My friend Mark gave me some beautiful just ripe pluots from his tree recently. I picked up a small container of wild plums from the farmer’s market the same day. Both fruit, along with the only black pepper mixture I use in my kitchen, Flower Pepper, which was given to me by another friend, Jesse, are the main ingredients for this very dense, moist everyday cake.
There is a cookbook I purchased last year, A New Way to Cake by Benjamina Ebuehi, that I pretty much adore. My recipe is a riff on one of the recipes from her book. I simple cannot say how densely moist it is, how the fruit and the black (flower)pepper create a magical flavor profile. No frosting, nothing la-di-dah about this one. It is a cake for sharing.
For the recipe for making your own Flower Pepper, click on the link in the post.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar/caster sugar (put in a food processor and pulse a few times to make finer if you do not have caster sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, divided (Flower Pepper or any good quality black pepper)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup whole milk
4-6 ripe small plums, or pluots, or wild plums (can be a mixture of all) pitted and quartered
a small handful of slivered or sliced or chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a springform pan and line with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter, sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons of the black pepper until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time until blended.
In another bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, the almond flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper.
Add the flour mixture gradually into the butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir in the milk until well blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. This batter is rather thick so use your spoon to spread batter evenly.
Arrange the quartered fruit on top of the batter. Just barely push down into the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper over the top of the fruit and then the almonds.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan. Remove the sides of the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Right before serving brush the top of the cake with the maple syrup.
This recipe is a slight riff on a recipe in “The New Way to Cake” by Benjamin Ebuehi. Her recipe is “Plum and Black Pepper Cake”. Published by Page Street Publishing.
Early Saturday morning on a trip to the downtown Farmer’s Market I found a few pints of the first local blackberries. Small and sweet and juicy, warm from the sun where they sat, my mind was already thinking of fresh blackberry scones for Sunday morning. Long, laid-back weekends call for something special.
This recipe is easy and pretty quick and is very much inspired from a recipe in the “Sister Pie” cookbook for blueberry scones with a swap to blackberries in my version. This cookbook often calls for “sugar-sugar” which is just equal parts granulated and raw sugars mixed together. It’s great to sprinkle on the tops of pies or cookies as well as these scones.
Fresh from the oven, buttery-warm, with crunchy granulated “sugar-sugar” tops and full of juicy blackberry goodness.
Have a lazy, joy filled, laid-back 4th of July 2021. Be kind. Be sweet. If you are not vaccinated please wear a mask and if you are I send you a big thanks from the bottom of my heart.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh (local) blackberries
1/4 cup raw sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid shake 1/4 cup granulate sugar and 1/4 cup of raw sugar together. Set aside.
Whisk together 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 egg. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl whisk together 1 cup cornmeal, 1 3/4 cups flour, all of the baking powder, 3/4 cup of the sugar and the kosher salt.
Sprinkle the cold butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Using a combination of a pastry blender and your fingers work the butter into the mixture evenly like you would when making a pie crust. Use your fingers to unclog the pastry blender when need be. I used the pastry blender at the beginning and ended with my fingers to get the butter pieces mixed well throughout.
Toss the blackberries into the bowl and stir with your hands to distribute evenly into the dry mix.
Pour the cream-egg mixture over the dry mix and stir using a rubber scraper until well blended. Use your hands to gently press mixture together in the bowl to create a dough. Some of the berries with be crushed while you work, but that is the general idea. Get the dry and the wet mixed to form a dough.
Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife cut the dough circle into 8 to 10 equal wedges and place a couple of inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops of each with the remaining 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and sprinkle the tops of each generously with some of the sugar-sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until scones are golden brown and doubled in size. Cool on a wire rack.
Save the leftover “sugar-sugar” for your next baking project or add a bit to a cup of tea or coffee. Keeps in airtight jar for ages.
I often take a devil-may-care approach when I get a “hankering” for dessert. Not one to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the fussy details of lengthy recipes, the “cheater ice-cream” concept, which has been around a long time, is one I return to over and over in the summer.
The basic idea is this…purchase a quart of half-gallon of your favorite, good quality, but not too expensive, vanilla ice cream. Soften and stir in whatever you like. This is a fun thing for your kids to do as well. Imagine the possibilities!
cheater ice cream..start with a good vanilla ice cream. Soften, then stir in berries, edible flowers, softened goat or mascarpone cheeses, pink peppercorns crushed, chocolate syrup, instantespresso, peanut butter, bananas, crumbled cookies…whatever you like. Re-freeze…scoop…enjoy all summer long.
It is a rare thing that I would make a bbq sauce using local, short-season Tennessee strawberries for a recipe such as this, really it is a rare thing for me to make any bbq sauce….. But, truthfully I bought too many strawberries from the Farmers Market…if that is possible…and a pint or two got over-ripe before we realized it. Shame on me…quickly I forgave myself and whipped up a batch of sauce for slathering on ribs or chicken, pork chops or wings in celebration of Memorial Day weekend. This holiday is the first yes-we-are vaccinated and yes-we-can be together to celebrate and it seems important to make some classic food for summer.
