Horchata.

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There’s a taco truck we love called El Camion. It’s parked beside the pet store and near our grocery store, so sometimes we just end up right there and are practically forced to stop in for a few tacos. My husband always gets fish tacos, but my choice is lengua (beef tongue) or cochinita pibil (seasoned pork) with the hottest salsa they have. I need to have something refreshing to cool my mouth… and I quickly learned the best option is a tall cup of horchata. Made with rice and sometimes almonds, cinnamon and sugar and served cold cold cold with lots of ice, horchata is creamy, sweet, delicious and thirst-quenching… and hands-down my favorite item on El Camion’s menu. It always tastes good, and it’s baffling why I waited so long to start making my own.

Imagine: a steady supply of ice cold goodness on the hottest days of the year! No need to venture into Ballard, and so much more affordable than buying a cup a day from El Camion. Horchata takes more planning than effort to make. I researched a handful of recipes before coming up with my own, and really like the ratio of rice and almonds I share below. Some variations include using only rice, exchanging almonds for an equal amount of raw cashews, or flipping the proportions of rice and nuts. I think it comes down to personal preference, and maybe price or ingredient availability, but any of these options will yield a great horchata. I used my Blendtec to pulverize the rice, but I think a strong food processor would also work. I chose to use a fine mesh strainer instead of a nut milk bag, which leaves some grittiness in the final product. I like that– it somehow seems more substantial, and the texture doesn’t bother me at all. If you want a smoother horchata, make sure to take the extra time to run it through a nut milk bag, or several layers of cheesecloth.

Whether it’s Taco Tuesday or just a warm summer evening, you will love having horchata in your refrigerator for a quick, cold drink. I am going to make a batch each week for the remainder of the summer, and treat myself! The summer is speeding by, and I want to enjoy every moment I can.

horchata

Horchata (adapted from Food52 Vegan and Yucatan)

  • 1 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 3″ long, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 c. raw almonds
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt

Place the rice and cinnamon stick into the jar of your blender and run on a medium speed until broken up. You don’t want fine dust, but you do want tiny, sand-like particles. Add the raw almonds, whole or sliced is fine, and 2 c. of water to the rice. Swirl to mix and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 hours.

Add the sugar, salt and remaining 2 c. water to the blender jar. Blend on medium-high speed for 1-2 mins. until smooth and slightly frothy. It should look like milk with sediment at the bottom of the jar. Set a fine mesh strainer, nut milk bag or cheesecloth-covered colander over a large bowl that will hold at least 4 c. liquid. Pour the contents of the blender into your straining set up and allow to drip for about 30 mins. If you push the mixture through with a spoon, you will get a grainier horchata, so try to just let it go. Discard the solids and store the horchata in a large jar or covered pitcher in the refrigerator. Serve over ice. Will keep in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days… if it lasts that long!

Creamy chickpea salad with dill & cucumber.

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I created this creamy chickpea salad on a hot day, wanting something crunchy, cool and refreshing to accompany my otherwise-grilled dinner. It tasted delicious then, and has made repeat appearances several times this summer. I don’t use chickpeas often enough in salads, but love to find them included– our grocery store makes a wonderful tabbouleh-style salad with chickpeas added, and it’s always just what I want for lunch on a hot day. When I gathered the ingredients for my chickpea salad, I was thinking about that deli option I enjoy so much, and also a cucumber salad with dill and paprika I get from a local Russian dumpling house. I took elements of each and ended up here.

Although you can soak and cook your own chickpeas, I prefer the uniformity of canned in this salad. Sometimes my home-cooked garbanzos get a little soft and lose their shape. There’s nothing wrong with that… but using canned beans takes some of the guesswork out of what the final dish will look like. For the cucumbers, use whatever is plentiful in the garden: salad cukes, English, Persian, Kirby, lemon, etc. Any crunchy cucumber will do! I thought about using yogurt for the sauce, and I think you could absolutely sub it in, but I love the tang and smoother consistency of sour cream, especially with crisp cucumbers and dill. Finally, a note about piment d’espelette, a chile powder from the Basque region of southern France. It can be hard to find, and somewhat expensive, but if you have some, it is so good in this salad. The slight heat and subtle smokiness are perfect against the creamy, crunchy backdrop of the other ingredients. If you don’t have any, I think smoked paprika would work just as well, and 1/4 tsp. would be plenty. The spice is intended to be a garnish more than a main ingredient.

