Summer Cinnamon Peach Cake

Each summer I try a new recipe for peach cake. Most of the time the results are mediocre, but I recently came across this recipe on the blog Italian Food Forever, and modified it to suit my taste. It is wonderful. It is so moist and flavorful, using yogurt in place of milk or sour cream. You can also take the basic cake and substitute other fruit such as apricots, raspberries, blueberries, plums, apples or pears. I think it tastes best the day after you make it because the flavors have time to mature. Make this now while peach season is at its peak. 

Summer Cinnamon Peach Cake
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 c. whole milk Greek yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract or emulsion
2-1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 c. peeled and roughly chopped peaches (use 3-4 peaches)

1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 metal baking pan. Line pan with parchment. In a mixing bowl beat butter and 2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scrape the bowl so the batter is evenly mixed. Add yogurt and extracts. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Mix dry ingredients into the wet then fold in chopped peaches. Pour batter into prepared pan. Use a spatula to smooth the batter to the edges. Mix together for the topping, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the top of the cake. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Serves 10-12.


Posted in Cakes, Desserts, Fruit | 2 Comments

Grilled Okra and Eggplant Salad

We now have quite a bit of okra and eggplant coming on in the garden. Every few days my husband harvests enough for our family, plus some to share with friends. I only recently discovered how nicely the two pair together with some tomato and green onions. It is both delicious and colorful, with a lovely combination of textures and flavors that is very satisfying. It makes a great side, or a perfect summer lunch with some crusty bread.

Grilled Okra and Eggplant Salad
12 fresh okra pods, stemmed but left whole
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Place 1/3 cup olive oil and a little salt and pepper into a gallon ziplock bag. Salt the eggplant slices and place them in the bag. Shake bag to coat eggplant with oil. Add okra and shake again. Place eggplant and okra on preheated medium-high grill. Grill eggplant for 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice until lightly browned and tender but not mushy. Grill okra, rotating until all sides are evenly browned. Remove vegetables from grill and let rest 5 minutes. Rough chop the eggplant and okra and place in a serving bowl. Add chopped tomato that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Add green onion. Check for salt and pepper. Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, or more to taste, then toss. Serves 4 as a side dish.


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Sour Cherry Jam

We are fortunate to live in a place where we have access to delicious, locally grown sour cherries. When we restock our supply we set some aside to make this cherry jam. I prefer jam that is not too stiff, so I use a bit less pectin than a full packet. This jam is not only good on toasted bread, but a great filling for tarts, pastries, and cookies. I also love it paired with cheese.

Sour Cherry Jam
4 c. sour cherries with juice
4 c. sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
3/4 packet liquid pectin

Begin by bringing a waterbath canner filled with water to a boil. Sterilize 5 half-pint jars in the dishwasher or boiling water and prepare lids and rings by boiling. Place cherries and juice in a food processor and pulse a few times to make a chunky purée. Pour into a heavy bottom pot. Add sugar and bring to a hard rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add almond extract. Stir. Add pectin and stir to dissolve. Pour into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Wipe rims with a damp paper towel and screw on lids. Waterbath for 10 minutes at sea level, 15 minutes at high altitude. Makes 5 half-pint jars.


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Niçoise-style Potato, Egg, Olive, and Green Bean Salad

This is one of my favorite summer salads. It is in the style of the French Provençal salade niçoise except that I exclude the tuna and tomatoes. It is made with garden fresh potatoes, green beans, eggs, and olives. You can add some salad greens or red bell peppers if you prefer. It is great on its own for lunch or a light supper. I enjoy this accompanied by a fresh tomato salad with a loaf of crusty bread. 

Niçoise-style Potato, Egg, Olive, and Green Bean Salad
8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
8 large eggs
1/2 lb. fresh thin green beans, trimmed
12 Kalamata or Nicoise olives
2 Tbsp. chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
generous pinch of sugar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Scrub the potatoes but leave the skins on. Place them in a 5-quart pot and fill it with cold water and add 1 tsp. kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil on medium high heat, then remove cover and continue cooking for about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside. While potatoes are cooking bring a 2-quart pot full of water to the boil. Add eggs and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and let eggs sit in boiled water for about 20 minutes, then drain, peel, and cut eggs in half. Sprinkle eggs with a little salt and pepper and set aside. Bring another 2-quart pot full of water to the boil. Add a bit of salt and then beans. Cook for 7 minutes, then drain. Assemble the salad by whisking together the vinaigrette ingredients in order. Peel cooked potatoes and cut into quarters or sixths. Set them in the middle of serving platter and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Drizzle potatoes with a couple of Tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss. Place eggs around potatoes and drizzle eggs with a teaspoon or so of vinaigrette. Sprinkle potatoes and eggs with half of the parsley. Toss the cooked green beans with a little vinaigrette, then place on top of potatoes. Sprinkle olives and red onion over beans. Drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on top but save about 1/4 cup for individual portions. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve. Serves 4-6.


