nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

_MG_7064

summer is almost over. what a summer it has been.

_MG_6998

here in california, the edges of summer linger in lazy, sunny afternoons. autumn is trying to sneak in with its crisp, cool air. it is there in the cloud cover that hangs softly over the mornings, easing us into the day and the rhythm of life starting back up again. in the shortened evenings that make us start to think about cozy stews and apple crumbles.

_MG_7011

there are still heavy red tomatoes and green papery-husked ears of corn at the market, but they sit side by side with rosy apples and bright orange pumpkins. if you're lucky, there's still stone fruit as well.

_MG_7019

this cake nicely bridges the end of summer, with the bright, sweet acid of the nectarines and the warmth of cinnamon streusel.

if summer is already a bit of a memory, apples would substitute nicely, maybe mixed together with a handful of tart cranberries.

_MG_7030

whipped cream in the batter makes the cake light. a hint of lemon keeps it from excessive sweetness with the marbled layer of cinnamon streusel inside and sticky, carameled slices of nectarine on top.

_MG_7073

this is a knock-winner of a cake. beautiful, but not fussy. perfect with a scoop of real whipped cream.

_MG_7077

you can find the recipe over at tuesdays with dorie, and at the double trouble kitchen and the little french bakery.

 

Eggplant Phyllo Pockets

egg phyllo 3

real talk: cleaning out the fridge before a big move. i've admitted to my slight hoarder tendencies before. This summer, i've been forced to confront the true extent of my problem.

it's been a delicious problem to have. 

every get together I've hosted this summer has been catered by the results of a culinary scavenger hunt, with points to the dish using up the most cans, jars and icy treasures from the freezer.

egg phyllo 2

enter these adorable little guys. eggplants in search of a home. in my belly.

luckily, i found sheeets of phyllo lurking between last summer's pitted sour cherries, homemade chicken stock, and many small baggies of citrus zest, left over from my dalliance with middle eastern cuisine last year.

the tahini had already met its end with a can of garbanzos as very tasty hummus.

egg phyllo 1

this appetizer is extremely versatile. i used a martha recipe as a jumping off point, but ending up with a different flavor profile thanks to the jar of sun dried tomatoes that's been hiding in the cheese drawer of the fridge and the basil growing against all odds in vases on my counter.

the eggplant is a soft and silky complement to the crispy layers of phyllo, and the sherry vinegar gives it tang, the red pepper a bit of bite, and feta and tomatoes a salty undertone.

but this would work easily well with spinach and feta, for a variation on spanikopita, or ground lamb with golden raisins and lots of smoky cumin for a heartier snack.

any way you fill them, you won't regret having an extra roll or two of phyllo in your freezer. just don't try to move it cross country.

egg phyllo 5

Eggplant Phyllo Pockets
Adapted from Martha Stewart
  • About 2 to 2 1/2 lbs eggplant
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (3 ounces)
  • 4 to 5 sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, brush cut side with olive oil. Place cut side down on lined baking sheet and roast about 20 to 25 minutes until tender. Let cool just enough to handle, and scoop eggplant flesh from skins. Roughly chop and place in large bowl.

Add feta, tomatoes, spices, basil and vinegar to eggplant. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly oil 12 regular sized muffin cups, or spray with Pam. 

Keep your stack of phyllo dough sheets covered with a damp paper towel while you're working. On a very very lightly floured work surface, lay out one sheet of phyllo. Lightly brush with olive oil. Stack another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with oil, and repeat until you have 5 sheet of oiled phyllo stacked up. Cut into 6 squares.

Take each square and press into muffin cup, as if you were creating a small muffin sized pie. Fill with about a 1/4 cup eggplant mixture. Gather up ends of phyllo to create a little pouch and press to hold close. Brush with more oil.

Repeat with each square of phyllo, and with remaining phyllo sheets.

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

twd: baking with julia: peach & blueberry galette

first, i would like to thank everyone who visited my blog last week and for all the comments! i appreciate you!

galette4

on to this galette . . . such a fancy name for such a simple, rustic and homey tart.

this was light, thin crust and studded with crunchy cornmeal. just the right note with sliced peaches and the most blueberry-tasting of blueberries i've had all summer.

galette2

i was a little less than excited about two weeks of pie . . . see last week's posting if you have any questions about my pie attitudes. while the closest this galette gets to my beloved streusel topping is the crunchy turbinado sugar on the crust edges, i would make this again.

it's the type of light summer dessert that perfectly highlights the natural sweetness of any fruit at the peak of it's season.

galette5b

and it's so light you can serve it with ice cream. lots and lots of ice cream. this is sweet corn ice cream with raspberry chambord sauce and lemon frozen yogurt with white chocolate. thank you, again, jeni's fabulous ice cream recipes.

the ice cream? it was for the birthday girl.

galette1

birthday galette on a steam august evening, after a night of champagne cocktails, cut-throat board gaming and good friends.

not bad way to wind down the summer.

galette3

to find more posts on this lovely galette and the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie!

twd: baking with julia: summer fruit pie

image1

 

in my book, pie is a winter food, best left for graham cracker crusts and creamy pumpkin filling with the warmth of the oven and scent of nutmeg making a cheery end to a cold and dark evening.