As we settle into the quiet, insistent heat of mid-August, having eaten many potato salads, much macaroni salad and all the corn, it’s nice to have a change-of-pace choice to try. In 10 mins. flat, you can have this bright, fresh chickpea salad on the table for dinner. It goes with just about anything or is substantial alone; it’s pretty, quick, and delicious. What more could you want?

creamy chickpeas with dill and cucumber

Creamy Chickpea Salad with Dill & Cucumber

  • 1 1/2 c. cucumbers, seeded, salted and drained (from about 2 large salad cukes, 1 English, or 4-5 Kirby)
  • 1 14 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c. sliced scallions
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 3 T. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. piment d’espelette
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • feta to garnish (optional)

Start by preparing the cucumbers. Peel them or don’t depending on your preference and the type of cucumber you’re using. Cut each cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half lengthwise. Cut out the seeds, if your variety has big, soft, watery seed centers. For Persian or English, you might not have as many to worry about. Cut each length into half-moons and place in a colander. Sprinkle with kosher salt, about 1/2 tsp. Shake to distribute and let the cucumbers sit while you prepare the rest of the salad, over a paper towel or in the sink, as they will lose some moisture. The purpose of this step is to prevent excess moisture from diluting your pretty salad.

Make the dressing by whisking together sour cream, lemon juice, fresh dill and a few cracks of fresh black pepper.

To a large bowl, add the drained and rinsed chickpeas. Rinse the cucumbers and pat them dry with a paper towel or cotton towel; add them to the chickpeas. Add in the scallions; toss everything together. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with piment d’espelette and a pinch more kosher salt, if necessary. Serve immediately. Some crumbled feta is a decadent addition to this salad, if you like. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2-3 days.

Blackberry buckle.

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Summer fruit shines in simple, rustic desserts. You know about pie and cake, probably also crisp, crumble, cobbler, and compote. But have you ever had buckle? If not, this is a great time of year to give one a try. Buckles are like a cross between cake and crisp, with a whole lot of fresh fruit providing flavor and texture. They start with a base layer of dense, vanilla-scented cake batter, which is then studded with fruit and covered with a spiced crumb topping that “buckles” the cake. I think blackberry buckle may be the one I enjoy most. Blackberries are abundant in Seattle in August, but an equal amount of blueberries, diced peaches, sliced plums, or a mix of fruits, works very well. I like to have the flavor of both cardamom and cinnamon in the topping, especially with blackberries, but you can use all cinnamon, or exchange nutmeg for cardamom, if you prefer. Have fun experimenting with buckles this summer, and make sure this blackberry version is on your to-try list.

blackberry buckle

Blackberry Buckle (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom, preferably freshly ground
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the cake:

  • 1 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 T. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 c. fresh blackberries

Make the crumb topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Add the cold pieces of butter and use a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Stop when you reach the consistency of wet sand and can still see pea-sized pieces of butter distributed throughout the mixture. Refrigerate your crumb topping while you make the cake batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 qt. casserole or baking dish with butter or baking spray. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and kosher salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 mins. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat just until combined. Gently mix in the sifted dry ingredients, with the mixer on low speed, or by hand. The batter will be fairly thick. Spoon the batter into your greased baking dish and spread into an even layer. Top with blackberries, then sprinkle the crumb topping evenly across the fruit.

cake batter with berries to top

Bake for 55-60 mins., until the topping is golden brown and a skewer into the cake layer comes out clean. Cool slightly, but serve warm if you can, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a little whipped cream. Store, covered, at room temperature for 24-48 hours, or in the refrigerator for a few days more. Leftover buckle is remarkably good for breakfast.🙂 Enjoy!

Golden summer salad with nectarines and beets.

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This salad came to me in a dream. I actually dreamed about roasted beets in a fresh garden salad, with other ingredients in the same color palette. As dreams go, it wasn’t so bad; as salads go, this is a new favorite.

Roasted golden beets are a little milder in flavor than their red counterparts but have the same texture and earthy notes. In this salad, I soak them in the vinaigrette for a few hours, so they’re essentially quick-pickled. Spooned over the top of your other salad components, they act as both the star of the dish and the dressing. The lettuce you choose should be tender and a little crisp. Our friends at Present Tense Farm grow the most beautiful romaine and red leaf lettuces; I used one of the latter in the salad pictured. To add sweetness, juiciness and more golden color, I use nectarines. Stone fruit is just as welcome in savory dishes as sweet. Putting peaches and nectarines in salads, on burgers, on pizza, etc. is a little bit of an obsession this summer, and I haven’t found one dish yet where they seem out of place. Nectarines don’t need to be peeled; if you choose to substitute a peach, peeling might be a good idea, but is certainly not a strict requirement. For texture, the shallots add a little bit of crispy chew and the walnuts add crunch. If you really want to gild the lily, add some crumbled soft goat cheese to the mix.

