Category Archives: Dessert

super bowl muffins

i’m a dessert devotee. even if i’m stuffed from the main course, i always have a second stomach for sweets. why should a super bowl party be any different? since my husband and i are planning to host a few friends for the game next week, i started thinking this weekend about some tasty items for the buffet. everyone has their savory favorites–buffalo wings, nachos, overstuffed sandwiches, and the like. but for me, the first priority is dessert!

i wanted to make something delicious and unfussy. most super bowl parties are not white-tie affairs, after all. i also had a yearning for a note of freshness to combat the winter doldrums. the answer: plump muffins with blueberries, raspberries, and white chocolate chips. by using frozen berries, you avoid fruit grown far away that’s a week old by the time it reaches your supermarket, and you prevent the berries from becoming mushy messes (thanks to baking illustrated for this tip, and for the recipe on which i based my muffins). the white chocolate chips make little pockets of gooey sweetness interspersed with the tart and vibrant fruit. and as a bonus, the muffins’ colors work for both the giants and the patriots, so you can serve them proudly no matter what team you and your friends are supporting!

super bowl muffins

makes 32 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 1/4 cups sour cream (low-fat or regular)

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

3/4 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1. preheat the oven to 350° f. grease the muffin pan.

2. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. in a second medium bowl, beat the egg until light and fluffy. add the sugar and whisk until thick and well-combined. add the melted butter slowly, whisking constantly to combine. then add the sour cream and whisk until just combined.

3. add the frozen berries to the dry ingredients and toss to coat. add the white chocolate chips, then add the wet ingredients and fold until the berries and chocolate chips are evenly distributed and the batter is just combined.

4. spoon the batter into the muffin pans. bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan in the oven halfway through. when done, the muffins will be light golden-brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin will come out clean. allow the muffins to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

a mincemeat pie to beat the cold

this weekend was cold, and felt especially so compared to the mild winter we’ve had so far. since i had already had my fill of christmas cookies and stollen, i started thinking about other winter treats i hadn’t eaten in a while. i decided to try a treat that was a staple of medieval winter cuisine and has stood the test of time: mincemeat pie. traceable back to the 13th century, when european crusaders were influenced by middle eastern cuisine that often combined sweet and savory ingredients, mincemeat pies traditionally contained meat, fruits, and spices. in slightly more modern times it proved a useful winter staple as the filling could be prepared in advance and sealed in jars for use during the cold months when most foods were in short supply. although meat has been weaned from the recipe in the last several centuries, it remains a rich and complex pie that i loved as a child.

having now baked one myself, i can tell you it is just as delicious as i remembered, and i think it will become a winter tradition in my kitchen. although the ingredients require 3 hours of cooking, the actually preparation of the whole pie is very simple. it’s the perfect thing to bake on a day when it’s too cold to go outside. once you have prepared the ingredients, you can leave them simmering on the stove while you attend to neglected to-do lists or watch a good movie, only stopping by occasionally to stir your filling. by the end of the day you will be warm and fulfilled with this sweet and spiced pie that i guarantee will keep the frost at bay.

the recipe i decided to use is from the baking companion to the ever-reliable best recipe cookbook, baking illustrated. i just know that when i try one of their recipes for the first time it’s going to be a success. that said, i did make a few changes of my own, which i have noted in italics in the recipe.

the ingredients, ready to go

modern mincemeat pie

serves 10-12

filling

6 large apples, a combination of crisp, tart, sweet, and soft varieties, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup currants

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

grated zest and juice from 1 orange

grated zest and juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup diced candied orange peel

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1 1/2 cups apple cider, plus more as needed

1/3 cup rum or brandy

dough

2 1/2 cups flour (i use half spelt and half wheat flour)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

6-8 tablespoons ice water

1 beaten egg for glazing the pie dough

1 tablespoon demerara sugar (or any sugar you have on hand) for garnishing the crust

1. preheat the oven to 400°f.

