LUCY BURDETTE: I'm so pleased to introduce you to one of my favorite writers! I first heard Diana Abu-Jaber speak at the Key West Literary Seminar's conference on food writing. Then I began to inhale her books. She writes both memoir and fiction and today she's sharing an easy but delicious dessert recipe, and giving away a copy of her new memoir. But win or not, I hope you all take the chance to enjoy this lovely book!
DIANA ABU-JABER: Food memories are at the center of much my second memoir, Life Without a Recipe. And the reality is that I wasn’t raised with recipes but apprenticeship—watching my immigrant father at work in the kitchen, translating his personal history into dishes. I still prefer this approach to cooking—eclectic, improvisational, led by ingredients, climate, seasons, rather than a plan.
In my father’s Jordanian culture, baked desserts, like baklava, tend to be reserved for special occasions. Coffee, sweet tea, oranges, dates and almonds are more typical daily treats. Such simple fare would never satisfy my dessert-crazy grandmother or mother, though. This recipe is a great compromise—based on berries and little else. I got the idea from a recipe for Strawberry Ice at www.Food52.com. It’s wonderfully refreshing in the middle of the summer and so easy, I can make it on a daily basis with whatever berries I’ve got in the freezer. It’s also so simple, I rather call it a non-recipe—a preparation so direct and intuitive it pretty much isn’t a recipe at all.
½ C Heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar (optional)
1¼ C frozen cherries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons chopped chocolate chips (optional)
Start by whipping about a half cup of heavy cream with a half-teaspoon vanilla. My daughter and I like whipped cream, so we make extra. You could add a teaspoon or two of confectioner’s sugar, but to me that’s just gilding the lily.
Throw a good-sized cup of frozen cherries into the blender (this also works with frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever you have stashed away in the freezer.) Add a tablespoon of sugar. Pulse until it’s ground up into a coarse mix.
In theory, you’re now supposed to freeze the berry mixture for a few hours before serving, but we always have this straight out of the blender.
Place berries in two bowls with a couple of good-sized dollops of whipped cream and you’re done. If you’re feeling decadent, you can sprinkle some chopped chocolate chips on top of the whipped cream or stir it into the cherries. It’s light, liberating, and best of all, it’s delicious. It’s also a nice switch up from ice cream. I could eat this stuff all summer long—and pretty much I do.
Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two―or in her case, three. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.
Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.
Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of two memoirs: Life Without A Recipe-- an Indie Next pick--and The Language of Baklava, as well as four novels, including Birds of Paradise; Origin; Crescent;
and Arabian Jazz. Her YA fantasy novel SilverWorld is forthcoming from Random House. Diana teaches writing and
literature at Portland State University and lives with her husband and daughter in Fort Lauderdale.