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Black and Blue Cobbler

I love this season when farmers’ markets and produce stands are filled with sweet, ripe fruits and vegetables. I usually buy more than I need because I am so happy to have access to such prime produce. This weekend I bought sweet blackberries and made this cobbler. I often make cobbler with a biscuit topping, but I love this cake topping studded with pecans. It pairs so well with the berries. You can eat it plain or top it with cream or ice cream.

Black and Blue Cobbler
4 c. blueberries, rinsed and drained
2 c. blackberries, rinsed and drained
1-1/4 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Cake Batter
1 c. flour
1/2 c. white granulated sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×12 pan. In a large bowl combine the filling ingredients. Stir gently to incorporate, then pour into prepared pan. Make the cake topping by combining the dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Mix. Add wet ingredients and stir to mix well. If the batter seems a bit too thick, add a little extra milk. Stir in nuts. Spoon cake batter over fruit and spread to the edges of the pan using a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The cake should be light golden and the fruit should be bubbling. Place on rack. Serve warm or cold. Serves 8-10.


Posted in Cakes, Desserts, Fruit, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Peach Cherry Plum Clafoutis 

Clafoutis is a French baked custard and fruit dessert. It is often made with whole cherries, but you can use other fruit as well. I have made it with berries, but my favorite combination is peaches, cherries, and plums. Right now they are all in season, so make this before the cherries have disappeared from fruit stands and farmers’ markets. It can be served warm or chilled, with confectioners sugar sprinkled over the top. I prefer it cold because the flavors meld together. This recipe is adapted from one I learned to make at a Sur La Table cooking class, originally a Julia Child recipe.

Peach Cherry Plum Clafoutis
1 c. pitted sweet cherries
1 c. sliced red plums
1/4 c. light brown sugar
2 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. flour
2/3 c. vanilla granulated sugar
pinch of kosher salt
6 large eggs
1-1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 c. peeled and sliced peaches (3-4 peaches)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
confectioners sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-cup gratin dish or 9×13 baking dish. In a medium bowl combine cherries and plums. Toss fruit with brown sugar, then spoon into prepared pan. In a blender combine milk, cream, flour, vanilla sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla. Blend until the mixture becomes a smooth, crepe-like batter, about 2 minutes. Pour 1/4 of the batter over the cherry and plum mixture and bake 5-7 minutes until a thin film begins to form on the batter. Remove from oven. Place sliced peaches over the cherry and plum mixture. Sprinkle peaches with remaining 2/3 cup of granulated sugar and pour the rest of the batter over the peaches. Return to the oven and continue baking for 45-50 minutes until the pudding is puffed and set in the middle. Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack. Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Serves 8.


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Pasta with Eggplant

This dish is a great way to use garden-fresh eggplant. It is basically a pasta with garlic and olive oil combined with sautéed eggplant. It is simple but enhances the flavor of sweet eggplant. We grow Ichiban eggplant, a long Japanese variety, that seems more sweet and less seedy to me than some other varieties. It works particularly well in this recipe.

Pasta with Eggplant
3-4 medium Ichiban eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
fine salt
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. angel hair pasta
1/2 c. pasta water
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
4 large basil leaves, torn

Begin by bringing a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta. Add some salt once it boils. In a medium frying pan combine canola oil with 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. Turn heat to medium and, when hot, salt the epplant slices and place about 8 slices in the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan; you will probably need to do this in three batches. Sauté 3 minutes, then turn over and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the eggplant begins to have some golden color. You want the eggplant to be just tender, not mushy. Remove eggplant to a paper towel-lined dish. Repeat, adding a bit more canola and olive oil until the eggplant is sautéed. Once the eggplant is all cooked, cut into bite size pieces and set aside. Boil the pasta after the eggplant has been sautéed, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. While pasta is cooking place garlic in the same frying pan used to sauté eggplant. Add 1/2 cup extra virgin oil, then turn heat to medium low and sauté garlic until fragrant and soft but not brown. It should take about 2 minutes. Add Aleppo pepper, 1 Tbsp. parsley. Stir. Add cooked and drained pasta to the garlic oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta water to moisten. Pour into serving bowl. Toss in the sautéed eggplant. Garnish with remaining parsley and basil. Serves 4-5.


