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earthly delights

May 21, 2000|Heather John

While we're busy planting summer gardens and kitchen plots, three Southern California garden gurus are turning nectarines from their backyards into tarts, potted geranium petals into scented creams and savory pumpkins into soups.

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Kate Stamps, Stamps & Stamps, South Pasadena

PUMPKIN SOUP

Serves 6

2-3 pounds pumpkin

2 large onions

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups chicken stock flavored with bouquet garni of bay leaf, fresh thyme and sage

Black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Sea salt

3/4 cup cream

Peel, seed and cut pumpkin into small, even pieces. Peel and chop onions and garlic. Melt butter, cook onions gently until clear. Add garlic, cook 5 more minutes. Add stock, pepper, cinnamon and salt. Add pumpkin, simmering until very soft. Sieve or puree through food processor. Stir in cream.

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ROSE GERANIUM SCENTED CREAM

Serves 6

1 pint heavy cream

2 teaspoons superfine sugar or regular sugar crushed with mortar and pestle

3-4 large rose-scented geranium leaves

Smaller leaves and flowers for garnish

In double boiler, warm cream and sugar until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, add geranium leaves. Cool 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap pressed to cream's surface (to prevent skin from forming). Chill for several hours in airtight container. Remove leaves before serving over fruit, such as baked apples or pears, fresh strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.

Judy Kameon, Elysian Landscapes, Elysian Park

NECTARINE TART

Serves 8-10

12/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons chilled sweet butter

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-2 tablespoons ice water

6-7 firm, but not hard, nectarines

1/4 cup brown sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cornstarch

Vanilla ice cream

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In food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend. Chop butter into chunks and add butter and pine nuts to food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Put into large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, vanilla and water. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients with fork until just moist. Quickly shape dough into ball.

Place dough on pastry board. With heel of your palm, smear about 1/4 cup of the dough away from you and repeat until all dough has been smeared. Scrape up dough and reshape into ball. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for 1 hour.

Roll out dough and line 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges to 3/4 inch above top of pan. Fold edges over and press into place with fingers. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use fork to make a pattern in the dough edge. Line dough with aluminum foil and weigh down with beans, rice or pie weights. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil and weights and prick pastry several times with fork. Return pastry to oven and bake for 3-4 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Slice nectarines in half. Slice each half into 4 wedges. Place in bowl with brown sugar and toss. Add lemon juice, vanilla and nutmeg and toss again. If fruit releases juices, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, depending on amount of liquid. Let stand for 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes.

In cooled crust, starting from the outside edge, arrange nectarine wedges like a rose. Lay wedges in circles, with the peel of the fruit facing the crust. Keep laying circles within circles until crust is full. With the extra fruit, go back to largest circle and overlap until all fruit is used. Pour any remaining liquid over fruit.

Bake tart at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until bubbling and brown. If top of tart browns too quickly, cover edges with foil.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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SPRING LAMB SALAD

Serves 6

12 small yellow Dutch potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

3pound leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

Mixed baby greens

Fresh nasturtium flowers

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 shallot, finely diced

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons walnut oil

Herbed Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread potatoes flat on cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes until brown and slightly puffed.

Cut lamb into steaks. Rub lamb with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Grill over medium-hot fire for 10-15 minutes, until medium rare. Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes.

Prepare vinaigrette: Combine vinegar, shallot, salt and pepper. Stir in walnut oil.

Prepare herbed mayonnaise: In blender, combine egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until mixed. Keeping blender on, carefully remove lid and slowly pour in olive oil in a steady stream, blending until emulsified. Add garlic and herbs and blend just until smooth.

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