Cold Comfort: 8 Fruit Soup Recipes from “Cooking Know-How”
Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough in their kitchen in Colebrook, CT
“We refer to ourselves as the hardest working cookbook writers that no one has ever heard of,” Mark Scarbrough said a few week ago before he and his life-partner and collaborator, Bruce Weinstein, left on a three-week publicity tour for their 15th book, Cooking Know-How (John Wiley & Sons; $34.95). By the time they returned to their house in the woods of Colebrook, CT, their book had been dubbed by NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday one of the “10 Best Summer Cookbooks of 2009”.
Theirs is not an overnight success story. Scarbrough, who has Ph.D. in American Literature and once taught college English, and Weinstein, a former advertising executive who studied cooking at Johnson & Wales, have been writing books together for a decade. Their first effort was The Ultimate Ice Cream Book (which has sold more than 250,000 copies and was followed by titles such as The Ultimate Muffin Book and The Ultimate Party Drink Book.) They worked from a small kitchen in a New York apartment, which curtailed their ambitions. When they decided to leave Manhattan in 2006 and move to a house in northwestern Connecticut with a large open kitchen (and a back deck for grilling and land for a vegetable garden) cooking anything and everything under the sun became possible.
They conceived Cooking Know-How as more than a compendium of recipes, though it contains some 500 of them. They wanted to explain their methods and techniques, and, most importantly, encourage home cooks to improvise. They wanted to be liberators not dictators. They understood that a favorite recipe is both a comfort and a curse—it’s something you rely on because it delivers consistent results, which means you’re reluctant to experiment with new recipes for the same dish. The genius of Cooking Know-How is that you can make every recipe eight different ways: once you’ve mastered the duo’s method for making, say, oven-roasted babyback ribs (steaming them first before seasoning and roasting) you can use any one of their eight recipes for dry rubs (from Chinese-Inspired to Cajun to Lemon Pepper) to make ribs the same way but with different flavors. From enchiladas to vindaloo. they give you eight options for 64 different dishes.
They couple says that living in the country full-time has changed how they think about food and will inform their next two books: Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang; March 2010) features their favorite local farmers, Allen Cockerline of Whippoorwill Farm and Dan Hayhurst of Chubby Bunny,who helped them raise a pig last year and bring it to slaughter. “We’ve eaten half of Wilbur so far,” says Bruce. The other new book is Real Food Has Curves (Simon Spotlight Entertainment; May 2010), which they describe as a ten-step plan to get off all processed and packaged food, which has been easy for them to do living in an area rich in farmers’ markets and CSAs. Real Food Has Curves is also the name of their addictive blog.
Now that the warm weather is here, their recipe for Chilled Fruit Soup is worth memorizing. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have eight refreshing soups in your repertoire.
Chilled Fruit Soup
Makes 6 luncheon servings or 12 first-course servings
Here are the four steps to make a fruit soup; the ingredient list for eight variations follows.
Step 1 Bring four cups water, 2 pounds pitted or seeded fruit or berries, and a few spices (see below) to boil in a large saucepan over high heat; reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly until the fruit is meltingly tender, between 10 and 25 minutes.
Step 2 Remove and discard any hard spices, transfer large chunks of fruit or pulp to a bowl, turn the heat to medium high and boil the liquid in the pan, uncovered, until its volume has been reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
Step 3 Puree the fruit, the reduced cooking liquid, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup dairy product (see below) and 1/4 to 1/2 cup wine, fortified wine, brandy or cognac in a large blender or food processor fitted with the chopping blades, working in batches as necessary.
Step 4 Transfer to a large, non-reactive container; seal and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to 3 days; then season with salt to taste.
Garnish each serving with a little aged balsamic vinegar, chopped chives, edible flowers, grated citrus zest, ground walnuts or pecans, lemon juice, or pomegranate molasses.
Spiced Plum Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds plums + 1 four-inch cinnamon stick + 4 whole cloves + 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup red wine
Peach Thyme Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds peaches + 2 tsp thyme leaves
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup dry vermouth
Cherry Brandy Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds sweet (pitted) cherries + 1 four-inch cinnamon stick
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup creme fraiche, 1/4 cup brandy
Apricot Rosemary Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds (pitted) apricots + 1 Tbs chopped rosemary + 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup creme fraiche, 1/2 cup fruit white wine.
Blackberry Chipotle Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds blackberries + 1 dried chipotle (stemmed and seeded but left whole)
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 red wine or dry Madeira
Pear Ginger Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds pears (cored and sliced) + 1 Tbs minced fresh ginger + 1 four-inch cinnamon stick
Puree: 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup cream + 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Raspberry Summer Soup
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds raspberries + 1 Tbs grated orange ring + 4 o 5 mint leaves
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup half-and-half + 1/2 cup fruity white wine
Simmer: 4 cups water + 2 pounds blueberries + 1 Tbs minced fresh ginger + 1 four-inch cinnamon stick
Puree with: 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup creme fraiche + 1/2 cup red wine.