My 10th-grade English teacher's favorite example of poor descriptive prose was "Strange but pretty." The phrase came back to haunt me the other night, when a guest exclaimed those very words over my pate. Strange referred to the unusual, but harmonious, blend of flavors: sweet apricots tempered by mild carrots, with garlic for bite and Gruyere cheese for body.
Pretty referred to the color, a festive orange-gold, set off by the small squares of pumpernickel I served surrounding it. This recipe is adapted from one in Colin Spencer's "The New Vegetarian," (Viking).
1 cup dried apricots, soaked in water overnight
6 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 pound butter, softened
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 1/4 cups cottage cheese, pureed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground pepper
Bread or crackers
Drain and dice apricots. In large saucepan, combine carrots and apricots. Cook in about 2 inches boiling water until tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain carrots and apricots. Puree with garlic and butter. Add Gruyere, cottage cheese and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend again. Pour mixture into buttered 5x3-inch loaf pan. Place loaf pan in large shallow pan. Pour enough water into larger pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan.
Cover loaf pan with wax paper. Bake at 425 degrees 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before turning out onto platter. Serve at room temperature with bread or crackers. Keeps well, refrigerated, up to 3 days. Makes about 6 servings.
This fruitcake is a wholesome, delicious version of the perennially fruit-studded loaves.
DIANA SHAW'S HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE
1 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 cup dried apricots or peaches, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey or raw sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine prunes, apples, apricots and walnuts in large bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder in another bowl. Add flour mixture to fruit and nut mixture.
Beat together eggs, honey, molasses and vanilla. Add to fruit and flour mixture and stir just until moistened.
Spoon into well-buttered 8x4-inch loaf pan. Bake at 300 degrees 1 hour. Let cool at least 10 minutes before turning out onto plate. Let cool completely before slicing. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Note: Up to 50% whole-wheat flour may be substituted for regular flour.