Friday again. Last week’s heat bubble popped, and the weather is back to normal summer instead of summer in hell. It’s 20 to 30 degrees cooler.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was a dessert called Citrus-Berry Terrine, which is a fancy name for French Jello Mold. OK, it wasn’t exactly French jello, as opposed to American jello. It was much more elegant. The terrine was based on “homemade” jello, made from gelatin and fruit juice, rather than an artificially flavored, heavily-sweetened box of Jell-O. Plus, the terrine was studded with fresh fruit: orange, grapefruit, and freshly picked berries.
I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s, so as most children raised in American suburbs during that time frame did, we ate plenty of Jell-O at our house. Cups of regular jello were a frequent snack. Then, there was the special occasion jello mold that appeared on the table for all holidays and special family dinners. My family’s was a strawberry-flavored Pink Jello Mold, which I still make (and enjoy) today.
The concept of homemade jello never occurred to me until I read a column in Gourmet magazine by Laurie Colwin. “Desserts that Quiver” made a real impression on me. Like she did, I brought home different kinds of fruit juice and boxes of Knox gelatin from the store and went to town. This essay can be found in her collection, More Home Cooking. (Sadly, Laurie Colwin passed away in 1992. She’s one of my favorite food writers.)
Back to the terrine… This was a lovely, refreshing dessert. The citrus was tart, and the berries were sweet, giving it a nice contrast. I made a half recipe, using a 5-inch square container. After supreming the orange and grapefruit, I squeezed the juice from the remaining membranes. Then, I made up the difference with grapefruit juice, which is our usual morning juice. Dorie said it would take about 2 hours for the gelatin to get to the consistency of egg whites. I missed the actual point of egg whites, and after 45 minutes, it was way past that. I added the fruit anyway, though I think the fruit would have mixed in better if the consistency had been a little runnier.
Last night, my friend Laury and I went to a delicious Persian restaurant for dinner. We passed on ordering dessert, and I served the terrine when we came back to my house. Howard declined to try it, but that was his loss. It was beautiful to look at (though difficult to photograph). Laury and I both enjoyed it. I think it could have been a tad sweeter, so when I make it next time, I would either add a little more sugar (there wasn’t much in the recipe) or use orange juice, which would definitely be sweeter than the grapefruit. I will also experiment with other fruits and juice flavors.
The Doristas are a creative bunch. I’m sure some of them experimented with the basic formula here, and I can’t wait to read about what they tried. You can check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but all the recipes are in the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. It’s well worth adding to your bookshelf. (From someone with hundreds of cookbooks, this is a hearty recommendation.)
Next Friday: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. Perfect for the season.
As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie. Usually, when I read a recipe, I have some sense of what it will taste like. Cold Melon-Berry Soup combined ingredients I like into an end result I had trouble imagining.
Where I live, this week was unbearably hot. I live in an un-air-conditioned house, so going to work was a pleasure. We have lots of fans, but after a while, blowing warm air around seems counter-productive. Cooking, or even working in the kitchen, was not.
Though the weather was perfect for cold soup, it took me all week to work up the energy to try it out. Also, the instructions to chill the soup for 2 to 6 hours didn’t mesh with my schedule. I wasn’t sure whether it would suffer by not chilling long enough or chilling too long. If I made it before I left for work, it would chill all day, at least 10 hours. Or if I made it right before dinner, it wouldn’t be that cold. I probably worry too much about nothing.
Dorie’s recipe calls for cantaloupe and strawberries, but I let the fruit at the store speak to me. The honeydew and blueberries looked much more appealing. Half the melon is pureed into soup, and the other half is scooped into balls. Lime juice, fresh ginger, and a pinch of salt enhance the puree.
This definitely wasn’t my favorite recipe from the book, but it was better than I expected. It was like fruit salad soup. I found the flavors interesting, and I loved the colors, the contrast of the pale green melon and the bright blueberries.
I’m looking forward to reading what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe and how they tweaked it. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Maybe you’ll even want to cook along with us on Fridays.