The nectarine tree in the front yard is pregnant with fruit. The firm, juicy orbs are days away from their peak ripeness. The bounty came late this year. The heavy clusters already snapping a large branch, an annual occurrence. I should cull them in March, but I feel guilty not giving each one the chance to ripen. A few sun-soaked fruit are ready to burst. This weekend, I plucked two of these soft, round globes of goodness and consumed them sun-warmed and straight from the tree – juice dripping unabashedly down my chin. A handful more made it into this moist nectarine coffee cake.
Nectarine Coffee Cake
Fresh summer nectarines keep this cake moist. Try substituting the nectarines for other seasonal fruit like cherries or pears.
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ¼ lbs. nectarines, cut into ½ inch wedges
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- ⅓ cup apricot jam
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9” springform pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in flour (batter with be thick).
- Spread batter in prepared pan. Press nectarine wedges halfway into batter in concentric circles, spacing slightly apart. Combine remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over nectarines. Bake until cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Release pan sides. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Warm apricot jam in microwave 30 seconds. Sieve jam and brush over coffee cake. Serve warm or room temperature.
Adapted from Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake
With a record high of 114 degrees today, I’ve decided to forgo my late-morning walk and midday backyard gardening. With the air-conditioning cranked on high, I’m retreating to my kitchen instead. My friends think I’m crazy to bake on a scorcher like today, but as longer as I keep the A/C to oven temp ratio just so, it becomes a normal baking day just like any other – and the ideal opportunity to whip up something special like this brunch classic – with a hash brown twist.
Quiche with hash brown crust
A flavorful savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies; Also tasty for dinner with a lightly dressed salad.
- 3 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed and blotted dry with paper towels
- 4 Tablespoons melted butter
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 cup meat such as bacon, ham, or chicken (I used sweet Italian sausage)
- 1 ½ cups vegetables, thawed if frozen (I used frozen artichoke hearts and spinach)
- 1 cup cheese, divided (I used mozzarella)
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup half-and-half
- 1 (rounded) Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, toss hash browns, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Press in the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie plate to form a crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crust begins to turn golden brown and crisp along the edges. Remove from oven and gently press on crust to compact slightly (I use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup). Let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, in a large pan, sauté meat until beginning to brown. Add vegetables and sauté until all moisture has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and then arrange on top of crust. Cover with half the cheese.
- In a bowl, beat eggs with half-and-half. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetables.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until top is set and egg mixture is slightly wet when pierced with a sharp knife (egg will continue to cook). Cool 5 minutes, slice and serve plain, with tomato sauce or guacamole.
Sometimes, I can’t help but equate my never-ending search for the perfect Bed and Breakfast purchase to online dating. I start out searching for geographic desirability (location is key), then I’ll notice a photo that sparks my interest, maybe smile a bit when reading the “bio” – ocean views, fireplaces, large owner’s quarters, commercial kitchen – only to be disappointed when faced with the reality. I found another Inn for sale this week in an ideal location along the Mendocino coast, only to be told by my broker that, according to the financials, it’s most likely a “lifestyle B&B” (read: not making significant income). This is the equivalent in the online dating world to “still lives with his mother.” Sigh.
Enough daydreaming for today, Julie. Back to the monotonous suburban daily grind that is slowing sucking away my soul – and the safe harbor of happiness called my kitchen. This is another recipe from Joshua McFadden’s cookbook, Six Seasons. I love that he takes humble, quotidian vegetables, like carrots and, in this case, celery, and gives them a starring role like in this crunchy celery-centric salad.
Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese
A crisp, refreshing salad that pairs well with cold poached salmon or cold roast chicken.
- 8-10 celery stalks (depending on size), leaves reserved, tough fibers peeled off, sliced on an angle, ¼ inch thick
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- ½ cup roughly chopped toasted almonds
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 oz. mild blue cheese, crumbled
- 4 Tablespoons Good quality olive oil
- Soak sliced celery pieces in a bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes to heighten crispness. Strain, pat dry, and place in a dry bowl (I dried out the same bowl).
- Add the celery leaves, dates, almonds, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss together. Season well with salt and black pepper. Adjust seasoning, if needed. At the blue cheese and olive oil. Toss gently and adjust seasoning again, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper as needed.
- Let chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
On a side note, I was pleased to find my Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts featured on the Shari’s Berries site this week. Thanks for the shout out!
I’m never going to eat like an Ascetic. I will never “eat to live.” I like the flavors too much, the textures, the history and culture imbued within a recipe, the miraculous synergy in combining disparate ingredients. I’m in love with food magic.
I’ve started up with a personal trainer again. A VEGAN personal trainer. She blanched when I confessed to my culinary vices, my food blog, my ability to eat an entire pie on a long, lazy Sunday.
