Before The Dog died, I decided it would be a good idea to order myself a gift, so that something would arrive to cheer me a few days after. The gift I chose for myself was Claudia Fleming’s regrettably out-of-print The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, about which I keep hearing rave reviews, and it strikes me that a cookbook that is still being talked about ten years after it was published is probably a cookbook worth checking out. My library didn’t have a copy, and in late December, the cheapest used copy on Amazon was $140.
That seemed kind of steep for a cookbook, so I waited, and sure enough, after Christmas, prices started to drop, a little each day, and then suddenly a couple of sellers dropped their prices by quite a bit, but then raised them again – on Amazon. But one of the sellers left his low price – $70 – on Abebooks, while copies were still selling for over $100 on Amazon – and after a couple of days and a little rationalization on my part, this seemed like a very good deal, and I bought it.
We’ll ignore the fact that prices continued to drop on Amazon, and if I’d waited just a week or two, I could have saved myself another $20. In fact, we’ll just stop looking at the prices. They don’t matter, because the cookbook arrived, and I had all the ingredients I needed to make the gingersnaps, and they were truly the loveliest gingersnaps I’ve ever made.
I had a big container of them waiting for Mr. Faraway when he visited, only to discover that although he seems to like nearly everything I make, he doesn’t like gingersnaps regardless of who made them, and now I’ve got a dinner guest and an ample supply of something that won’t pass as dessert after all.
I also have a large butternut squash that I bought for some reason – probably a very good one – and The Last Course has a recipe that I would have probably bypassed for the rest of my life, were it not for the fact that it calls for butternut squash, and I have one, and I need to do something fairly quick and simple for dessert.
Mr. Faraway says, I don’t really see how a vegetable can be dessert.
I point out that pumpkin can be pie, and that’s both vegetable and dessert.
Let’s give it a shot, he says.
He does all the dicing and peeling, while I manage the cooking for the recipe, which we made together as the spareribs roasted. I immediately hit a speed bump, discovering that I’m short by half the amount of maple syrup the recipe calls for, so we agree that swapping in some honey for the rest was probably the safest solution. It all smells incredible while cooking, and when the squash is tender enough to sample, we try it and discover it tastes just like pumpkin pie.
The combination of reduced maple syrup, honey, and caramel becomes quite intense, so the compote is very rich – a little goes a long way. Fleming suggests serving it with gingersnaps, which was not an option on that evening, or a pound cake, which would be delicious soaked in the syrup. We opted to serve it over plain vanilla ice cream, elevating it into a very special dessert. We agree it would be a super topping for any number of things, especially brunch-y things, and the following morning, we make a batch of Kate Smith’s Griddle Cakes, pouring the compote and syrup on top, for a true breakfast treat.
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- 1½ cinnamon sticks
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (3/4 inch dice)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apples (1/2 inch dice)
- Combine the syrup, cinnamon and cloves in a pan with ¾ cup water, bring to the boil and reduce for 7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the squash and simmer until tender and partly translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the squash from the syrup and set aside, and reduce the syrup for another 7 minutes. Strain, and set aside.
- Heat an 8-inch skillet and melt ¼ cup of the sugar, shaking the pan. Add another ¼ cup, melt, add the final ¼ cup. Heat until it reaches a rich golden brown colour. Add the apple chunks in one layer and turn off the heat. Don't stir. Baste occasionally as the apples heat and release their juices. To serve, add the apple and squash to the remaining maple syrup and heat through.
- Serve warm or at room temp.
I served this the first night over plain vanilla ice cream, and it was spectacular. The following morning, I served it over pancakes, and they were divine.