Kitchen Accomplice: Welcome sweet springtime

By Judge John Kirkendall

When I was in grade school, we had a wonderful music teacher. As with all good teachers, she had a habit of intoxicating the pupils with the marvels of the previously unknown. One of the rituals in which she involved us was her annual springtime choir concert. Parents dutifully came. I thought at the time they came because they actually enjoyed the treat of our presentation. Many years later, and many concerts later, I have come to realize that parents show up to these events not for listening pleasure but out of a sense of duty. Never mind, we felt full of ourselves at the time.

One of the songs I learned was "Welcome Sweet Springtime." I was reminded of this as I began to put together a spring dessert. This dessert is so utterly simple and positively delicious I could not help but share it with you. It is best served warm from the oven, but luckily it can be prepared early in the day and simply warmed on a cookie sheet in the oven before serving with sweetened whipped cream on the side. This, if your guests are anything like mine, will knock their socks off.

Makes four 5-inch pies

Ingredients:

6 cups fresh fruit, blueberries,

picked over and cleaned, and

beautifully plump raspberries

Scant 1 cup sugar, plus more for

sprinkling on top of dampened

pie crusts

2 packages of Pillsbury refrigerated

pie crusts

Grand Marnier, 1 tablespoon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside. Combine blueberries, raspberries sugar, and Grand Marnier in a large bowl. Gently toss to coat the fruit. Set aside.

2. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, open the sheets of pie dough. Cut the dough into circles to fit your pie tins or ramekins. I used ceramic ramekins but miniature pie tins work beautifully.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups fruit mixture in each pie tin, mounding berries in the center. Dot each pie with 1 1/2 teaspoons butter.

4. Again, on a clean, lightly floured work surface, open remaining sheets of pie dough. With a 1-inch round biscuit cutter or with a paring knife, cut a hole from the center of each quarter. Carefully drape each quarter over the fruit mixture so steam hole is centered. Press edges together to seal. Trim edges around pie plates.

5. Return to refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.

6. Place pies on prepared baking pan. Brush each pie with water, and sprinkle with sugar. Transfer to oven, and bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. and continue baking until fruit juices begins to bubble up, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer pies to a wire rack to cool.

This fruit dessert is the conclusion for your springtime dinner.

I also have a favorite appetizer that works well. It is as delectable as the blue cheese you choose. In this case, I recommend the Point Reyes blue cheese from California. It is the best I have tasted.

Pecan Blue Cheese Spread

Ingredients:

1/4 cup toasted pecans

1/2 lb cream cheese, cut into

1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons blue cheese

Directions:

1. Place nuts in food processor and process until finely chopped; it takes about 10 seconds.

2. Add both cheeses.

3. Process until very smooth; again, it should only take about 10 seconds.

4. Pack into a bowl and refrigerate until serving; this is best if allowed to chill for a few hours.

5. A dribble of brandy or port added when you add the cheeses doesn't hurt.

6. Serve spread on baguette toasts

Baguette toasts

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Diagonally cut twenty-four 1/8-inch-thick slices from baguette and arrange in one layer on baking sheets. Brush tops of slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toast slices in middle and upper thirds of oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes, and cool on racks. Toasts may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at Judgejnk@yahoo.com.

Published: Mon, Apr 4, 2011

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