Pam Enloe’s slow cooking with garden and market-fresh fruits and vegetables is a fast way to please friends and family who tuck in at her Leawood table.
Since retiring as an elementary schoolteacher three years ago, Enloe continues to cook from scratch when making fresh fruit and veggie dishes for Ed, her husband of nearly 50 years, their two grown children and three grandchildren.
Enloe relishes time with her grandchildren, Cassius Enloe, 7; Fiona Enloe, 5; and Grayson Nadon, 3; as she passes down old growing traditions to a new generation.
“We help cook with our Grammy,” Cassius says. “And we also help eat it, too.”
Q: I know you don’t consider yourself a frou-frou foodie, but do you find that the growing season dictates the beautiful ingredients you use?
A: My style of cooking is simple. I like to cook with fresh ingredients from the market and from my garden, as the produce comes into season. This year, our backyard garden has squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. We also have blueberry bushes that our grandkids helped me pick. I believe when food is grown with a lot of love and care, you can’t help but feel that same love and care when it’s brought to the table.
Q: Even though you’ve retired from the classroom, it seems as though you’re still teaching.
A: I am so lucky to have my grandchildren spend time with me during the week and really get to know them. We have a summer routine that includes picking mint in the morning and steeping it in water for tea that is enjoyed every day.
There is so much critical thinking that goes into cooking. And it is gratifying when the children help harvest a tomato, and then slice it for the sandwiches we make for lunch together. There are so many lessons to be learned around the kitchen and the preparation of food — reading, math, time management, measuring, chemistry, tasting, laughing and hugs. There are a lot of hugs in this kitchen.
Q: Your kitchen isn’t just for family only; you also have friends that tuck in at your table regularly.
Ed and I have prepared Sunday dinner for a group of eight to 20 people for the past 40-plus years. Ed cooks the meat and potatoes, and I prepare vegetables, salads and desserts.
Using fresh fruit and vegetables are essential ingredients in my style of cooking. I use very few recipes and take note of what is plentiful to be able to create a dish. You never know exactly what you’re going to get when you come over to eat, because I am constantly creating.
Q: Your tart is simply sweet.
A: True to form, I made this recipe up, but it continues to evolve because it is so adaptable. The rice cereal crust is gluten-free, but you could make a graham cracker or granola/nut crust as well.
Double this recipe and put it into a 9-by-13-inch pan to feed a crowd. It also looks great pressed into cupcake papers to make individual desserts. I like to cook with food that is in season, so this dessert can be topped with strawberries, pears and bananas, too. Whatever soft fruit you have on hand can make a beautiful dessert.
The grandchildren love to press the crust, arrange the fruit, pick the mint from the garden and pipe on whipped cream before serving. They are always proud to present their creation at Sunday dinner. This tart tastes good to kids and adults and makes a pleasant finale to a shared meal.
These are the lessons and memories I’m trying to build with our grandchildren so that one day, they can hopefully share what they’ve learned with their own children and grandchildren, too.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Gluten-Free Fresh Fruit Tart
Makes 10 servings
2 tablespoons softened butter, plus more for pan
2 cups mini-marshmallows
3 cups gluten-free certified crispy rice cereal
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 lemon, freshly squeezed
4 large peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup blackberries, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup apple or mint jelly
Fresh mint sprigs and whipped cream for optional garnishes
Butter a (10-inch) tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat on stovetop. Add marshmallows and stir about 5 minutes, or until marshmallows are completely melted.
Remove from heat and stir cereal into marshmallow mixture until well combined.
Press into bottom and onto sides of prepared tart pan. Set aside to cool.
Using an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment, whip cream cheese. Add marmalade to cream cheese and mix until well combined and spreadable.
Using an offset spatula, spread cream cheese over top the entire marshmallow crust. Set aside.
Pour prepared peaches into bowl and squeeze lemon juice over all to prevent browning. Pour off excess liquid and carefully arrange peach slices around the outside of tart.
Pour blueberries and blackberries into center of tart and set aside.
Pour jelly into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Using a pastry brush, coat fruit with liquefied jelly.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Before serving, unmold from tart pan by pushing up on removable bottom.
Garnish with fresh mint and whipped cream, if desired. Cut into 1-inch wedges and serve immediately.
Per serving: 225 calories (40 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 193 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.