Served with grilled chicken, warm focaccia, simple flatbread, or on its own, my golden summer salad will be a welcome addition to the table. I can only hope my dreams this summer will continue to be so fruitful.

golden summer salad with beets & nectarines

Golden Summer Salad with Nectarines and Beets

For the salad:

  • 1 lb. golden beets, roasted, peeled and diced
  • 1 – 2 ripe nectarines, sliced into wedges
  • 1 head of romaine or red leaf lettuce, washed and torn
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2 – 3 oz. soft goat cheese (optional)

For the dressing:

  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ~ 1/2 c. olive oil

To roast the beets: Cut off leaves and stem and any long roots. Do not peel. Try to get the beets similarly sized; if your bunch is two large beets and two small, halve the large beets. Wrap each beet/half in tin foil. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 60-75 mins. The beets are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Cool to room temperature and then store, still in the foil, in the refrigerator until needed. You can roast the beets 2-3 days in advance, and should plan to roast them the day before you make your salad, so they can be chilled overnight.

To make the dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Add the cider vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt and a few cracks of fresh black pepper. Whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the 1/2 c. olive oil as you whisk; stop to taste when you’ve added about 3/4 of the oil, and continue adding to taste.

Unwrap your roasted beets and use your fingers and a dull knife to slip off the skins. Dice the cold beets and add to your dressing. Toss to combine, cover loosely, and set aside for 2-4 hours at room temperature. This step can also be done up to a day in advance. Bring the beets and dressing back to room temperature before proceeding.

diced roasted beets in dressing: quick-pickled!

In a small skillet, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots in one layer and cook, untouched, until they are noticeably golden brown. Turn the shallots and continue cooking for a minute or so. Don’t be shy about color here: you don’t want to burn them, but dark shallots are sweet and so crispy! When they’re done, turn out onto a plate lined with paper towel. Add the walnuts to the remaining oil in the skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned.

To assemble the salad, put torn lettuce onto a large platter. Place the nectarine wedges on the greens, then spoon beets over the top. Dot with shallots and walnuts, and chevre if using. Pour any remaining dressing over the top and serve immediately. This salad is best the day you make it.

Brown sugar bourbon ice cream with roasted apricots.

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A week ago Sunday was National Ice Cream Day, and my recipe testing plans lined up so that I celebrated this important holiday: I made brown sugar bourbon ice cream with roasted apricots, and was it ever worthy of a celebration! I’ve had the idea for this ice cream for a few months and was just waiting for local apricots to ripen so I could make a batch. I was able to get some at the farmers’ market; they were fragrant, rosy-peach in color, ripe but not overly so– in short, perfect for what I envisioned. I love roasted stone fruit. With apricots, just a tiny bit of butter and sugar helps all the subtle floral notes come out, natural sugars caramelize and the juice factor multiply by about ten. Mixed with an ice cream base that shores up the sweetness, highlights those caramel flavors and adds creaminess… well, you have yourself a homemade ice cream home run.

The truth is brown sugar bourbon ice cream is a home run without the apricots. I made a batch for a work potluck and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response of my coworkers. There were second helpings taken, comparisons to a popular local ice cream shop… I was thrilled. Brown sugar gives the ice cream a subtle caramel flavor, and bourbon enhances the vanilla flavor. It won’t freeze properly if you add too much bourbon, so don’t worry about it being too boozy for the kiddos– unless you need an excuse to save it for the grown-ups. It is rich, creamy and decadent; a spectacular and special homemade treat. My husband declared it immediately the best ice cream I’ve ever made. On the flip side, the roasted apricots are great with pound cake, with biscuits and cream a la shortcake, or stirred into yogurt. This recipe gives you so many options.

On a hot summer day, it’s hard to say no to ice cream, and even harder when it is as delicious as this brown sugar bourbon ice cream. While apricots are at their best, treat yourself, your friends and family… maybe even your coworkers.

brown sugar bourbon ice cream with roasted apricots

Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream with Roasted Apricots

For the ice cream:

  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. cream
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 T. bourbon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split

For the apricots:

  • 1 lb. apricots, halved and pitted (about 6-8)
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt

To make the ice cream base: Mix the milk, cream, salt and about half of the brown sugar in a large saucepan. Add the vanilla bean. Mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar together in a small bowl. (The egg whites will keep in the freezer for months if you don’t have an immediate use.) Over medium heat, bring the milk mixture to the point where it is steaming but not boiling. Carefully temper the egg yolks by streaming in about 1/2 c. of warm milk, whisking constantly; add the tempered yolks immediately to the saucepan and whisk the custard over medium-low heat for 2 mins. Do not let the mixture boil; remove from the burner if it is heating too quickly. You should notice the custard thickening to the point where it will loosely coat a spoon.

Set a strainer over a clean bowl and strain the custard into the bowl. Discard any solids left in the strainer. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into your custard. Add the bourbon, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the apricot halves on the pan with their pit sides up. Use your fingers to tear the butter into tiny pieces, placing a small amount of butter into the hollow of each half. Divide the 1 T. brown sugar among the fruit in the same way. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of kosher salt. Roast the fruit for 20 mins., turning the pan halfway through the cook time, until the apricots are starting to color and become juicy, but still hold their shape. Cool until you can work with them. Chop the fruit roughly into bite-sized pieces and store, with all the cooking juices, in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.

Churn the ice cream for about 20 mins., until it is the consistency of soft serve. Transfer a third of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container. Add half of the cold apricots in an even layer. Cover with another third of the ice cream, then the rest of the apricots and juice. Cover with the remaining ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours. Scoop and enjoy!

apricots, ready to roast

Summer blueberry cake.

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I think this is going to be a blueberry-heavy summer, which is very good news. The local berries were ready early this year (in late June actually, which surprised me) and have been sweet because of a nice balance of sun and rain. I’ve made blueberry scones and my beloved blueberry muffins already, had half a metric ton plain and on yogurt, and have plans for a few more baking projects in the weeks to come. All quite delicious, as you know… yet they pale in comparison to my very favorite summer blueberry cake.

summer blueberry cake, with added nectarberries

I was surprised to find I hadn’t yet shared this recipe. With the first sighting of local berries at the market, I begin to think about the first blueberry cake of the year. If I said before that a cake was my ‘very favorite’, I was not being honest. (Sorry.) My Nana’s chocolate cake comes close, and my Mom’s coconut cake merits consideration, but I would pass up most every dessert offered in favor of a piece of this blueberry cake. No surprise, it’s another recipe passed along by Mom. We used to vacation in mid-August on a lake in central Maine; my memories of those trips include pumping drinking water from the well down the street, swimming in the impossibly clear, cold lake with my brother, learning to play hearts at the giant kitchen bench/table, picking blackberries along the railroad tracks, and eating blueberry cake. Some of Mom’s cakes were made with coveted wild Maine blueberries… which might explain why it’s the only food I remember from those two-week long trips. Besides onion dip, and bacon for breakfast. Blueberry cake was way more important than either of those.

The best part of summer blueberry cake is the deep golden brown, delicately crisp top layer, helped along in part by folding beaten egg whites into the batter– an extra, yet necessary, step. (I’d like to think alchemy has a role as well.) The texture of the cake is dense but never dry, and it improves daily, becoming richer, as unctuous as a cake ever should be, perfumed by vanilla and all the berries… Can you tell yet how much I adore this cake? I don’t mess around with greatness, down to using the same Pyrex pan each and every time. In the past I have experimented, as I so often do: with the addition of lemon zest, for instance (I like it better without), or by doubling the recipe to make a layer cake with cream cheese frosting (too sweet, not necessary). My one occasional twist to the original recipe: a handful of blackberries or raspberries added to the mix. Blueberries must be present– it’s just not the same made exclusively with another berry– but a mix does work. My husband and I recently discovered nectarberries; conflicting sources describe them as a descendant of Australian youngberries, or as a boysenberry-blackberry hybrid. I stopped researching so I could eat more nectarberries. They are divine, no matter what they are– giant, juicy and tart, with a flavor somewhere between blackberry and strawberry. With blackberries still a week or so away from being plentiful, a handful of nectarberries went into the cake pictured. With blueberries or mixed berries, I adore this cake as a brunch option or coffee accompaniment. You’ll see that the flavor and texture are reminiscent of a good bakery muffin, so it’s not a stretch to cut a little piece for a morning treat.

When I shared the recipe for my Mom’s blueberry muffins, I was thrilled by the positive reaction and enthusiastic comments I got from those of you who made a batch. It is heartwarming to see a recipe so dear to me embraced and enjoyed by my community! I feel like this summer blueberry cake, my very favorite cake, is going to be another recipe like that. It’s not just the blueberry factor– this cake is tried and tested, loved and shared, as a great recipe should be. So, please, help me continue to pass it along.

summer blueberry cake

Summer Blueberry Cake

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 c. sugar, separated
  • 1/2 c. shortening*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 c. whole milk
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 c. blackberries, raspberries or nectarberries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ square pan, preferably glass.

Add the egg whites to the (very clean) bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high until the whites hold a soft peak when you raise the beater up, about 2-4 mins. Add 1/4 c. sugar to the whites and mix on high for another 30 seconds, just to incorporate. Transfer the beaten whites to a small, clean bowl.

