Deborah Madison Stops By!

You can hardly call yourself a foodie if you don't own at least one of Deborah Madison's many cookbooks, and if you happen to be vegetarian and don't own one, I don't know what to say to you. As you know, we eat just about anything in my house, but Madison's quintessential Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone remains my most called-upon, most splattered cooking bible. Given that Madison did a stint at Chez Panisse and founded Greens restaurant, her commitment to seasonal, local, good eating comes as no surprise, but I've been delighted by the accessibility of her writing and recipes to the home cook.

Recently Madison's eleventh cookbook hit the shelves, Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm and Market, and since she had included the Bellevue Farmers Market in her earlier book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers Markets, I impulsively hit her up for an interview:

First of all, congratulations on your new book. It's exactly in time for our Bellevue Farmers Market high season. The photographs are gorgeous, and I love your approach to fruit desserts, from simple to elaborate, from classics to putting together fruit-and-cheese trays. Besides the recipes, I love your writing. Your comments and insights make me feel like you're cooking alongside me in the kitchen!

Q. You have always urged your readers to eat seasonally and locally, when possible. Up in the Pacific Northwest, we are swimming in all kinds of berries at the moment, as well as stone fruits like cherries and pluots and peaches. Can you suggest some recipes for these from Seasonal Fruit Desserts?

DM: First of all, you're so lucky to be awash in berries! I can't quite imagine the luxury of that in New Mexico - they are truly precious (and costly, to match).  The simplest things to do —berries tossed with a little sugar and rose water; berries with creme fraiche, peaches sliced into a glass of wine; sauces made from an excess of berries or seedy little berries like blackcap raspberries.  One of my favorite desserts consists of sliced peaches and raspberries with a honey sabayon and a blackberry puree, or sauce. It's on the over-the-top side.  I'm wild for peach tarts or galettes with frangipane and there's one in the book, or a berry galette.  Plums and pluots are interesting sauteed with cardamom, or baked in wine with orange zest.

Q. In your book you talk about getting to know the names of fruits. As someone who only just learned there was more to cherries than Rainiers and Bings, can you explain what you mean by this?

DM: All things  have names, including fruits, and if we know what something is called, then we have the ability to ask for it again if we liked it, avoid it if we didn't, look for it if we long for it.  If we don't know their names, then we can't build a relationship to our favorites or more basically, to diversity.  Not only do we gradually lose the culture of food, in this case fruits, we lose a certain joy that comes with anticipating that Lambert cherry, or a Santa Rosa plum, or a favorite white nectarine, like  Arctic Rose.  Without names, it all becomes so random and over time, varieties get lost because no one knows what they're called and so they cease to ask for them.

Q. You recommend fresh berries be eaten right away, but if other Bellevue Farmers Market patrons are like me, we tend to go nuts and get a whole flat when the getting is good--are there any recipe suggestions in the cookbook that can be frozen or put by for later?

DM: Of course, freeze them if you have an excess!  I just meant you don't want to plan on keeping them around for a week before you use them.

Q. Oh, but I meant if you weren't going to freeze them. How long would a fruit compote or sauce keep?

DM: I think the texture of the compote would suffer in freezing, but I know you can freeze the sauces.  Compotes can keep in the fridge.  The dried fruit compote will keep for weeks, actually, but fresh fruit does diminish after a few days.
Q. I have a theory about the world: dessert eaters fall either into the Fruit or Chocolate categories. And Fruits always marry Chocolates--or at least this Fruit did. Any desserts in your new book that could satisfy both camps?

DM: Interesting theory.  I didn't include a lot of chocolate in the book.  There are two barks, that are great with dried fruits in winter, lavender, tangerine zest,  nuts. A included a good old fashioned chocolate pudding (and a butterscotch pudding) which is sort of a stand alone, but then t here's a steamed chocolate cake recipe that I included because of the fact chocolate does marry well with so many fruits, both fresh and dried ones.  The few cakes in the book, in  fact, are intended to accompany fruit throughout the seasons.

Q. And then there are those occasional weirdos who don't "do" dessert. I love how your book suggests pairings of cheese and fruit as dessert alternatives. Bellevue Farmers Market features locally-made Cheddars, Goudas, curds, fresh mozzarella, feta, and a very fresh variety called Ladysmith. There are also hazelnuts available. Can you put together a couple Washington cheese tray ideas for us?

DM: I'm familiar with your market as I visited it and wrote about it in my book, Local Flavors.  When there I was smitten with the hazelnuts, your gouda cheese, and a few apples we bought. They were spectacularly crisp and juicy (it was fall) and good.  I'd start with those three —toast the hazelnuts (in the shell is good, too!), have the cheese at room temperature, slices of your favorite apples. Of course Cheddar would be good with the apples and nuts as well.  I may be dead wrong on this, but I'd be curious to try the curds, or the Ladysmith, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with toasted, chopped hazelnuts. There is a really simple recipe in Seasonal Fruit Desserts that has you cook quartered apples in a little applejack on the stove (Plump Golden Apples) - a tad of butter, a pinch of sugar - not very sweet but very succulent.  One who doesn't "do" desserts might like it, especially with some Cheddar. There's also a peach or a pear stuffed with a hazelnut

frangipane which is quite modest as desserts go and makes use of your local fruits and nuts.
Thank you so very much for your time and your dedication to delicious, real food. We look forward to enjoying your book!