the pie about 30 to 40 minutes in a 400-degree oven, or until the topping is crusty and the fruit is tender. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cold, with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like.”

The version I have developed is a little different from James’,  in that I use oatmeal and nuts in the crumble topping and I never use a bottom crust. But I still refer to James for ideas on how to substitute other fruits and seasonings and how much sugar to add. You can also vary from pecans by trying walnuts or almonds. If you really want to get decadent try macadamia nuts in the topping with pears as the fruit and maybe just a hint of cardamon. You’ll also note in my recipe that I didn’t use any spice although James recommends allspice. I really just like the apricots on their own.

Annie’s Apricot Crisp

4 – 5 cups apricots cut in halves (about 15 apricots)

¼ cup sugar

1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix ingredients together and place in a lightly greased 8 x 8 glass baking dish.

For the topping:

½ cup butter

½ brown sugar

½ cup flour (I use oat flour, but you can use wheat or white)

½ cup Old Fashioned oats

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together in a small bowl. I use a pastry cutter to mix this together as it keeps the ingredients in a more crumbly texture. Squeeze the topping into chunks and scatter over apricots (see photo of what I like the texture to look like)

Bake in a 350° oven for about 40 – 50 minutes or until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling.

Serve warm if possible, with ice cream, whipped cream or if it’s breakfast or brunch time try serving it with unflavored Greek yogurt.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone!