Tag Archives: summer

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel

Plum Pear Blueberry Crisp

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Nothing says summer better than a fruit crisp which effortlessly absorbs the season’s bounty. Let the market dictate your choice of fruit. Then fold the ripest gems – winey plums, tender pears, juicy blueberries – into your well loved and slightly worn ceramic dishes. Sprinkle with a little sugar and spice and crown it with a nutty streusel topping.

Plums Market

For this fruit crisp, I let the St. Helena farmers’ market do the talking.

Pears market

and ended up with this:

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel
and Armagnac Whipped Cream 

Serves 8 to 10

Streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Armagnac Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Filling:
1 pint blueberries, divided
6 ripe but not too soft pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, cut in 1-inch chunks
6 plums, pitted, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare the streusel:
In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and walnuts. Add butter and work into the topping with your fingertips until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the whipped cream:
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Place half of the blueberries and the remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter the remaining blueberries over the filling. Spoon the streusel evenly over the top. Bake in the oven until the crisp is bubbly, the pears are soft, and the topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Plum Galette

plum crostata tastefood

When life hands you plums, make a galette

I am the queen of imperfect desserts. When I feel nonchalant I call them “rustic” but frankly they can look like a mess. The good news is that there is plenty of room for imperfect, rustic and messy desserts in our repertoire. In fact most cuisines tout their own version of bubbly, squidgy desserts cobbled together with crumpled and crinkled borders oozing juices like a ruptured pipe. They’re supposed to do that, and more importantly, they taste really good. And when one lacks a certain gene for patience (moi) these desserts are just right. They relieve all pressure to be exacting, methodical and, well, perfect. Once that pressure’s removed there is plenty of space to simply relax, bake and eat. Just be sure to pass the napkins.

Plums

Plum Galette

If you’re feeling Italian, you can call this a crostata. Serves 6.

Pastry:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut in pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Filling:
8 large plums, halved, pitted and sliced or 12 small plums, halved, pitted
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of salt

Prepare the pastry:
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work into flour with your fingertips until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to bind the dough. Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk, then wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Prepare the galette:
Heat oven to 375°F. Toss the plums in a large bowl with 4 tablespoons sugar, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface or on parchment paper into a 12-inch circle. Sprinkle 1 tablepoon sugar in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the plums over the sugar. Sprinkle the plums with 1 tablespoon sugar. Fold the border of the dough up and around the plums. The center of the galette will be exposed. Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Plum Compote with Rosemary
Blood Orange Crostata with Salted Caramel Sauce
Apricot Brulee with Greek Yogurt and Lemon

Scandinavian Potato Salad


I call this a Scandinavian Potato Salad, because I discovered this fresh and light-handed potato salad years ago in Denmark. Most likely it was at a frequent family gathering, in the shadow of a thatched roof farmhouse in the Danish countryside, seated at a long wooden table outdoors with the summer sun hanging, as if caught on the hook of the horizon, refusing to sink as evening set in. I know it was summer, because that’s when the potato is at its peak in new-ness and considered not only a staple but a delicacy to be greedily devoured. I was smitten by the salad’s restraint, simply tossed with oil and vinegar and generously showered with fresh snipped herbs from the garden. As an American, my experience with potato salads to that point had been the heavy-handed mayo-egg sort, tasty for sure, but more of a cloak and disguise to the mild-mannered potato. I would prod a fork through those murky salads swathed in cream, sugar and oil  in an attempt to fish out any morsel of potato, which by then had no flavor except that of the coating with which it was blanketed. The Danish potato salad was delightfully different, and appropriately Scandinavian in its understatement and use of fresh ingredients, celebrating the humble potato with a confetti of the garden’s herbs. Most importantly: I could taste the potato.  And when the season’s newest potatoes are available, delicately sweet and faintly redolent of butter and grass, there is nothing as sublime as the taste of potato.

Scandinavian Potato Salad

I refer to this salad as “potatoes and herbes du jour,”  because the combination of herbs is up to your taste and whatever might be growing in your garden. The chili flakes are my contribution to this salad, since I am hopelessly hooked on a little kick of heat. Serves 6.

3 pounds new potatoes or fingerlings, washed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups fresh herbs, chopped, such as parsley, mint, dill, oregano, chervil

Bring a large pot of salted water and the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender but not mushy. Drain. If using larger potatoes, cool slightly, then cut in 3/4-inch chunks. Toss with oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic, salt, pepper and optional chili flakes. Cool completely. Before serving, add fresh herbs and mix well. If salad is too dry, add additional olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

For more Scandinavian inspiration, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Red Berry Soup
Spiced Meatballs with Cranberry Compote, Yogurt and Dill
Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich (Smørrebrød)

 

White Peach, Almond and Arugula Salad with a side of Salume

~ White Peaches, Almonds, Arugula, Mint, Thyme, Parmigiano ~

Summer food is simple food. Fresh salads are frequent centerpieces on our dinner table. Little else is needed except an assortment of cheese, salumi and a chilled glass of wine to round out the meal when no-cooking is advised. This salad is inspired by the sweetly perfumed white peaches and feisty mint that vied for my attention this morning at the local farmer’s market. It was perfectly offset by a selection of salame I recently recieved from  Columbus Salame with a selection of artisan and classic salame – perfectly timed for al fresco summer dining.  Continue reading White Peach, Almond and Arugula Salad

Summer Beach Grill Party: BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Last weekend we celebrated the summer solstice with our annual BBQ and bonfire at the beach. This is a Nordic tradition we happily packed up with us from Denmark, where the longest day of the year is celebrated in true viking-style with feasting, fire, libations, and an effigy which is burned to ward off evil spirits. Since the sun sets over the sea at 9 pm in California and not at midnight during the Scandinavian midnight sun, we enjoy an abbreviated version, Pacific-style, before the park rangers shepherd us off the beaches – or the residents call the police. This year was spectacular, with warm weather, tame winds and a hopping crowd of 50 wannabe vikings. As hosts, we took responsibility for the Danish beer, grillables and fire setting, while everyone else brought side dishes desserts, beach chairs, lots of kids and wine. It truly takes a village! On the menu were these sticky spiced ribs – inspired by a delectable recipe from my friend Karen who brought them along last year. (She is on tour in Italy right now with her band which is another story in itself.) Continue Reading Grilled BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Bloody Mary Gazpacho

I’ll have a shot of vodka with my soup, please.

If heat could speak, then it was shouting this weekend. Summer arrived with a bang, and the temperature soared to triple digits. When it’s that hot, appetites wane and thirst dominates. Food takes on a cool and liquid quality. It’s time for Gazpacho.

Gazpacho is a raw tomato-based soup blended with a vegetable bowl of produce. It’s perfect when the weather is stifling. No cooking is required, the spiced tomato juice quenches thirst, and a confetti of chopped vegetables refresh and nourish. I prefer to keep my gazpacho chunky, taking pleasure in each slurpy mouthful of crunchy vegetables mingling with cool juice. In this recipe, I’ve taken the variation one step further by adding celery, Worcestershire sauce and a generous squirt of Tabasco, thus evoking a Bloody Mary. Why stop there? If you’re in the mood and appropriately mature, serve the soup in a glass and add a shot of vodka for a wondrous beverage/soup/salad in a glass – a perfect antidote for a hot and shouty day.  Continue reading Blood Mary Gazpacho

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

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Fresh corn and tomatoes are symbols of summer, right up there with steamy sultry days and perspiring clinking drinks. So it’s no surprise that corn and tomatoes pair perfectly in this casual, summery salad. Their mutual sweetness is differentiated by the milky crunch of fresh corn kernels and the juicy acidity of sweet cherry tomatoes. A shower of parsley keep them grounded along with the bite of sweet red onion and a squirt of lime. This is summer simplicity at its best.

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad
Serves 4

2 ears corn, husked
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch Italian parsley, stems removed, leaves chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the kernels from the corn and place in a bowl. Add the pepper, onion, tomatoes and parsley. Mix to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Salsa
Tomato Confit
Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart

or these recipes from the food blogs:
Smoky Corn and Jalapeno Dip from the Kitchn
Mexican Street Fair Corn from Bona Fide Farm Food
Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto from Lottie and Doof

Fattoush Salad

~ Fattoush Salad ~

I don’t know about you, but I think I ate a month’s worth of meat over the weekend. With July 4th falling nicely on a Monday, it meant a 3 day weekend was entirely devoted to barbecues. Our house, friends’ houses, the beach: all locations involved a fire and platters of smoked and grilled ribs, steak, chicken, salmon. Now it’s time for a little break.  To begin this short week, I will invoke a brief barbecue time-out. Dinner tonight will be light, fresh and vegetarian – a Fattoush salad.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern garden salad with pita bread. Day old pita is toasted, crumbled and tossed with greens in a vinaigrette, adding texture and substance to the salad, while the dressing softens the bread. Extra Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, feta, mint and sumac (a dried Middle Eastern spice with tart lemony notes) make this salad special and addictively good.  When the weather is warm, this is a perfect easy meal and a nice break from the grill – at least for a day.

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Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
2 large pita breads
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arugula leaves
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, leaves torn in pieces
1 small bunch Italian parlsey leaves
1 small bunch  fresh cilantro leaves
1 small bunch  fresh mint leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Mix all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, together in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified.

Prepare salad:
Preheat oven broiler. Brush pita bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Cut each pita circle in 6 triangles.  Toast in oven, turning once, until crisp and light golden. Remove from heat and cool.  Break into pieces.
Toss the pita pieces with the arugula, romaine, parsley, cilantro and mint in a large bowl. Scatter the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta over the salad. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to combine. Add additional vinaigrette to taste and toss again.  Serve garnished with extra feta.

If you like this you might enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Marinated Feta and Baba Ganoush
Bulgur Salad with Lemon, Radishes and Snap Peas
Spiced Carrot Croquettes with Yogurt-Sriracha Sauce

Fig and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake



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Upside-down baking is  irresistable to me, whether it’s in the form of a tarte tatin or a cake. The common denominator is a gorgeous, gooey caramelized bottom, which, once inverted, becomes the top. Nestled in the sticky caramel goodness are chunks of seasonal fruit, which release their juice and perfume the pastry, while studding the topping like jewels in a crown.

The other winning quality of upside-down desserts is that they are generously flexible with the seasons. In the fall, pears and apples are the fruit of choice. In the summer, stone fruit, figs and berries display their wonders. Mix and match to your taste. It’s impossible to go wrong.

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Fig and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

Semolina adds a beautiful golden hue and a little crumble to the cake. Serves 10-12

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1 cup light brown sugar
8 large figs, halved lengthwise
3 ounces raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.)  Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with foil.
Melt 1/2 cup butter and light brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Pour into the springform pan. Arrange the figs, cut side down in a circular pattern in the sugar. Fill in the gaps with the raspberries.
Beat 1 cup butter and granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in buttermilk, zest and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add to the batter, mixing just to combine. Pour over the fruit and smooth with a spatula. Bake in oven 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and cool 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.



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If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Caramelized Pineapple and Mango Napoleons
Spiced Plum Crostata
Apricot Tarte Tatin

or these recipes from the food blogs:
Fig Tart from Chez Pim
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Fig and Cardamom from the Kitchn
Fig, Date and Almond Granola Bars from Brown Eyed Baker

Beat the Heat: Gazpacho

~ Gazpacho ~

If heat could speak, then it’s shouting right now. It’s so hot outside, the candles have melted on the terrace, the dog hasn’t moved since yesterday, and we have blankets pinned down over our skylights to keep out the sun. In this heat, food must be easy, cool and light. Preparation should be kept to a minimum, and any heat generating appliances forbidden. In our home, this means it’s time for Gazpacho.

When I make gazpacho, we know that summer has arrived. We are dining al fresco, and the temperature is approaching triple digits. It’s a hot weather dinner staple that’s followed us from country to country, always called upon when we are in the midst of a heatwave. This gazpacho is chunky, and we affectionately call it a liquid salad. Not a fan of mushy consistencies, I dice all of the vegetables and float them in seasoned tomato juice. The result is a cool soup with loads of crunch and texture, satisfying and refreshing to eat. And in this heat, crunching our soup is the most exertion we can manage.


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Gazpacho

Serve with cheese and bread, melon and prosciutto and a chilled rosé or sauvignon blanc. Serves 6-8.

32 ounces or 1 liter tomato juice
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, diced, with juices
2 spring onions, white parts thinly sliced, green parts reserved for garnish
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 sweet red pepper, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (or parsley)

Garnish:
Sliced jalapeños
Cilantro or parsley
Lime wedges

Combine all of the ingredients, except the cilantro in a large bowl. Mix together and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate at least one hour or up to 6 hours. Before serving, stir in the cilantro. Serve ganished with sliced green parts of the spring onions, sliced jalapeños, additional cilantro and lime wedges.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart
Tomato Bruschetta
Orzo Salad with Peas, Radishes and Pecorino

or these chilled soup recipes from the food blogs:
Chilled Corn and Golden Beet Soup from No Recipes
Chilled Ginger Cantaloupe Soup from Pinch My Salt
Cucumber Avocado Soup from Cooking with Amy