April is upon us, and that means the loquats are here!
What are loquats, you ask?
Also called Japanese plums or nisperos, loquats — not related to kumquats — are a little yellowish orange fruit that grows on trees around Austin. I first had them when I was living in Spain, where you could buy them in the farmers’ markets. Here, however, you have to forage them yourself from ornamental trees planted all over the city. Some neighborhoods have more than others, so if you don’t see them in yours, keep an eye peeled as you drive around town.
Here’s what they look like:
I’ve been obsessed with loquats for years now, and every year, I do my own little PR campaign so that Austinites know that they are not just edible, but delicious and fun to eat, too. I like to peel the outside and then scrape the flesh with my teeth, but some people pop the whole thing in their mouth, chew around the seeds and then spit them out, much like sunflower seeds.
Falk re-created the dish in a quantity that will serve a party or leave leftovers for the week to come, and it calls for cooking the meat in a slow cooker, which means less time in the kitchen and more time watching the game.
Hot Italian Beef au Jus Sandwiches
I’m often inspired by the concession food I eat at the many ballparks and arenas I visit over the course of each year. This sandwich was inspired by one served at Fenway’s Yawkey Way during the 2013 World Series. The Red Sox, my mom’s favorite team, took the title, winning their first World Series since 1918.
— Daina Falk
4 pounds chuck roast
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley
5 banana peppers, thinly sliced, or to taste
1 cup beef stock
8 to 10 whole-wheat buns
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Season the beef with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high. Add the beef, and brown both sides quickly, about 2 minutes per side. Decrease the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook for 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.
Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker, and add the oregano, basil, parsley, banana peppers and stock. Add a couple healthy grinds of black pepper, and cover. Cook on low for 9 hours, or until the beef is soft and can be pulled apart with a fork.
Serve the beef hot on the buns, topped with a healthy slice of mozzarella, which will melt with the heat of the beef. Or put it under the broiler for 2 minutes to also lightly toast the tops of the buns. Serve with a small cup of the jus (the yummy juice left in the slow cooker) for dipping. Serves 8 to 10.
You probably don’t, but just in case you do, scientists have recently figured out why baking, cooking and other creatives tasks make you feel better on a gray, rainy or otherwise blue day.
I’m usually annoyed by stories and claims like this, but something about this one struck me. Maybe it was this part from the lead author of the study: “People who worked on little creative projects every day also felt they were “flourishing”—a psychological term that describes the feeling of personal growth.”
My go-to dessert right now are these fudgy brownies from our Year of Baking series last year. Good Housekeeping originally published the recipe years ago, and it’s so good, it’s worth republishing on the blog. (Want a vegan or gluten-free brownie recipe? We got ya covered.)
Super rich, with lots of deep, dark chocolate flavor, these brownies have a moist and fudge-like texture. The sugar cools down the heated butter and chocolate so that you don’t accidentally cook the eggs. Feel free to use any combination of chocolate you’d like. Eight ounces of chocolate chips will work in a pinch but not quite as well as the bars of chocolate you’ll find in the baking aisle. You could reduce the recipe for an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan by using half of a cup flour, a pinch of salt, a stick butter, 2 ounces of chocolate, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and two eggs.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. granulated salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened, semisweet or dark chocolate, broken into chunks
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken into chunks
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
5 large eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
In a heavy, 4-quart saucepan over low heat, melt butter and add chocolate pieces, stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and stir until well mixed. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture until just blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
When cool, lift out the brownies and peel foil away from the sides. Cut into pieces and serves. Makes about 24 brownies.