a slump to soften the January blues

We returned to real life this past week. It’s a good thing that real life for us is a real joy! It’s overflowing with exciting projects to work on, incredibly kind and generous people to work and walk through life with, and there’s always food, from the humblest cauliflower stew to extravagant 5 part tapas meals to usher out one year and ring in the next. I even still have several bags of Christmas cookies in my freezer. Yet, January can be a low month, the weather is often seriously cold, the snow is no longer novel and, if the weather does warm up enough to start to melt the snow, the sodden earth can’t absorb all the moisture of the melting snow and the water builds up where the cross walks meet the road leaving ice bergs that make my afternoon walk feel a bit like an arctic adventure. If you are brave enough to face the frozen wasteland outdoors when you come back inside you might need something cozy to warm you up. I certainly did, and I had it on my mind when I spied the bag of cranberries wallowing in despair at the bottom of my fruit drawer (bought for a Christmas dinner that never got made) and it was still there when I had a stop at Natural Grocers and couldn’t pass up the 3 lb bag of “past their prime” pears that could easily be salvaged and definitely shouldn’t go to waste, I found myself itching to bake. . .something cozy and sweet. Who says you have to finish all the Christmas cookies before you can bake something else? I kept thinking along the lines of a crisp, but looking through “The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook” I spied a slump recipe. Where cobbler and crisp happily collide on a stove top and give you the dessert version of chicken and dumplings. Though the recipe I found called for a combination of raspberries and cranberries I found my well ripened pears to be a perfectly acceptable substitute for the raspberries. The resulting slump, paired with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, was a lovely ending to a crisp January Thursday.

Cranberry-Pear Slump (barely adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook by Debra Daniels-Zeller)

2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups peeled and diced pears
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
2 tablespoons cold butter

Heat a heavy skillet (not cast iron) over medium heat. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup orange juice in small bowl and set aside.  Combine the cranberries, pears, orange juice, sugar and orange zest in the skillet, pour cornstarch mixture over top. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the milk and lemon juice and set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and orange zest. Mix well, making sure there are no small lumps of baking soda. Cut in the butter until the mixture has a mealy consistency. Add the milk and lemon juice and stir until a fairly thick but still sticky batter forms (I needed an extra splash of milk to achieve this texture).

Drop the batter from a heaping teaspoon onto the simmering fruit, going around the outside of the pan until you reach the middle, covering almost all of the fruit.

Cover and simmer until the dumplings are done, about 40 minutes. Serve in individual dishes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Serves 6