 

image4

 

summer is why we have crisps and crumbles. the glorious lack of fuss of a crumble, the messy abundance of a crisp, puts the focus on the fruit, just as it should be. beyond which, crumbles are supremely easy, virtually impossible to mess up (evidenced by a happy discovery that boxed cake mix makes a fantastic substitution for flour, should your weekend cabin getaway come so stocked). a crumble topping is just so much more interesting. how can you argue with mounds of brown sugar and oats? why would you even wish to try?

summer desserts – particularly not summer fruits at their peak – are not meant to be weighed down with the onerous task of perfecting a flaky, tender and buttery crust. why waste a single bikini season calorie on anything less than sublime?

 

image5

 

i am aware that this is not a widely shared sentiment. there is a whole contingent of summer pie advocates, many of whom i am guessing are passionate tuesdays with dorie bakers who will not be amused by my anti-pie tirade.

i mean, i'm crazy in the kitchen, just not freezing my flour and my food processor blade crazy. pie crust isn't something i'm willing work for.

homemade ice cream?  that's a different story.

 

image6

 

in any event, i did my best to compromise. i endeavored greatly to produce a passable bottom crust for this luscious fruit filling, and then topped it with an epic mass of brown sugar, oats and other crumbly deliciousness.

victory.

 

image8

 

this pie was as wonderful warm out of the oven as it was cold from the fridge for breakfast.

 

image2

 

and now back to my original summer programming . . . lazy afternoons, evenings with chilled wine and moonlight and homemade mint chip ice cream, with nary a pie crust in sight!

here's the recipe from the wonderful baking with julia, which you can also find on my cohost's blog, that skinny chick can bake! to find more lovely blogs and photos, visit tuesdays with dorie.

 

Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

Pie Crust

  • 5 1/4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup ice water

To make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender (or your fingers, if you prefer), cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient – this takes a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times – don't get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refridgerator.  

To make the dough in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together. 

To make the dough in a food processor, start with very cold ingredients and take care not to overwork them. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Don’t process until the dough forms a ball that rides on the blade – that’s overdoing it.

Chilling the dough: Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

The Filling

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 ½ pints)
  • 2 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 large)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Large pinch of grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice

Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

The Crust

  • ½ recipe Flaky Pie Dough (chilled)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
  • Crystal or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Lining the Pie Pan: Cut the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 11 inches across. Fit the crust into a 9-inch cake pan with 1-inch-high-sides. (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch cake pan with 1 ½-inch-high sides.) Allow the excess dough to hang over the sides for the moment.

Roll the remaining piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches across. Place the pie pan in the center of the dough and, using the pan as a template, cut the bottom round of dough so that it is about ½ inch larger all around than the pan.

Filling the Pie Pan: Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the top with the butter.

Top Crust: Trim the overhanging dough to about ½ inch. Lift the rolled-out circle of dough onto the pie (this is easily done by folding the dough into quarters, transferring it to the top of the pie, and then unfolding it), aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. If necessary, use a kitchen knife or scissors to trim any ragged edges.

Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 or 2 inches around the rim. Press the tines of a fork against the flat scallops to decorate. Paint the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little crystal or turbinado sugar.

Chilling the Pie: Using the point of a thin knife, cut 4 to 6 slits in the crust and chill for about 20 minutes. At this point, the pie can be frozen. Place it on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, then wrap airtight and freeze for up to a month. There’s no need to thaw the pie before baking, but you should apply another coat of egg wash and will have to bake the pie about 10 minutes longer.

Baking the Pie: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the pie on a parchment- or foil-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit bubbling. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut it so that the crusts, top and bottom, have a chance to set.

Storing: Pies are at their peak the day they’re made, but you can cover and chill leftovers for a day.

berries & cream cake

Happy Birthday Marilyn

it was a good weekend, full of family, sunshine and good food.

also, many photos in extreme variations of lighting and camera source. brace yourself.

Untitled

everything tastes better when eaten with your fingers and an endless supply of raspberry sauce.

Goat cheeses and cherries, fresh & preserved

goat cheeses and cherries . . . summer berry season is officially in full swing.

you know it's a good weekend when it includes more than one birthday cake.

_MG_6524

berries & cream was my contribution.

Untitled

chocolate on chocolate. purty.

my cake talked a good game. a light genoise, layered with macerated berries and whipped cream frosting.

_MG_6600

my execution? well, it looks pretty. and i learned an important lesson about how long you really, really, really need to whip your eggs for a genoise.

_MG_6578

the bottom layer did not raise. my generous father-in-law may have called it a tasty crust.

that's love, right there.

_MG_6565

but, also? fresh summer berries, macerated in a little booze, plus whipped cream frosting? made for a very special birthday?

that's also love.

_MG_6610

for the recipe – french strawberry cake - visit tuesdays with dorie. make extra whipped cream frosting and macerated berries. and whip your eggs!

baking with julia: strawberry rhubarb “shortbread”

_MG_6424

summer has arrived. with a vengeance. 

luckily, we can temper the crankiness brought on by heat and humidity with the sweet pucker of strawberries.