Into the same mixer bowl, add the remaining 3/4 c. sugar and shortening. Using the same beater attachment, mix on medium high until light and fluffy; add egg yolks and mix again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, and mix once more.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture in two batches, alternating with milk. Stop before the batter is fully mixed; remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape off the beater, and add blueberries and beaten egg whites to the bowl. Use your spatula to fold the batter together; stop when the egg whites are very evenly distributed, but still visible in streaks. Work to keep as much air in the batter as you can.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and dot with blackberries or raspberries, etc., if using. Cover with the remaining batter and smooth it into all corners of the pan. Bake for 45-50 mins., until golden brown. A skewer inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean– unless you hit a berry. Cool slightly before serving. I think this blueberry cake is perfect as-is, but a small scoop of vanilla ice cream probably wouldn’t hurt.

The cake will keep covered at room temperature for 2-3 days and in the refrigerator for a little longer. Mom says it freezes like a dream– we’ll have to trust her word, because I’ve never had one make it to the freezer in my house.

*A note about shortening. I use it sparingly, but it really is the best fat for this cake. Nutiva and Spectrum make shortenings that are organic, non-GMO and transfat-free. If you prefer not to bake with shortening, an equal amount of butter will yield decent results, and I’m tempted to test a coconut oil version. But do consider using shortening to experience the cake at its best.

No-bake cherry cream pie.

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There’s not much better than a homemade pie in July… except a homemade pie in your nice, cool kitchen! This recipe is a family favorite, a simple no-bake* dessert that really shows off your best summer fruit, and can be made with just a few hours notice and little effort. It’s reminiscent of cheesecake, but so much lighter. You don’t need whipped cream or ice cream to garnish. My mom usually makes it with strawberries, and we agreed that both raspberries and peaches would also be delicious. I chose to use red cherries for a few different reasons. First, cherries are flavorful and plentiful in Seattle in July. I needed a quick dessert to take to a 4th of July barbecue and had enough cherries in my kitchen to make a pie, without shopping. Definitely a plus! Second, strawberry season was quite early this year, so for the first time in memory, I had no fresh strawberries to use on July 4th. That was a bummer– but this pie helped me overcome my sadness. Third, and maybe most important to me, I can use easy-to-find red cherries instead of hunting for elusive pie cherries. I love how the sweetness of Bings plays against the creamy filling, and the very delicate shade of rose pink the pie takes on– it’s so pretty on the table! And then there’s the heat factor: make a no-bake cherry pie on a hot summer day, or heat your kitchen for an hour plus to bake a traditional cherry pie? I’ll take the no-bake option, please!

A few more notes about this pie: it’s low in sugar, which I like a lot. Factoring in both crust and filling, there’s only 1/2 c. total in the entire pie, and it serves at least eight generous pieces. That’s a drastic difference from most traditional fruit pies. If you’re pressed for time, or want a truly no-bake option, you can use a premade graham cracker crust, readily available in most grocery stores. The filling can be made with non-dairy whipped topping in place of the cream, though I prefer the texture of the real cream version. And you can really punch up the cherry flavor by substituting kirsch or almond extract for the vanilla. I had some cherry pit liqueur to use, which tastes like unsweetened amaretto, and I thought it was a great twist. Lastly, if you use a store bought crust, add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon to your filling when you add the salt. I find the cinnamon note in this pie is the perfect little finishing touch.

So, while cherries are ripe and plentiful, grab an extra pound or so and make this lovely no-bake cherry cream pie. Instead of lingering in the hot kitchen, you can spend extra time relaxing, chatting with friends and family… or eating pie.

no-bake cherry cream pie

No-Bake Cherry Cream Pie (serves 8 or more)

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 c. graham crackers crumbs (about 1 sleeve of graham crackers)
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. white sugar

For the filling:

  • 2 c. pitted fresh red cherries, plus more to use as garnish
  • 2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, or almond extract

To make the crust: preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in the microwave or a small saucepan. Combine the melted butter with graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, salt and sugar and mix until you have a wet sand-like consistency. Pour into a 9″ pie plate and use the bottom of a glass, measuring cup, spoon or your fingers to firmly press the graham mixture into an even layer that covers the bottom of the plate and goes slightly up the sides. Bake for 10 mins. and set aside to cool completely before filling. You can make the crust up to 48 hours in advance, or substitute a store-bought graham cracker crust.

To make the filling: pit enough fresh cherries to measure a generous 2 c. Set aside. Add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on medium to high speed until peaks form. Do not overwhip the cream; you will make butter. Underwhipping can also be problematic, so watch the cream carefully and stop when you can lift the beater out and a trail of cream will stand in a peak below it. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the whipped cream to a clean bowl.