2. place all the filling ingredients except 1/2 cup of the cider and the rum in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer gently. stir occasionally to prevent burning, until the mixture thickens and darkens in color, about 3 hours, adding more cider if necessary to prevent burning. at this point, the filling should have a jam-like consistency. then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup apple cider and the rum and cook until the liquid is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. cool the mixture to room temperature or refrigerate up to several days.

mincemeat filling, after 3 hours of simmering

3. while the mincemeat is cooking, prepare the dough. place the flour, spices, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. sprinkle in the vegetable shortening, and pulse for about 10 1-second pulses. sprinkle in the butter and pulse for another 10 1-second pulses, or until the mixture resembles course sand with pieces of butter no larger than a pea. turn the mixture out into a metal bowl and sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of ice water. using a spatula, fold and press the dough together, gradually adding more ice water if needed to make the dough cohere. divide the dough into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

3. when the mincemeat is cooled and the dough is chilled, roll out the first of the discs of dough, on a well-floured surface, to a 12-inch circle. transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate. then roll out the second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle. spoon the mincemeat into the pie shell. place the second piece of dough over the filling. trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pan. tuck the rim of dough under itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. flute the edges or press with fork tines to seal. cut a few slits into the top of the dough (any design you like; this is just to let excess steam escape). brush the top crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.

4. bake the pie on the middle rack until the crust is light golden brown, 25 minutes. rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350°f. continue to bake until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. the bottom crust should also be golden (easy to see if you use a glass pie dish).

5. transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving. garnish with whipped cream.

walnut wimpy balls

growing up, december was a magical month filled with preparation and anticipation for christmas. once the tree was decorated, the house was decked out in pine boughs and christmas lights, and the carols were playing on the radio, we could turn our attention to the food. more specifically, the cookies. standard on the list were decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies, gingersnaps, kourabiedes, and walnut wimpy balls. but while these are all delicious, wimpy balls hold a special place in our hearts.

these cookies, inspired by a recipe found in yankee magazine years ago, and tinkered with for years after that, will melt in your mouth. the icing, straight from my great-grandmother’s kitchen, is a burst of deep, thick chocolate. when smooshed together, these sandwiches will have you hooked at the first bite. just don’t forget to handle the cookies gently while you are assembling the finished product. they can crumble if pressed too hard, and then you’ll have to eat the ones you break!

walnut wimpy balls

(makes 50 bite-sized cookies)

cookies

2 cups whole walnuts

2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

chocolate icing

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 350°f.

2. in a food processor, grind walnuts with 2 tbsp of confectioner’s sugar until finely ground. set aside.

3. in an electric mixer, cream butter and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. beat in the vanilla. then add flour and 3/4 cup of the ground walnuts and mix well.

4. roll balls of dough, about the diameter of a nickel, and bake on cookie sheets covered with non-greased parchment paper at 350°F for 10-12 minutes, until just barely golden. cool on a rack.

5. while the cookies are baking and cooling, prepare the chocolate icing. first add all ingredients together in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. then stir until chocolate is melted and all ingredients are fully combined. set aside.

6. when the cookies are cool, sandwich the flat sides together using 1/2 teaspoon chocolate icing. roll the sides in the remaining ground walnuts.

what’s your favorite holiday cookie? and do you want some new ideas?…

What’s Gaby Cooking: Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies

And Love It Too: Snowball Cookies (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan)

Taste With The Eyes: Olive Oil Oatmeal Cookies

Jones Is Hungry: A Cookie for Chocolate Lovers

From My Corner of Saratoga: Gooey Butter Cookies

The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge

Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs

Sweet Life Bake: Polvorones de Chocolate

Daily*Dishin: Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies

FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies

Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies

Dishin and Dishes: Pecan Sandie Thumbprints With Cherry Frosting

Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti

Cooking With Elise: Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

pumpkin panna cotta with gingerbread

in a post this summer, when sweet juicy peaches were abundant, i offered a recipe for peach panna cotta. it proved to be my most popular post so far. apparently i am not the only person who loves panna cotta! i discovered this dessert several years ago in a restaurant whose name i unfortunately can’t remember. but i can assure you that i haven’t stopped experimenting with panna cotta recipes since then. and my family hasn’t complained yet.

it so happens that this week the food network’s fn dish is featuring another ingredient just begging to be made into a panna cotta – pumpkin! pumpkin is a fantastic item. first of all, it’s a beautiful vegetable that embodies the essence of fall – the bright colors, the rich flavors, and the fun of halloween. secondly, its depth of flavor makes it delicious in soup, roasted with root vegetables, or baked into pie. even the salted and toasted seeds (often called pepitas) make an excellent snack.