I must admit that the recipe for this bbq sauce is more of a add-and-taste-adjust-add-and-taste until you have it how you like your bbq sauce to be. I will give you the basics and the rest really will be up to you. It’s hard to go wrong as long as you tweak your way to the result you prefer. As you probably know, bbq sauces are as varied as each person who makes one, and no two homemade sauces are ever alike.
This Strawberry BBQ Sauce has all the right stuff…it is not cloyingly sweet, it is tangy with vinegar and lemon juice and spicy with hot sauces. Everything cooked down slowly to allow the flavors of the ingredients to meld. Once you toss all the ingredients in the pot to cook…your work it done…just let it simmer.
Serve with a simple coleslaw, extra sauce on the side…. whatever are your favorite sides….and a cold beer of course!
Please have a safe and cozy Memorial Day Weekend.
3 pints “almost-too-ripe” Strawberries, capped and pureed in a blender or processor
1/2 cup fruit vinegar such as apple, or any other
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
3 tablespoons chipotle hot sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir often, taste sauce, adjust and continue cooking. When sauce has thickened, remove from heat, let cool and put in glass jars with lids. Chill until ready to use.
If you like a hotter sauce, then add some chopped hot peppers, crushed dried red peppers, or a wee bit of habanero salsa.
If you like it sweeter and thicker add more brown sugar or honey…maybe some molasses.
A splash of balsamic or rice wine vinegar might be something you would like. Or some ketchup?
Make it how you and your family like it…just start out with some very ripe, local berries from wherever you live.
Late May in Nashville means an abundance of fresh, juicy, local strawberries. Sliced strawberries on buttered bread toasted with a light sprinkling of raw sugar is just about a close to Nirvana as you can get when it comes to food.
This was our Friday lunch, and might be Saturday’s lunch as well and why not Sunday breakfast with a few slices of Gruyere added? We try to eat as many as we can while the local crop is plentiful. Simple is best, although over the years I have posted recipes for strawberry jam and Victoria sponge cakes with strawberries…let’s not forget the strawberry tarts. Those are all delicious and wonderful, but our absolute favorite way to eat strawberries is just like this. Simple and lightly sweet.
There is no recipe. Just grab some really good crusty-loafed bread such as sour-dough. Fresh local berries capped and sliced. Smear the bread slices with yummy softened butter and toast. Top toasted bread with sliced berries and a light sprinkling of raw sugar. It is as Easy-as-This.
Life is short, summer is here, treat yourself and others kindly and enjoy the bounty.
This, so far, has been one of the most beautiful and verdant Springs I can remember. A good amount of rain, lots of warm days and cool nights. This is the optimum time for growing lettuce and kale. I have a little raised bed and it has been amazing how many greens it produces. Here is the handful I picked for this salad..green and red leaf kale, butter lettuce and romaine…
I’m a big fan of canned seafood. My pantry is chock full of cans of tuna, salmon, sardines, salmon pate and even smoked herring. Canned fish and seafood are rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids which are both important for our overall health. This salad is topped with a can of Wild Alaska Pink Salmon. The slight sweetness of the salmon paired with the crisp, tart greens, peppery radishes, thinly sliced cucumbers and some shaved asiago cheese is fresh, colorful and full of textural goodness. Sometimes I even use the olive oil from a can as the base for a vinaigrette salad dressing.
My salad today is not a real recipe with exact amounts of ingredients or techniques, just a meal, simple and seasonal. I plan to share a number of my favorite meals using canned fish over the next month or so….a fabulous simple pasta dish using chunks of canned tuna and tomatoes, a mock-nicoise salad, a grilled cheese with sardines….yes, it is one of my favorite grilled sandwiches!
My Little Garden Greens and Canned Wild Alaska Pink Salmon Salad
..simple sanding sugar with raspberry flavor….perfect for Spring…
I have learned lots of stuff during the past year…being at home a lot and being naturally curious…well…needless to say I have learned a lot. Some things I am pretty sure are just fillers for empty spaces in my psyche…others useful and interesting and some just fun.
A year or so ago I got interested in fruit powders and ordered a few from Nuts.com to play around with. More recently I saw a quick idea for turning plain sanding, or decorating, sugar into not only colorful alternatives to supermarket bought sprinkles, but to add real flavor as well using fruit powders. The powder added color and a really strong raspberry flavor, no fake dyes, not just color, but real fruit flavor. Quick, easy and fun.
Fruit powders are just dried fruits ground into powders. They are beautiful and delicious swirled into yogurt bowls, or added to smoothies. Strawberry, blueberry, pomegranate, cherry and raspberry are some of my favorites.
Dried raspberry fruit powder added to plain decorating sugar…
….a bit of water added, whisked and scraped out onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan….dried in a warm oven….
….chunks broken up and ready for decorating.
First day of Spring sugar cookies…make and tuck into an Easter basket or for a late night adult snack with a sip of port. Make your day delicious, colorful and curious.