To the same, now empty mixer bowl, add the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until evenly mixed and slightly fluffy. You may want to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the pitted cherries and beat just until they are mixed through, no need to pulverize. Remove the bowl from the mixer, clean off the beater into the bowl and add the whipped cream. *Use the rubber spatula to fold in the whipped cream by hand.* This is not a job for the mixer. When the filling is mixed thoroughly but still light and airy, dollop it into your cooled crust and spread out evenly. Garnish with extra cherries if you like. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

No-bake cherry cream pie is best on the day it’s made, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*Okay, so technically you have to bake the crust for 10 mins. But, you can make the crust up to 48 hours ahead, or use a premade crust, and then go from there.

Morning glory breakfast bread.

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There is a French bakery called Petit Pierre a few blocks from work. The proprietor speaks with a thick accent, his wife helps fill the case with shiny croissants, perfect fruit tarts and buttery cookies, and the barista makes a mean latte. It’s a beautiful space and I enjoy checking in Friday mornings for a treat to power me through to the weekend. The pastry case is updated seasonally: apple cake in the fall, strawberries and raspberries showing up now. Somewhere toward the end of winter or in early spring, morning glory muffins appeared. Suddenly, despite the macarons, cinnamon rolls and homemade pop tarts positioned to steal my attention, my eyes went straight to those muffins every time, and they became my Friday standard. Wrapped in craft paper, full of coconut, raisins, and apple, and topped with a basic icing and some toasted coconut shreds, Petit Pierre’s morning glory muffins are sweet, hearty, and so flavorful. Though not the kind of baked good I typically associate with a French bakery, the muffins are a welcome option, a good balance to all the lacquered fruit and buttery doughs. I was inspired to try my making my own at home.

I discovered morning glory muffins in college and had a brief but passionate love affair. You know that I love food with interesting textures and diverse flavors. Morning glory muffins seem so wholesome and healthful, but the combination of fruit and coconut flakes also makes them sweet and a little exotic. I always felt like I was eating unfrosted carrot cake for breakfast. What a feat! My favorite aspect of the ones I remember from college was pineapple: every few bites, you would encounter a big chunk of pineapple, and I thought that was the best thing ever. My morning glory breakfast bread recipe replaces the more common grated apple with pieces of pineapple for that reason.

For this particular recipe I thought a quickbread loaf was in order. I have some einkorn flour from Bluebird Grain Farms and really wanted to use that here; I knew I could use it in a quickbread with no other recipe modifications. Einkorn flour is the world’s most ancient wheat. The grain has never been hybridized and lacks some of the proteins that bother folks with gluten sensitivity. I like that it tastes of vanilla and produces a comparably light crumb, while giving me health benefits like I would get from sturdy, “regular” whole wheat flour. (If you don’t have einkorn flour, substitute the same amount of whole wheat or even white flour.) My instinct was that a larger loaf made with einkorn flour would be less inclined to have a dry texture than muffins. I also like quick breads because I can slice off just a sliver, just a taste. Muffins seem like a predetermined portion– who wraps up half a muffin to save for later? I’m kidding, but not entirely. I enjoy a toasted slice of morning glory bread with my coffee in the morning. It’s so pretty to see all the fruit and coconut pieces in cross section.

I’ve seen morning glory muffins snidely called “hippie food”, “health store breakfast” and similar. Sure, they are full of fruit, healthful coconut and whole wheat flour… but I think that is a limited view of this combination of ingredients I enjoy so much. The flavors of pineapple, vanilla, raisins, coconut, cinnamon and ginger, all together in one perfect bite– I can’t think of many better options for a morning treat. Give my morning glory breakfast bread a try and see if you agree.

morning glory breakfast bread

Morning Glory Breakfast Bread (inspired by King Arthur Flour)

  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. orange juice, or reserved pineapple juice if available
  • 2 c. einkorn or whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2/3 c. canola oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. grated carrot
  • 1 c. finely diced or crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8 x 5″ loaf pans by spraying or oiling them lightly. Set aside.

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in orange juice. If the pineapple you are using is juicy enough to gather 1/4 c., substitute pineapple juice for orange, if you like.

Sift together the einkorn flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt.

In a large bowl, mix the oil and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, grated carrot, pineapple, coconut and raisins, with all of the soaking liquid as well. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Don’t overmix, as it will toughen your final product.

Divide the batter between two loaf pans. Bake for 35-45 mins., until a skewer comes out clean from the center of each loaf. I rotate my loaves in the oven about 20 mins. into baking to ensure even cooking.

Cool slightly before serving. Morning glory breakfast bread will keep tightly wrapped or covered at room temperature for about 5 days. You can also wrap it securely in wax paper, parchment paper, tin foil and freeze for up to 3 months.

Wheat berries w/ crisp vegetables and aged Gouda.