but i wanted to make something a little more adventurous and refined this week. so i turned to my old favorite, panna cotta. i added pumpkin puree and a hint of additional spice, borrowed from my usual pumpkin pie recipe. and since cooking with pumpkins put me in a holiday sort of mood, i decided that gingerbread would be the perfect accompaniment. the end result was a creamy, pumpkin-y, sweet, and spiced dessert. it can be beautifully perched on a gingerbread cookie or just eaten with a spoon in one hand and a cookie in the other. either way, you will be happy with these creamy flavors of the fall!

pumpkin panna cotta

serves 8

1 cup whole milk

2 1/3 tsp powdered gelatin

3 cups heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp coarse mulling spice mix (cloves, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, or any combination thereof)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup pumpkin purée (if using homemade, be sure to simmer the roasted purée until most of the moisture has been cooked out)

1. place the milk in a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. set aside for about 10 minutes.

2. in a small bowl, combine the heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and the mulling spices. set aside.

3. in another small bowl, combine the pumpkin purée, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and the cinnamon. set aside.

4. over medium heat, warm the milk, stirring constantly, until it reaches 135° f on a candy thermometer. remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 4 tbsp sugar until dissolved. then slowly pour in the cream mixture, using a strainer to remove the mulling spices.

5. place the pot in an ice bath and stir constantly until the mixture cools to 50° f and becomes a bit thicker than heavy cream. stir in the pumpkin mixture.

6. using a ladle, distribute the mixture into 8 ramekins (you may have some left over for a 9th!). place the ramekins on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap does not touch the surface of the mixture. refrigerate for at least 4 hours until fully set.

7. to serve, hold each ramekin in a small bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds, then invert onto a plate or a gingerbread cookie (see below).

gingerbread cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark molasses

1/4 cup water

2 3/4 cups flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground allspice

1. cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. add the molasses, water, flour, salt, baking soda, and spices and mix on medium-low until combined. gather into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

2. heat the oven to 375° f.

3. roll the dough to 1/4 inch think on a lightly floured surface. using a round cookie cutter than matches the size of your ramekins, cut cookies and place on un-greased baking sheets.

4. bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

for more pumpkin fun, check out these blogs:

What’s Gaby Cooking: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

The Cultural Dish: Pumpkin Waffles

Cooking With Elise: Pumpkin Chip Scones

And Love It Too: Creamy Pumpkin Fruit Dip

Haute Apple Pie Girls: Pumpkin Bread Parfait

I Am Mommy: Pumpkin Pancakes

Dishin and Dishes: Maple Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Virtually Homemade: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins With Pumpkin Seed Streusel

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pumpkin Pizza

Daydreamer Desserts: Pumpkin Fattigman

From My Corner of Saratoga: Baking Pie In The Pumpkin

FN Dish: The Ultimate Pumpkin Soup

Cooking Channel: Pumpkin Risotto

The Sensitive Epicure: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Molasses Marshmallows

Daily*Dishin: Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

ZaikaZabardast: Pumpkin Jalebi

Mooshu Jenne: Pumpkin Nutella Bread

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf

anniversary linzertorte

recently my husband and i celebrated our 4th anniversary. the event was caught up in the usual chaos of life, work, a trip to wisconsin, and my sister’s wedding. however, i still found the time to make our evening a little extraordinary. and now that the manic schedule of summer has given way to a strangely hot and humid calm of fall, i wanted to share this recipe with you.

i knew i wanted to make something with cherries, because that is one of my husband’s favorite fruits. but sour cherries had disappeared months ago, and while fresh cherries can still be found, there’s still the problem of pitting a bag of cherries on a work night. so i started to think about cherry preserves. and when i think about jam in desserts i tend to think about linzertorte. linzertorte is a magical tart with a crust made from roasted nuts, butter, and spices, and a filling usually made with raspberry jam. the rich, crumbly nut crust enlivened with the tart sweetness of jam makes it hugely popular with my family. it has become a thanksgiving staple for the past few years. so i decided to take a little liberty with the standard ingredients in order to simplify our evening and make use of the ingredients we had on hand. i added walnuts to the usual mix of hazelnuts and almonds, and i substituted cherry preserves for raspberry jam. i also added some slices of fresh peach because we had some ripening on the counter and i did not want them to go to waste. since the tart cooks for 50 minutes, there was plenty of time for the fresh peaches to simmer in the cherry preserves and achieve a delicious, melting texture by the time the tart was ready.