_MG_6403

i love the classic sweet tart of strawberries and rhubarb. i like my food with balance. not too much one way or the other.

the way a sprinkle of sea salt on dark chocolate brings the sweet and bitter together a little more harmoniously on your tongue.

_MG_6402

if it is pink, all the better.

i learned a new technique with this recipe. you put together the dough, chill it, and then grate it into the pan.

_MG_6410

the grated dough sandwiches homemade jam of the strawberry rhubarb vanilla bean persuasion. don't be tempted to add something sweeter. it needs a bit of the sour bite of the rhubarb. and the vanilla bean deepens the flavor a bit. i love the almost woody caramel flavor of a real vanilla bean.

_MG_6413

grating the frozen dough keeps the butter cold but brings a lightness to the finished cake. because, let us be clear.

_MG_6422

if you are looking for the crisp crumble of a walker shortbread cookie, this is not your recipe.

this is cake.

_MG_6428

have a bite!

For the recipe, visit Tuesdays with Dorie or buy the book!  

pseudo single lady eggplant caponata

eggplant 018

i do a lot of pseudo-single-lady cooking.  forget rachel ray, if the somm is out of town, dinner needs to take about 15 minutes to get from the fridge into my mouth.  this tends to limit the repertoire to, well, zucchini hash and a fried egg if i can muster the energy to chop something.  or olives and a very large glass of wine if it’s been one of those days.

yeah. classy.  i’ll be sure to get that recipe up here one of these days.

anyway, when i’m a pseudo-single-lady who has her $%*! together and isn’t too hangry at the world to cope with cooking, i’ll make a big pot of something that’ll last all week to use in various forms for lunch and dinner.  like a big pork tenderloin or a pot of braised chicken that’ll go in salads or on pasta.  mmm.

this is one of those type of recipes.

eggplant caponata is kind of like the italian version of ratatouille.  but it has more eggplant than tomato.  and you chop the veggies up into smaller pieces.

IMG_2609

and unlike tomatoey ratatouille, which i melt into almost a stew, the eggplant in caponata tends to hold its shape and texture even as you saute and simmer it.  and it ends up more as a dip.  or like salsa?  do you know what i’m getting at here?

IMG_2621

the type of caponata i like to make is pretty tangy.  lots of capers and olives and some red wine or sherry vinegar to zing it up.

the secret ingredient?  pine nuts.

no one would call a pine nut crunchy.  but against the silky smooth texture of the eggplant, tomato, and red pepper, they give the caponata a much needed bite.  and a nice toasty, nutty layer of flavor to the dish.

IMG_2623

don’t be like me and totally forget about your pine nuts and let them get slightly too toasty on one side while staying oddly nakedly blonde on the other.

just keepin’ it real, folks.

so, i’ve made caponata for family dinners when the somm’s home.  i made a huge batch, and it just got better all week.  the yogi came over and we spread it on french bread, crumbled some feta on top, broiled it and had it in our faces in under 15 minutes, FTW.

look, here i’ve served it with pork.

IMG_2630

shocking, i know.  i pretty much have served everything i’ve made this summer with pork.  thank god it’s dropping into winter weather this weekend so i can give my old friends the short ribs some love.

Eggplant Caponata

Adapted from the New York Times

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, chopped into 1/2ish cubes or close enough (see note)
  • 2 medium to large ripe tomatoes, diced (and peeled if you’re feeling fancy), or half a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 heaped tablespoons capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 good splash of red wine
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Heat your oil in your skillet, add the onions and saute for a few minutes.  You probably don’t want to let them brown because they’ve got some more cooking to do, but I can never remember to stir and I’m usually chopping the eggplant or garlic and forget, and it works out ok.

Add the garlic and red bell pepper and saute for another few minutes to get the pepper softening.  Then add your eggplant and cook until it gets a little brown – maybe 10 minutes or so.

Add your tomatoes, olives, and capers, cook for a few minutes then add the tomato paste and liquids.  Cook until the liquid is just gone and the sauce holds together.  Taste it and see if the balance of tart and savory is right for you or if it needs more vinegar or maybe even a pinch of sugar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can either add the pine nuts now, or you can reserve and garnish as needed.  This helps keep them from going too soft in my opinion.

Caponata is best served warm or room temperature, but it’s pretty darn good on crackers straight out of the fridge too.

A note about eggplants: Many people find eggplant to be bitter if you don’t salt it first.  I usually buy the lighter purple eggplants.  Or the funky streaky looking ones. In part, if I’m being honest, cause they’re kind of prettier.  But I also think they’re sweeter and less bitter than the darker ones.  And I’m lazy and that’s my excuse to not salt my eggplant.  Feel free to salt yours if you have the patience or desire.  Also, the New York Times has you roast your eggplant.  I like the firm bite of a non-roasted eggplant, and didn’t really want to add the prep time, but I’m sure it’s lovely either way.  Aren’t you so glad you came for all this (not) helpful (completely subjective, not tested) advice!