The arrival of summer, in Ohio, means that trips to the farmers market finally yield treasures beyond eggs, meat, and cheese. I grew rather spoiled in North Carolina where there really is a selection of fresh produce all year long. Sure, January is primarily sweet potatoes and greens, but even the flashy summer-show-offs like asparagus and strawberries begin to appear in early March.
But here, I stalk the market every Saturday in May hoping that this is the week when those photogenic strawberries will finally make their annual debut.
The trouble is, I have very little self-control when I secure, at last, these scarlet gems. The bulk discounts for buying more than one quart literally always get me, and I arrive at home suddenly doubting that I’ll be able to use up multiple quarts of berries before they wither and rot in my fridge.
I’m so happy to say that. You may have thought that I had given up the goat, abandoned this little blog and buried it in the snow of this long, deep winter. But the truth is I just, quite simply, haven’t had the time or creative energy to handle it these last couple of months. Between the final events push of the fall semester at Duke, co-hosting a holiday party, moving out of my sublet, traveling for the holidays, camping on a friend’s couch for two weeks, saying goodbye to Durham, moving to Columbus, unpacking, organizing, starting a new job, visiting old friends, re-organizing, visiting more friends, and enjoying the company of Brad again, my camera has sat dormant for just over two months.
This move was a toughie. I started my new job almost immediately upon my arrival in Columbus, and the cold weather provided me with little incentive to do much more than curl up in blankets when I got home each night. It’s taken several weeks to get used to my new kitchen. I’ve spent several evenings lamenting the fate of meals I nearly burned to death as I try to get used to cooking on a glass-top stove. I keep reaching for things where they used to be in my old kitchen. The pantry, still, is a total nightmare, as I have yet to find several hours to sit down and really consider where everything should go (doesn’t everyone do that?)
But finally, the time came this weekend for me to break out a recipe I’ve wanted to share with you since I started this blog. I must say, glass stove and messy pantry aside, I can’t deny that my current kitchen is far more equipped for blogging than my last, primarily due to one giant feature.
Light, glorious light! Flooding in to every corner of our apartment, these gaping sunny windows line the southern and western walls of our new home. They overlook a park and a river and trees and some sort of weird oyster-and-pearl sculpture. Admittedly, also a freeway, but I confess it is somewhat fascinating to watch the sludge of evening traffic heading north after Brad and I have already arrived home.
The point, here, is that not only did I shoot one recipe this weekend, I shot three! Complete with the natural, angular light that I love to shoot in. No more toting cutting boards topped with carefully balanced ingredients to the office!
Let’s get started, shall we? Three years ago, about two weeks BEFORE I decided to start a food blog, I made these compact cheesecake bars to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thinner than normal cheesecake, they can easily be eaten without a fork and can be made in any shape you so desire.
Oooooooooooooh blackberry season is here! It’s been summer here for a long time, but blackberries have always signified summer for me more than any other bounty the garden has to offer. Usually, between Brad and I, fresh blackberries don’t last long enough for me to put them into baked goods. They’re just too damn delicious raw and fresh! But this year, with a half batch of leftover buttercream lurking in the freezer from a round of wedding cake recipe-testing, I decided I’d test out a flavor combination I’ve been curious about for some time now: blackberry and lemon.
Perhaps it’s my love of sweet and tart flavors. Perhaps it’s the purely aesthetic bliss of bright purple icing against a mellow yellow cookie canvas? I don’t know. But this was the year! I would not let blackberry season pass me by without trying out the union of blackberry and lemon. I thought about making a layer cake, or maybe cupcakes, but since there’s been a lot of cake around here lately, cookies seemed like the way to go this time around.
A little over two months ago (gah, has it already been that long?) one of Brad’s friends from law school invited us over for a dinner with him and his wife, and we were asked to bring dessert. I had a busy week at work, so Brad volunteered to make our contribution. How kind of him to volunteer to prepare a dish to represent us at a dinner with his friends, yes?
It really was very nice of him. But you see I have this slight love of baking cakes, and the night before the dinner, I my control-freak-baking-nature took hold. I wanted to make something easy, tasty, and pretty, and I wanted to make it now.
This cake, you guys, is all of the above.
To be honest, I put this combo together the weekend before when testing a final batch of recipes for Scott & Crystal’s wedding cake. Enrobed in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream was a favorite and made it into the ceremony cake.
