Tuesday, July 22, 2014

synonymous with comfort


There is nothing more soothingly sweet, more synonymous with comfort, than leftover dessert for breakfast. We began our Monday with nectarine cobbler. We’ve been on a nectarine jag, and happened to have four extra pounds of them that needed using up over the weekend. Though peach cobbler is my first love – I still fantasize about the ones my grandmother made with the luscious fruit from her trees – I am lazy. Removing skins from peaches is too much work. You get to leave the skins on when you bake with nectarines.

The evening before this famous breakfast, a neighbor completely unraveled before our eyes. Alexi greeted him from the deck off our bedroom, and in response, he began shouting at us. We stared, open-mouthed; looked at each other wide-eyed. We’ve lived in this house seven years and have always had a cordial relationship with him and his family. I’ve never before been cursed at.

Earlier that afternoon, I'd texted him. “I’m concerned about (your daughter’s) v fast driving speed; worried someone is going to get hurt. (Another neighbor) expressed the same thing to me. When Abbott and Cal are her age I’m hoping you’ll pass on the same sorts of things to me!” The gist of the yelling seemed to be that my message had really upset his daughter.

Over breakfast, Abbott remarked that shouting had disrupted his bedtime reading the night before. It scared him, and so he'd closed his window.

During our meals and walks the past couple of days, we’ve had discussions about self-control, the importance of giving feedback despite a poor response, and how best to give and take. We’ve talked about the pros and cons of asynchronous communication (texting, email) and synchronous communication (phone conversations, in person communication). We’ve had conversations about neighbor relations, the tumbledown of stress, and mental illness. The world is a complex place, and Alexi and I only have a few more years to prepare our boys to navigate on their own.

After the neighbor stormed back inside I settled back in to read, appreciating the faint breeze that stirred, cooling the sweat running down my back. The latticework shadows began to fade as I continued re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, getting so many things from it I didn’t the last time I read it, or the time before that. I paused at Atticus’ admonition to try to climb into another’s skin and walk around in it.



Nectarine Cobbler
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 1995

This is the best cobbler I’ve ever had, anytime, anywhere, aside from my grandmother’s similar version with peaches. The roasting of the nectarines, first, makes all the difference.

Filling

4 pounds nectarines, cut into wedges
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Topping

2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking power
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten to blend
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled buttermilk

For the filling:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Mix all of the filling ingredients in a 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping:

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and 4 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and buttermilk, and stir until batter forms.
Remove the fruit from the oven. Spoon the batter over the hot filling in 12 mounds, spacing evenly. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of remaining sugar. Bake until the juices thicken and the topping is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 8 servings

8 comments:

Yiota said...

I know how it feels to be taken aback by such behaviour. A good opportunity to teach your boys a few things, though.
Great cobbler. I love desserts with fruit but my family don't, I'm afraid so I make them when I expect (my)friends over.

Lecia Phinney said...

Yiota: I have the same experience with chocolate - Cal doesn't like it so it isn't something I have around very often. Bah!

karen said...

First time commenting, long time reader :) that neighbor's behavior was awful, when my son was first driving I loved hearing from my friend's on his driving skills. (All good). If I was told something negative I would have been thankful to have a teaching moment with him. I'm hoping he was having an off day.

Anonymous said...

Lecia, Thank-You so much for this wonderful cobbler recipe, I look forward to reading your posts.

Lecia Phinney said...

Thank you, Karen.

And thanks to you, anonymous commenter. xo

Pam said...

I just got a big box of peaches, so your recipe is perfect timing. I always choose fruity desserts. Yum. What is it about buttermilk in cobblers, though? Always a difficult ingredient to keep on hand. Can you freeze it?
Interestingly, I also just had a confrontation with a neighbor who has a terrifyingly aggressive dog. They try to keep it in their house/yard, but occasionally it has escaped. Yesterday it attacked my little dog when we were out walking. Miraculously, the owner caught the dog and no one was hurt. After I calmed down I went and tried to discuss the situation with him. It's like your situation.... the person gets defensive rather than realizing they are putting their neighbors in danger! I asked mine to get some training for his dog and try to socialize it, otherwise there is no place for it in our neighborhood. Hopefully your neighbor will get a clue before his daughter gets in an accident. Love how you discuss all this with your boys.

Lecia Phinney said...

Pam: I'm sorry to say I don't know about freezing buttermilk. And yes - giving and receiving feedback can be complex and stressful! I'm glad your dog is ok. xo

molly said...

The only thing more surprising, to me, than your neighbor's sudden and startling response is, I think, your deeply considered and balanced assimilation of it, that followed. How extraordinary to take it as an opportunity to discuss communications, in all their complexity.

And how especially well-deserved, the cobbler.

It is always such a quiet joy to come here, Lecia. May your last days of summer be sweet and full.

xo,
Molly