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Apricot Semifreddo

Semifreddo, an Italian frozen mousse, is a great make-ahead summer dessert. I posted a sour cherry version when I first began blogging. This apricot semifreddo is light and refreshing on a hot day, can be made several days in advance, and will keep in the freezer for at least a week.  You can poach good quality fresh apricots or use canned apricots if fresh are not available to you. I recently made this dessert for a family gathering and everyone loved it. If you are concerned about using raw eggs, feel free to use pasteurized egg products or cook the apricot mixture in a double boiler.

Apricot semifreddo
Poached apricots
2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
4 large apricots, halved and pitted

In a 2-quart saucepan combine water, sugar, and extract. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar, then lower heat to a simmer and add apricot halves. Let simmer until apricots are soft, depending on the ripeness of the fruit, 3-5 minutes. Remove apricots with a slotted spoon. Discard the poaching liquid. You will need 1-1/4 cups poached apricots for the semifreddo.

Fruit Mousse
1-1/4 c. poached apricots (or canned apricots, drained)
1/3 c. apricot jam
1/2 c. granulated sugar + 3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
pinch of fine salt
3 large eggs, separated
1-1/4 c. heavy cream

Line a loaf pan with parchment or waxed paper, enough to overlap the edges of the pan. In a blender combine apricots, jam, 1/2 cup sugar, extracts, and salt. Blend. Taste and see if it is sweet. Add more sugar if the apricots seem a bit too tart, then add the egg yolks. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold whites gently into the apricot fruit mixture. Beat cream to soft peaks with the 3 remaining Tablespoons of sugar. Fold into fruit mixture, then pour into prepared pan. Fold extra parchment or waxed paper over mousse. Place in a large ziplock bag or cover with plastic wrap and freeze. When ready to serve, unfold parchment and cut into slices. Serves 8-10.


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Blueberry Jam

I love anything blueberry, and this jam is like blueberry pie in a jar. It is easy to make and allows you to enjoy fresh blueberry flavor all year long. I like the texture of puréed blueberries, but if you prefer it with more fiber and larger bits of blueberry you can skip using the food processor and mash your berries by hand.

Blueberry Jam
8 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and stemmed
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2-1/2 Tbsp. powdered pectin
1 (1-2 inches long) cinnamon stick
6 c. sugar

Begin by bringing a waterbath canner full of water to the boil. Sterilize lids by boiling  in a pot of water and run 8 half-pint jars in the dish washer. In a food processor pulse blueberries to a thick, chunky purée. You may need to do this in two batches if you have a smaller food processor (I find it easiest to grind 4 cups at a time). You need 5 cups of blueberry purée to make the jam. Pour into a large, heavy bottom pot. Stir in fresh lemon juice, pectin, and the cinnamon stick. Turn heat to high and, stirring constantly, bring to a rolling boil. Boil 1 minute then add sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil 1 more minute. Remove from heat and spoon out cinnamon stick. Pour into jars. Wipe rims with a damp paper towel and screw on lids. Water bath for 10 minutes at sea level and 15 minutes at high altitude. Makes 8 half-pint jars.


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Blueberry Streusel-Topped Muffins

I have been making these blueberry muffins since I was a girl. The recipe came from my mother’s friend Pat in New Jersey. We make them all year long, but they taste best during the summer with fresh ripe blueberries.

Blueberry Streusel-Topped Muffins
Streusel Topping
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
pinch of fine salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. cold unsalted butter or margarine, diced

In a bowl combine sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Cut in butter to form crumbs. Chill until muffin batter is ready.

Muffin Batter
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. milk or more
1/4 tsp. lemon or orange zest (optional)
1-1/2 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with liners. You will get about 20 muffins from the batter. In a bowl whisk together melted butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and whisk until creamy, about 1 minute. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with milk. You may need a little extra milk. The batter should be thick but moist. Add zest if using. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. You should fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle streusel over each muffin. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on rack. Makes 20 muffins.


Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Christmas, Fruit | 2 Comments