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I cracked the wheat berry code. You didn’t know that was a thing? Well, it was for me. I love them: they’re an increasingly easy to find whole grain, a great canvas for a variety of flavors, nutty and nutritious, with protein, dietary fiber and iron galore. I didn’t mind chewing my way slowly through a bowl– I like the taste, and I didn’t mind the texture. I thought extra chewing was what I signed up for when I cooked wheat berries. It’s slow food, right? My husband was not as enthusiastic about masticating for hours so long. I believe his first bite was his last. I would make a big bowl for myself and have them for lunch, with fresh vegetables and herbs, or in place of rice with stir-fried vegetables. Then, like a bolt of lightning, I thought: why not soak them, like legumes, to see if they become a little more tender? Soaking was the key to cracking that wheat berry code! I tried the pressure cooker, the slow cooker, baking soda in the water like I do for chickpeas… nothing works like an overnight soak. I hope this is helpful to someone else out there who is looking to add more whole grains, or specifically wheat berries, into his/her diet. I foresee many wheat berries in my own future.

This salad is my current favorite way to eat them. All the flavors are in harmony: bright, springy asparagus; tart vinaigrette; bitter, crunchy radishes; sharp, salty aged Gouda, and that wonderful nutty chewiness– but not overly so!– of the wheat berries. Though I served it warm for dinner the first night I made it, it’s also delicious cold, and is my current favorite lunch to bring to work. The protein and vegetables are fortifying, and it holds really well in the refrigerator for a few days. When my asparagus is fresh and crisp, I cut it raw into the salad; when it’s not, I roast it with some neutral oil, salt & pepper for about 15 mins. at 400 degrees before adding it in. If roasting, try to keep the asparagus al dente; having some crunch from your vegetables is key to the balance of textures. Though not pictured, I sometimes add snap peas to the mix, and I’m looking forward to fresh green beans in a few weeks. For the cheese, think aged and crumbly. Pictured is a tremendous Two Sisters aged Gouda that tastes more like sharp white cheddar than any Gouda I’ve ever had, and has those little crystals of salt you can feel crunch between your teeth and dissolve on your tongue… It’s so good. It can be hard to find specific brands of cheese, so I also made sure to try sharp white cheddar, asiago and parmesan as options, and they each work well.

I feel as though I’ve made a major kitchen discovery, that a new window is open for whole grain salads and sides. I find that wheat berries are great in place of rice, sometimes pasta, and other grains or starches I’ve used previously. They just need a little planning, a little extra time. My husband agrees, and I think you will as well.

wheat berries with crisp vegetables and sharp cheese

Wheat Berries with Crisp Vegetables & Aged Gouda (serves 4-6)

  • 1 c. uncooked wheat berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, whole but lightly smashed
  • 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ lengths, raw or roasted
  • 1 c. sliced radishes
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard, smooth or grainy
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. minced fresh tarragon, dill or basil, or a mix (optional)
  • 3 T. white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c. olive oil, grapeseed oil or canola oil
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • generous cracks of fresh black pepper
  • 2 oz. (or more) Two Sisters Aged Gouda (or any sharp, crumbly cheese)

Start by soaking the wheat berries. Put them in a large pot and cover with 4 c. fresh, cool water. Place a lid on the pot and leave in a cool area of the kitchen overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

When you are ready to cook, drain the wheat berries. Add another 4 c. fresh, cool water to the pot with the bay leaf and smashed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 45 mins. Check occasionally to make sure the level of liquid doesn’t decrease too much. Add water, 1/2 c. more at a time, if the wheat berries are exposed without liquid cover. When cooked, they will be a little more toothsome than rice, but tender. Drain and put into a large bowl; remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf. Proceed with the recipe while they’re warm, or cool to room temperature, whatever you prefer. You should have about 3 c. cooked wheat berries.

Add the asparagus, raw or roasted (or try a mix, half of each, which is wonderful), and the radishes to your bowl. Make the dressing: to a jar with a tight lid add the Dijon mustard, honey, a pinch of salt and a little black pepper. Shake or stir to combine well. Add the vinegar and herb(s) if using, and shake or stir again. Add 1/3 c. of your chose oil and shake until you have a bright yellow, slightly thickened vinaigrette. Taste now and adjust salt; add more olive oil if you like. I enjoy a very tart, vinegar-heavy dressing here to enhance the milder flavors, so I usually stop with 1/3 c. oil.

Drizzle about half of your dressing over the wheat berries and vegetables and toss to combine. Taste now, adding more vinaigrette if you like. (You might have some left over, which can be used as a dressing on most salads.) You can also serve extra vinaigrette with the salad so your guests can dress their servings to taste. Top with shaved curls of cheese, as much as you like. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Baked scarlet runner beans.