For the raspberry sugar: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the sanding sugar and raspberry fruit powder. Add water and whisk until the sanding sugar is evenly coated with powder. Spread sugar out onto the prepared baking sheet. I used the whisk to spread out evenly. Place pan in oven. Turn off the heat. Let sugar dry for 30 mins to 2 hours in warm oven.
Remove pan and let raspberry sugar cool. Break up any clumps with your fingers.
For cookie dough: Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat together, using a mixer, the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. Slowly beat in flour mixture, on low speed, until well mixed. If need be, to form a dough, add a tablespoon of water until it comes together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Form cookie dough into a flat disk. On a flat work surface dusted with a bit of flour, roll cookie dough out to about 1/4 inch thick more or less. Cut dough into squares using a 1 1/2 inch square cookie cutter, or cut into squares using a knife. Place cookies on prepared sheet pan. They hardly spread at all, so they can be close together. Gather any dough scraps, re-roll and cut until it is all used up. You should have about 36 cookies. Cover loosely with plastic and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until a pale golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack sitting on a sheet of parchment paper to catch sanding sugar when decorating.
Working with a few cookies at a time, brush the top of each cookie with a thin layer of corn syrup, then sprinkle each with raspberry sanding sugar. Let the cookies air dry for an hour. They are ready to enjoy and share.
It’s almost Spring…in a few weeks we will be thinking about eating cooler, not warmer, but for now let’s enjoy hearty bowls of hot soup and stews, healthy and filling.
This is a “pantry” soup using cans of cannellini and black beans, a large can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions, hot pepper flakes and sliced chicken sausages from the freezer. Shreds of sharp white cheddar, a skillet of hot cornbread and maybe a cold beer to round out a casual dinner while waiting for Spring.
Use the bread to sop up some broth for added flavor……..If you need a great, but easy cornbread recipe click here…it is classic and Southern and delicious.
here..have a bite…
A little recipe to get you started….feel free to be creative…add in some spinach or kale leaves, or any of your herbs. You can’t mess it up…it just as “easy-as-this”.
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add in sliced sausage pieces, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, until garlic and onions are translucent.
Add in beans, tomatoes and water or broth. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer. Add in a generous pinch of red pepper flakes if you like hot, or less if you do not, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Serve with shredded cheese and your favorite cornbread and if you need a really good, classic Southern recipe, click here. You might need a cold beer to cool things down a bit. Enjoy the warmth and coziness while the weather allows.
Call it a quiche or a tart or a pie. No matter, it is all a variation of sweet or savory ingredients baked in a crust. My favorite way to cook is “one-dish”. I have never figured out if that is because I am not a fan of cleaning up lots of pots and pans just to end up with all the food together on a plate, or if I take a somewhat lazy approach to cooking? My “Savory Baby Cauliflower and Broccolini Deep Dish Pie” recipe is full of vegetables, cheeses, eggs all in a crust…one pan, one dish cooking.
Often I make up a meal out of whatever strikes me as interesting in the grocery. A couple of week’s ago I found some fresh clusters of baby cauliflower and very small broccolini, as well as a nice thick wedge of Comte’ on sale at Costco all baked up into this deep dish pie that is quite quick to assemble. Once it’s in the oven you can pretty much ignore it while it’s baking. If you can’t find baby cauliflower or broccolini just use regular, cutting into small clusters.
Trim any larger stems from each of the vegs and set aside. Roast trimmed heads in olive oil at high heat. Save and cook the larger stems in a pan of water while cauliflower and broccolini are roasting. Gather all of your ingredients at this time.
You can use a simple homemade or store-bought crust. Whatever works for you. Grainy mustard smeared over the bottom and sides add a delicious flavor to the crust along with a sprinkling of grated cheese. A good tip is to scatter grated cheese over the bottom of savory pies as it will melt and seal the crust and keep it from getting soggy.
Eggs, cream, spices and cooked stems all pureed in a blender or food processor.
Roasted broccolini and baby cauliflower layered in the crust. Filling poured over and topped with remaining cheese before baking.
Fluffy and light, crust thin and crisp, lightly browned and ready to eat.
1 store-bought pie crust or your favorite homemade
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 1/2 cups shredded Comte Cheese
2 oz Goat Cheese
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Mexican Oregano, or whatever you have
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp, or jarred
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread trimmed cauliflower and broccolini out on pan. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 12-15 minutes or just until veggies are just starting to char. Remove pan from oven. Set aside. Lower oven heat to 350 degrees.
While veggies are roasting, line a 9 inch springform pan with the pie crust. Smear bottom of crust with the grainy mustard and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Comte cheese over mustard.
In a small pan quickly boil the cauliflower and broccolini stems/trimmings in a bit of salted water until “fork tender”. Drain.
To a blender or food processor, add the cooked stems, goat cheese, eggs, heavy cream, oregano to taste, nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth and well mixed.
Spread the roasted baby cauliflower and broccolini over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with another 1/2 cup Comte, gently pour blended egg-cream mixture over all. Top with remaining 1/2 Comte.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the pie is set in the middle and golden brown. Test with a toothpick or skewer. Remove from the oven. Set on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes or until ready to serve cut in slices. Great with a simple salad and a glass of crisp white wine.