Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year Dates

Date Entry #1: New Year's Eve date
The Ex-Ex and I both have iPhones now.  Me? I got one the very day that Verizon came out with the 4s.  It's global which means it will work in France.  No more rental phones and all that hassle.  I saved my upgrade and pennies and snagged one.  The Ex-Ex?  His old flip phone finally gave up the ghost and died.  So, much to the surprise of our two Sons (and moi), he ordered an iPhone, too.  His is a school phone, though, so he is pretty picky about what he uses it for.  I persuaded him to use it to take a photo of me on New Year's Eve at Bull McCabe's in downtown Durham.  I didn't take my own with me.  Here is his first (and only) photo.  Yes, that's his finger in the way.  Oh well.  The blurry aspect works well for me actually.  We had a drink at Bull's as the DJ was getting set up and then pizza and Fullsteam beer at Satisfaction and called it an evening.  We left the dancing for the younger crowd.
Papa Bell always served greens and black-eyed peas for New Year's Day so I do the same.
Most years I am the only one in my house feasting on this simple meal, but the Ex-Ex ate some rice and beans with me.  The greens symbolize money-- folded up green bills.  The black-eyed peas are coins.  (I doubled my chances of economic prosperity in 2012 since I ate two servings!)  I decided to add brown rice just because I like it and it goes well with the peas.  I should've made cornbread, but didn't.  No one complained.  Son #2 feasted on scrambled eggs and toast.
I love fruitcake.  Even the kind with all the bright green and red candied fruits in it.  Mama Mildred had some that one of my cousins had made.  It was delicious.  She is supposed to be tracking down the recipe for me.  Papa Bell, my paternal grandfather, and one of the loves of my life, gave fruitcake to his employees at his hosiery mill every year.

We four grandkids also got one, too, of course.  Maybe the fact that it is associated with him is the reason I love it so much.
Date Entry #2:  Baking with dates
Anyway, I found a fabulous fruitcake recipe on David Lebovitz' website this week.  If you are unfamiliar with David and you are obsessed with Paris and baking, you need to check him out.  I was scared of him for a long time.  Famous people who get rave reviews scare me.  I always figure that whatever they are doing is way over my head.  (I am this way about books and movies sometimes, too, because I figure they cannot be as great as everyone says they are.  Well, they usually are.)  I read his blog faithfully now and bake some of his recipes.  He was a pastry chef at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse and he now lives in Paris.  (Yes, that makes a me a little green with jealousy. I am the first to admit it.)  I have David's The Sweet Life in Paris:  Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious and Perplexing City.
David says this about the fruitcake:  "You don't have to feel bad when you polish off the whole pan in one afternoon."  That kind of quote makes me really like him.  This is a healthy version.  No butter.  Brown sugar.  The recipe calls for apricot halves, but you can substitute any dried fruit you happen to like or have on hand.  Just stick to the quantities in the recipe.  I used dried cranberries (Craisins) and a few leftover dried blueberries that were in the cupboard.  I mixed it all up with my hands.  The feel of the warm, just toasted walnuts was an added bonus.

That was much easier and more efficient.  I doubled the recipe and baked it in 4 small loaf pans.
It was very good with my morning coffee today.

Fruitcake Bars
David Lebovitz (adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)

about 16 bars

6 Tbsp. (50 g) flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (80 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 c. walnuts, almonds or pecans (200 g), toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c. (170 g) dates, pitted and quartered
1 c. (170 g) dried apricot halves, snipped in half
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Line an 8-inch (20 cm) pan across bottom and up sides with 2 sheets of aluminum foil, making a big criss-cross with sides overhanging.  (I just sprayed my small loaf pans with non-stick spray.)
2.  Preheat oven to 325˚F (160˚C) and position rack in center of oven.
3.  In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add the brown sugar, nuts, dates, and apricots.  Use your fingers to mix the fruit, separating any pieces that are stuck together.
3.  Beat egg and vanilla in small bowl, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until everything is coated with batter.  Spread in pan and press gently to even out.
4.  Bake 35-40 minutes (my small loaf pans took 30 minutes) until top is golden brown and has pulled away just slightly from sides of pan.  Cool in pan, then lift out.  (I loosened mine just a bit by running a dull knife around the edges and then the loaves popped right out.)
5.  To cut the cooled bars, use a heavy sharp knife, such as a bread knife, for neat, clean slices.

Bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.  Individual cakes can be wrapped in plastic.

Bon appétit, 2012!

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