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In Maine, there are bean suppers (I wanted badly to type ‘suppahs’…) on Saturday nights. With a bit of planning, you can find a bean supper to sample most weeks of the year. A suppah (I had to) is a communal meal for a nominal fee, sometimes at a church, often at a Grange or Elks hall, featuring hot dogs (or ham if you’re lucky), biscuits, cold salads and slaws, condiments and pickles, and a homestyle dessert like cobbler, shortcake or pie. Of course, as the name suggests, the star of these meals is the homemade baked beans, often two or three different kinds to suit various needs: pea beans and navy beans, because bean type preferences run deep; maybe a pot made without sugar; perhaps one a little on the spicy side. Bean suppers are also a family tradition, an excuse to get together with our extended family to catch up and share a meal. If dinner is hosted by my Mom, a pot or two of beans goes in the oven Saturday morning for dinner, made by Mom or Aunt Elaine, and they smell as good while they slowly cook as they will eventually taste. These are the baked beans I like, the ones I will always eat. They are tender, well-seasoned and hearty. They are the holy grail of baked beans, and the reason I have been trying for months to make something even partially as good… I think these baked scarlet runner beans are it.

My baked scarlet runner beans are similar in flavor to cowboy beans, slightly sweet thanks to Vidalia onion and tomatoes, and with enough smoked paprika to make you think they could have come off a slow campfire.  The beans are tender but still hold their shape. The breadcrumb topping does double duty, soaking up some excess cooking liquid while retaining a nice chewy bite. I used the end of a loaf of plain homemade bread that was on the stale side; I simply cut a few slices into very small cubes, spread them into a single layer on a baking sheet and toasted quickly, before topping the beans. You coould use small, lightly-seasoned croutons as well. Back to the tomatoes for a second: I used a mixture of plain tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes because I wanted the depth of flavor the canned sauce gives and the sweetness and texture of the cherry tomatoes. You can replace some or all of either with canned chopped tomatoes or roughly cut fresh tomatoes. Keep in mind that sauciness is welcome here, so if you choose to use fresh only, make sure they are ripe and juicy.

So why scarlet runner beans? They are a little more expensive and sometimes harder to find. In short, because of taste and texture. Scarlet runner beans have a mild flavor and that wonderful creamy, soft texture that many big, flat dried beans have. I do not care for hard, mealy baked beans– who does? If scarlet runners are hard to find, dried fava or lima beans will do nicely here.

I should say that my Mom’s or Aunt Elaine’s baked beans and my baked scarlet runners are very different. I add a little smoky spice with Spanish smoked paprika and stay away from sweetness, other than what comes from the vegetables. I didn’t hunt for salt pork; in fact, these are vegan beans. Mom’s are pure tradition, down to the molasses, thick hunks of salt pork, halved or quartered onion, and ketchup. I compare our recipes not for ingredient lists, but because they both hit that coveted note of comfort food: simple food done so well it makes you sigh out loud… and reach for a second helping.

Whether you’re looking for a hearty barbecue side dish, a new play on baked beans, or a delicious vegetarian main course, add these baked scarlet runner beans to your to-make list. They keep well and taste even better reheated the next day! I’m already scheming how to adapt them to be cooked or warmed over a campfire this summer, and I’m tempted to host my very own bean supper!

baked scarlet runner beans

Baked Scarlet Runner Beans (serves 6-8 as a side dish)

  • 1 c. dried scarlet runner beans, soaked overnight (reserve 1 c. bean cooking water)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 c. chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • kosher salt & pepper
  • 1 c. homemade breadcrumbs, toasted, or small croutons

Soak the scarlet runner beans in cool water overnight. Drain thoroughly and remove any bits of chaff, etc. that might have risen to the top. Place soaked beans in a 3 – 4 qt. pot and cover again with cool water, twice the volume of beans. Add the bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 1 1/2 hrs. Remove from the heat; carefully measure and set aside 1 c. cooking liquid. Strain the beans and add to a 3 qt. glass or ceramic (nonreactive) baking dish. Season with kosher salt; discard the bay leaf.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet, heat 1 T. olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent and just starting to turn golden brown. Add the cooked onion, and all other ingredients except the breadcrumbs, including reserved cooking liquid, to the baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 mins. Remove from the oven, carefully uncover– watch out for escaping steam– and top with breadcrumbs. At this point the beans will look like they have too much liquid, but it’s alright. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake for another 30 mins. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the time they are done cooking; keep an eye on them around the 20 min. mark so they don’t dry out completely. Serve immediately.

Leftover beans will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

baked scarlet runner beans, grilled bratwurst

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