before you scroll down any further and see the daunting 10 steps of instructions, i want to offer some words of encouragement. this recipe is time-intensive, and the instructions are long mostly because of the steps required to assemble the tart crust. but if you follow the recipes step-by-step you will see that no individual step is technically difficult, and you will end up with a delicious, impressive-looking tart. also, keep in mind that any tears in the lattice strips can be easily patched with some extra dough, and by the time the tart is done baking you won’t see any difference.

feel free to use your favorite nuts in the crust and try different jams for filling. i’m sure there are many different combinations of nuts and jams that would make for a wide range of delicious and beautiful tarts. in fact, i may just have to try a whole line of linzertortes to find out for myself…

cherry-peach linzertorte (inspired by Cook’s Illustrated)

serves 8

crust

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp grated zest from 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

12 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

filling

1 1/4 cups cherry preserves

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 peaches, blanched (see recipe), peeled, and sliced into thin crescents

glaze

1 tbsp heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp turbinado or demerara sugar

1. heat oven to 350 degrees. toast the nuts on a baking sheet until very lightly browned, about 8 minutes, stirring once in the middle. remove and cool the nuts to room temperature. leave the oven on.

2. grind the nuts, sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely chopped and mixed. add the lemon zest and pulse to combine. add the flour, cinnamon, and allspice and pulse again. scatter in the chopped butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with small bits of butter.

3. beat the egg and vanilla together in a small bowl, then add to the food processor while the machine is running. continue processing until the dough forms a large ball.

4. turn the dough ball onto a cutting board and press it together into a mound. then divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. flatten each into a 5-inch disk and put the larger disk in the refrigerator. cut a piece of parchment paper to fit an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. spray the bottom and sides of the pan with nonstick spray, or grease with butter. then separate the bottom from the sides, cover the bottom with the parchment paper, and grease the paper. place the smaller disk of dough in the center, cover with plastic wrap, and roll out the dough until it almost covers the whole bottom. then drop the bottom into the ring of the pan and press the dough evenly until it’s flush with the sides. poke holes all around the dough with a fork. then set the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the dough just starts to brown, 15-18 minutes. remove the pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

5. take a piece of dough about 1 1/2 inches in diameter from the larger disk and roll it into a long rope of about 3/8 inch diameter with your hands. place the rope against the side of the pre-baked tart bottom. repeat with additional pieces of dough until the entire wall of the tart pan has been lined. the use your thumb to gently press the dough against the side of the pan to about 5/8 inch height.

6. gather the remaining dough into a disk and roll out between 2 sheets of lightly-greased parchment paper until it is about 12 inches diameter and 1/8 inch thick. if the dough becomes too sticky to work with, place it in the refrigerator or freezer for 1-3 minutes until firm again. when it’s rolled out, remove the top layer of parchment paper and, with a ruler and sharp knife, cut the dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips (you need 10 strips, but make extras just in case). leave all the strips in place on the parchment paper. when all sliced, transfer the parchment paper to a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 20 until firm but not fully stiff.

7. meanwhile, stir the cherry preserves and lemon juice together in a small bowl. then spread most of the mixture evenly in the tart shell, leaving a small amount of spread in the bowl. add the peach slices to the bowl and toss to coat. then place the peach slices evenly around the tart and add the remaining spread.

8. remove the dough strips from the refrigerator or freezer. [note: when starting the lattice-top it helps to think of the pie as a clock and to use the numbers on a clock face to correctly position the strips of dough.] using a thin spatula or icing spatula, remove the longest strip and lay it across the center of the tart at 12 o’clock/6 o’clock position. using the second longest strip, place it at 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock. using two shorter strips, lay one at the left edge of the tart parallel to the first strip and one at the top edge of the tart parallel to the second strip. with two more short strips do the same at the right and bottom edges of the tart. now, simply place one more strip between each of the existing center and edge strips (four more strips in total). press lightly on any excess dough hanging over the edge of the tart pan to trim.

9. gently brush the strips with cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. bake the tart on a baking sheet until deep golden brown, about 50 minutes. cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack, up to 2 hours.

