Thursday, July 11, 2013

Umeboshi are salted dried ume fruit, which you may be familiar with from sushi joints - I first had them in the form of umeboshi puree in the center of a ball of rice, which is a pretty common offering. They're very tart and very salty.

Ume are a member of the Prunus family, like plums, apricots, peaches, cherries, and almonds. They're often translated as plums or apricots, which is misleading. An ume is no more a plum than a peach is a plum. It's just that there's no word in English for ume because, hey, they aren't from English-speaking lands.

I had a bunch of leftover actual plums, though, your standard supermarket black plums, which weren't going to last the weekend, so I pitted and juiced them, added a couple pitted umeboshi, the syrup leftover from macerating strawberries and apricots (more prunus!) together, sugar, and a bit of Campari.

Boom, Campari-umeboshi sorbet. Ignore the Jeni's logo - I reuse ice cream containers!

Campari-Umeboshi sorbet

But why Campari-umeboshi sorbet? Why those two things?

Two reasons. First, a little alcohol helps prevent iciness in your sorbet or ice cream - and sorbet is especially prone to iciness.

Second, umeboshi is salty and Campari is bitter. These two things don't exactly cancel each other out, but they rub the raw edges off. Coffee with a pinch of salty is still bitter, but the bitter becomes more palatable. Bitterness isn't something I have a problem with, but still, it made for a nice complementary pair.

As for the recent past. Once again my mother took me to Wegmans for my birthday (followed by a lunch of fried clams and a frappe). Pretty pretty great - I got a handful of things previously unfamiliar to me, some excellent fish and produce, and was able to make soft-shell crab for my birthday for the second year in a row.

My birthday weekend, we had Eton mess (strawberries, meringues, matcha meringues, chunks of dragonfruit, whipped cream) in dragonfruit shells. So good!

Eton mess, dragonfruit

I used fresh wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon from Wegmans to make homemade gravlax, which is pretty easy: mix two parts salt to one part sugar, add seasonings (in this case: spruce tips, fennel, dill), cover salmon on both sides, wrap in Saran wrap, and refrigerate (in a container) for a day or two. You may need to drain the fish after a few hours.

We had the gravlax on these awesome bagels - "black Russian" bagels, pumpernickel with caraway and sesame seeds. Perfect. Accompanying: pierogi, knish, and cheeses, all from Wegmans.
Homemade gravlax, knish, pierogi, cheese
The cheeses, from left to right, are Moses Sleeper, a very good camembert-like cheese; La Tur, a strong and deliciously flavored mixed-milk cheese with a sort of fluffy texture; and five-year Gouda.

The Last Word is one of my two or three favorite cocktails and the one that best goes with strawberries, thanks to the Chartreuse - and most years, as this year, my birthday intersects with strawberry season:

Last Word with strawberries

Caitlin has previously gotten me burgers from Pat La Frieda for my birthday or other holidays, but this year got me burgers AND Pat La Frieda hot dogs - a natural casing all-beef hot dog. It's also a coarsely-ground hot dog, which you hardly ever seen anymore, at least around here, and I'm just old enough to remember when they were more common. The result is a great-tasting hot dog with serious texture. We had more on the Fourth of July, but this is a shot of Caitlin's plate from my birthday weekend, with toasted breadcheese on the side:

Pat La Frieda hot dogs, bread cheese

Surprisingly, I was also able to get more fresh fava beans, and the night before leaving for the lake for the Fourth, we had fava beans quickly boiled (like five minutes) and served with ground lamb cooked with onions, garlic, cumin, chile, and soy sauce.

Fava beans and cumin lamb

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