She has her work cut out. I’ve decided to help a bit – just a bit – by adding a few veggie-rich meals to my unmistakably carb-heavy diet. I need help – creative vegetable combining is not my forte (yet). Give me flour, sugar and butter and I’ll whip you up something crave-worthy. Give me a head of cabbage and I’ll probably make coleslaw.
That’s where my most recent purchase comes in – Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden. If this first recipe is any indication, I’m. In. Love.
Carrots, Olives and Dates? Who would have guessed – absolute food magic.
Carrot, Olive and Date Salad
I wish I could claim this as my own creation, but alas, it's not. This is a slightly adapted version of Joshua McFadden's recipe and so much more than the sum of its parts.
- 1 lb. rainbow carrots, trimmed and peeled
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Urfa Chili
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Nicoise or other nice black olives
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Castelvetrano or other nice green olives
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 4 Tablespoons white Modena Vinegar (available at Trader Joe’s)
- ½ cup lightly packed roughly chopped Italian parsley
- 1 cup crème fraiche
- Shaved Parmesan
- If the carrots are large, split them lengthwise. Cut them on a sharp angle so you have angled ¼-inch thick carrot pieces. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, combine a bit of olive oil, ½ cup water, Aleppo pepper, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add the carrots. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots are just crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain carrots and cool slightly.
- In a medium bowl, combine olives, dates and carrots. Toss with vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt, black pepper, Aleppo pepper and vinegar until the flavor is super vibrant (you know you’ve hit it when you says “oh wow!”). Add parsley and a splash of good quality olive oil and toss again.
- On a large platter, smear crème fraiche in a round, flat, circle. Pile salad on top, leaving a bit of crème visible. Garnish with shaved parmesan and a grind or two of black pepper.
We grow grey in our spirit long before we grow grey in our hair.
– Charles Lamb
I’m defiant. Stuffing my ears to block out all the “we’re old” talk surrounding me. I refuse to accept that the best years of our lives are over. Rather than discussing our diminishing vitality and increasing waistlines, tell me about the latest art exhibition/ book/movie/speech that gave you goosebumps and, if you can’t remember, let’s go find one – or let’s create something ourselves. Rather than putting our dreams away on dusty shelves, let’s set lofty goals for our 50’s, our 60’s, our 70’s and beyond! Let’s not grow grey in spirit – (To quote the Olay ad) let’s fight it every step of the way.
To keep us inspired…
52: Sister Madonna Buder, the “Iron Nun,” competed in her first triathlon at age 52.
53: Nicola Griffin started modeling when she was 53 years young.
55: Ronald Reagan entered politics at age 55.
58: Marla Wynne Ginsburg started her own fashion line at 58.
61: Momofuku Ando Invented Ramen Cup Noodles at age 61.
64: Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book until she was 64.
65: Colonel Sanders started KFC at 65 years old.
65: Frank McCourt took up writing at the age of 65. His book Angela’s Ashes won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award.
68: At 68, Lillian Carter, President Carter’s mother, joins the Peace Corps and spends the next two years working as a nurse near Bombay, India.
73: Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73.
76: Grandma Moses didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76.
76: At 76, H. G. Wells, school drop-out at 14, completes his doctoral dissertation, earning a D.Sc.
86: Gladys Burrill ran her first marathon when she was 86 years old.
95: At 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma.
102: At 102, Alice Pollock publishes her first book, Portrait of My Victorian Youth.
I created this Salted Chocolate Tart for a colleague’s 50th birthday celebration. Rather than lamenting his waning youth, I’m exalting his youthful spirit and his amazing accomplishments yet to come. No black balloons here!
Inspired by one of my favorite bar cookies.
Salted Chocolate Dulce de Leche Tart
Inspired by one of my favorite bar cookies, this creamy caramel-chocolate tart comes together quickly yet still delivers the big dessert WOW factor needed for special occasions.
- 10-oz package shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doone
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 13.5 can dulce de leche
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, at least 60%, chopped
- Glazed sliced almonds
- Flaky Sea Salt, such as Maldon
- Make shortbread crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. In the bowl of a processor, pulse shortbread cookies and salt into crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Press crumbs along bottom and up sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool.
- Make filling: In a medium sauce pan, bring heavy cream and dulce de leche to simmer, whisking until dulce de leche fully melts – don’t boil. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and then slowly whisk cream mixture into yolks, tempering to avoid curdling eggs. Return mixture to sauce pan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until temperature registers 170 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.
- Pour chocolate mixture through a sieve over cooled shortbread crust. Chill, uncovered, until set, at least 2 hours. Garnish with glazed sliced almonds and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Chill until ready to serve.