10. to serve, remove the outer tart pan ring. slide a thin spatula between the parchment paper and the crust to loosen the tart before sliding it onto a serving platter.

p.s. there will usually be some unused dough after you complete your tart’s lattice-top. feel free to drop these on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. they make for an excellent snack while you are waiting for your tart to cool!

italian cherry cake

sour cherries came, and we celebrated with a grown-up crumble. then they were gone, and we mourned. the sorrow of not having bought enough of these tangy jewels could only be assuaged with the arrival of mounds of dark, juicy, sweet cherries. i spent the weekend with a big bowl of fresh cherries on the counter, popping a few in my mouth every time i walked by. and in between grazing i pondered how best to share these succulent little fruits with you. this week we are halfway through the food network’s summerfest, so i wanted a suitably enticing dish.

in the end, i was inspired as much by the cherries as by the hot summer air filled with the scent of flowers and herbs and everything in bloom. a late dinner outside of pesto and wine (until the mosquitoes chased us in) reminded me of italy. and this line of thinking brought me quickly to some of the wonderful olive oil cakes i have tasted over the years. one of my favorites is a blood orange olive oil cake recipe from the new york times, which is often requested for family gatherings. i was also inspired by a sneak peek at mario batali’s new cookbook, which also includes a recipe for a citrus- and olive oil-based cake. cakes made with olive oil are dense and moist, with a slightly savory note that balances well with citrus. cherries, in fresh and dried form, go well with everything from pies to roast lamb, so i figured, why not combine them with olive oil as well? i was very glad i did. i also moistened things up with some local vermont honey and some smooth swiss kirschwasser. the olive oil tempered the sweetness of the honey while lending a luscious texture to the cake, and the cherries held their shape, offering firm, sweet accents to every bite.

someday i will enjoy this cake with a glass of moscato d’asti while sitting at a wooden table, outside, shaded by a grapevine-covered trellis, overlooking sweeping vineyards and stone chateaux in the tuscan countryside. but until we all find ourselves in similarly perfect surroundings, i suggest you create your own escape by savoring this heavenly cake for breakfast, lunch, dessert, or whenever the mood strikes!

italian cherry cake

serves 8 to 10

3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup cornmeal

2 1/4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/4 cup kirschwasser

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1. preheat the oven to 350°f. grease a 9-inch round cake pan and coat evenly with the 3 tablespoons cornmeal.

2. in a medium bowl combine the cherries and lemon juice and macerate, using a fork or potato masher to extract juice from the cherries, until you have about 1/2 cup liquid (you can add more lemon juice if necessary). then add the kirschwasser, lemon zest, and olive oil and set aside.

3. in another medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, and baking powder and set aside.

4. in a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt until light and frothy. slowly mix in the sugar and honey, beating until pale and thick, about 2 minutes.

5. gradually mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. then fold in the cherry mixture until just combined.

6. pour the batter into the greased and cornmealed cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (if the top of the cake looks in danger of burning before the cake is fully cooked, simply cover with a sheet of tinfoil.)

7. remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. then remove the cake from the pan and let cool to room temperature. serve with a scoop of ice cream for maximum satisfaction!

kirschwasser: a strong, clear liquor made from cherries, most famously in the german-speaking part of switzerland. it can be sipped during or after a hearty meal, or used in making cakes, fondues, and other delicacies.

moscato d’asti: a sparkling, sweet wine with a low alcohol content, made from the moscato bianco grape in the piedmont region of italy.

macerate: in food preparation, to soften or break an ingredient into pieces using liquid.

for some more ways to enjoy cherries, check out the following blogs:

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cherry Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cherry Cornmeal Cake

Cooking With Elise: Roasted Cherries with Lavender and Almond Panna Cotta

Daydreamer Desserts: Cherry Crumble Cake

Ingredient Challenge Monday: Black Forest Ice Cream Done Two Ways

Spices and Aroma: Dilkush with Cherries

And Love It Too: Cherry-Pecan Chicken Salad

FN Dish: The Ultimate Cherry Pie

Daily*Dishin: Simple French Cherry Clafouti

Glory Foods: Collard Greens and Cherry Reduction

Chez Us: Gluten-Free Cherry Clafoutis

Food for 7 Stages of Life: South Indian Hot and Sour Soup

Virtually Homemade: Dark Chocolate Cherry Kuchen

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Cherry Conserves

The Sensitive Epicure: Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Clafouti

Cooking Channel: Very Cherry Sangria

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cherry Balsamic Vinegar

Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Cherry and Peach Crisp

Mooshu Jenne: Rainier Cherry Panna Cotta

Food2: A Very Cherry Recipe Round-Up

Virtually Vegan Mamma: Fresh Cherry and Almond Scones

Sweet Life Bake: Honey-Tequila Pickled Cherries

Cooking With Books: Cherry Cooler 

Recipe Girl: Cherry Limeade Pound Cake

savoring vermont

after a long absence, my husband and i finally made it up to visit my family’s house in vermont this weekend. what i look forward to most on the drive up is the first breath of fresh air when i arrive and get out of the car. the air is so full of heady scents – flowers, earth, sun – that it just has to be healthy. i highly recommend visiting vermont. if you need any pointers you can find information at http://www.vermontvacation.com.

after a few deep breaths, next on my list is always a quick stroll around the property to check on all the fun things we have growing. this time around i was most looking forward to seeing my watermelon plants – pretty vines, but no melons yet – and the peach tree that we planted in 2010. much to our surprise it already has fruit! i don’t think they’ll grow into fully edible peaches, since it’s not due to bear fruit for another 3 years, but they are cute and fuzzy nonetheless.

after a good night’s rest, we woke up bright and early saturday to head to the brattleboro farmers’ market, where i have to try very hard not to buy everything in sight. i have been going to this farmers’ market every summer for at least 15 years and it continues to get better and better. in addition to the many beautiful fruit and vegetable stands, there are now many vendors offering thai, indian, tex-mex, and even malian cuisine to go. this is very convenient, since after an hour of looking at, tasting, and buying produce i can get quite hungry!

so, what was on the shopping list this weekend? we stocked up on tomatoes, eggplants, and summer squash from old athens farm since we plan on making a ratatouille later this week. crisp salad greens, deep green kale, perpetual spinach,  and some fabulous-looking purple kohlrabi came from walnut ridge farm. and we bought some amazing fresh garlic and asian cucumbers from akogi farm (stock up: fresh garlic has a short season, and the old garlic with papery skin gets you through the winter but it’s not nearly as tasty). we also made sure to buy as many pints of blueberries as we could carry for pie!

to accompany our blueberry-peach crumble (see below), my amazing husband also took a small road trip to hanover, nh to procure some gelato from morano gelato, a small artisanal shop started last year by a friend of his. there is no doubt that the 2 hour round trip was well worth it. we had sweet milk, dark chocolate, biscotto, and coconut gelatos as well as strawberry sorbet, and they were all excellent with the crumble!

there are obviously many excellent farmers’ markets in new york city and popping up all over the country. you should check out one near you because the taste and quality of local produce is always miles above what you find in the supermarket. and in addition you will be supporting your local farmers and artists! your reward will be the chance to whip up a few of the following dishes:

blueberry-peach crisp

filling

4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, though fresh is far preferable. if using frozen, thaw and strain out excess liquid thoroughly before cooking.)

2 cups peaches (same as blueberries)

1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

topping (from my “grown-up cherry crumble”)

3/4 cup whole spelt flour (or flour of your choice)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into about 24 pieces

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup rolled oats

1. preheat the oven to 350°f.

2. in a large bowl, mix the blueberries, peaches, tapioca starch, and sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes.

3. pour the mixture evenly into a 9″ pie plate and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture begins to bubble. be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate in the oven to catch any overflowing bubbles of fruit!

4. while the fruit is baking, prepare the crumble topping. combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. mix the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. add the walnuts, almonds, and oats and toss lightly to combine.

4. when ready, remove the pie from the oven and place on a heat proof surface. spoon the topping mixture evenly over the fruit mixture and return the pie to the oven. bake for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. again, be sure to place a sheet pan or tin foil under the pie plate while baking.

Cucumber mango salad 

serves 4

1 large mango

1 large asian cucumber

4 cups arugula

16 mint leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, crushed

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup yogurt (i used sheep’s milk yogurt from vermont shepherd)

salt and pepper to taste

1. slice the mango in half vertically, cutting to each side of the pit to make two halves. peel the skin off each half with a paring knife. then slice each half the short way into half moon slices about 1/4″ thick. set aside.

2. using a vegetable peeler, first peel the cucumber. then shave into long slices, going the entire length of the cucumber if possible. set aside.

3. to prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and yogurt. add a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground pepper.

4. to assemble the salad, place the arugula in the bottom of a bowl or plate. curl the cucumber slices into loops and place on top of the arugula, interspersed with the mango pieces. sprinkle with hazelnuts and a few mint leaves. then spoon the dressing on top and serve!

perpetual spinach: another name for swiss chard.

kohlrabi: a member of the cabbage family.

asian cucumbers: usually about 18″ long, slender, and slightly ridged. they are denser and have fewer seeds than a regular cucumber.