But it’s far too good to reserve only for wedding cake. This version is doable in less than 2 hours and doesn’t require the effort of icing the exterior. The cream and berries are icing enough, and it makes a stunning, seasonal dessert for dinner parties, summer barbecues, or birthdays.
There are some foods that have always been magic to me. Tortillas, croissants, tortellini, cream puffs… those dreamy little bites that all seem borderline impossible for a person in a home kitchen to make. Incidentally, jam also mystified me. Perhaps it was really the canning part that seemed so out of reach, for until a couple years ago, I never canned my own.
I’ve learned, however, that jam is actually quite simple to make, and it doesn’t necessarily require large batches and canning. It seems you can boil together almost any fruit and have jam in a matter of minutes, ready to serve warm or to store in the fridge for many days.
This treat is a celebration of quick jam, a blend of two early harbingers of spring: strawberry and rhubarb.
While bundled stalks of rhubarb have graced the tables of the farmers market since early February, strawberries have only recently returned to the scene. Last week, a few pints of these precious red fruits have appeared between towers of broccoli and leafy greens, and just like every year, I could hardly wait to get my hands on some.
If fall is pumpkin-everything season, then early winter is certainly the moment for the tart, gem-like cranberry to rise to prominence. I find myself recently obsessed with the immense versatility of cranberries, but this simple recipe is, by far, the best way I’ve found yet to feature these beautiful little berries.
Cranberries are, on their own, incredibly tart, and I rarely see them served raw and unaltered. But they are also so fashionable in that state, aren’t they? It’s sort of a shame that most of us consume the majority of our cranberries either liquified in fruit juice cocktails or gel-ified in classic, ruby-red sauce served aside turkey and cornbread stuffing at Thanksgiving.
This method gives the cranberries a nice level of sweetness to cut the sour but lets the berries glisten as a centerpiece of your holiday party spread. And while the berries require several hours of soaking in the fridge, these are incredibly easy to make. All you need is a bag of cranberries, sugar, and water.
July and August in my childhood meant lots of raspberries. Produce in general, really: my grandparents planted each year a massive garden, and I strongly correlate the start of the school year with boxes of produce on the floor next to the fridge, pan fried okra at dinner almost daily, and raspberries.
Though I love most berries, the raspberry is by far my favorite. Sure, strawberries get a lot of credit as the first fruit of the spring, blueberries sustain me, strong and steady, through the heat of the summer, and blackberries dress up desserts with a splash of deep, fruity decadence. But raspberries, so fragile when picked ripe yet bursting with sweet and tart flavor, will never fade for me.
In Durham, raspberries don’t seem to be a popular cultivar. I’m not sure if it’s the climate or what, but I have only ever seen one, maybe two vendors at the farmers market here with these tiny red berries, and when they do it’s usually just a few pints at a time. So each week of the brief raspberry season in this city, I try to take full advantage. This week, I paired them up with a few luscious peaches for some hand pies!
If you’ve never spent time in Southwest Ohio, you might be surprised to know that it is home to some pretty unique foods. Aside from standard midwestern fare, not only one but two chains of restaurants devoted to Cincinnati chili speckle the region, each of which has ardent followers who flock there for liquid-y chili served atop spaghetti and under a mountain of cheddar cheese.
As someone who grew up in the Southwest, chili means something very different to me. The local fare I was far more enthusiastic about was the delectable dessert served at Graeter’s Ice Cream. Sold both in ice cream parlours and also by the pint at area grocery stores, Graeter’s features seasonal flavors amongst a collection of favorites, and one of their most beloved varieties is Blackberry Chip.
I’ve been scheming to invest in an ice cream machine for the last couple of years, and I finally took the plunge earlier this summer and got one. Frivolous? Perhaps. Necessary? Certainly not. But utterly worth it? Ab.So.Lutely.
This ice cream features one of my favorite tastes of summer: blackberries! Sweet but tart, these berries not only lend their lovely flavor to the ice cream but also provide their spectacular hue. The whole berry doesn’t end up in the final ice cream, just the juice, but with fresh berries you’ll end up with plenty of blackberry flavor.
The various food blogs and aggregates I browse are alight with red, white, and blue this week. And it’s no surprise! What better way to celebrate America’s Independence Day than with some desserts that feature fresh fruit that coordinates so well with Old Glory? You probably already have your plans in place for whatever festivities await you today, but if you don’t, get out your baking gear and try this one.
These little desserts are based on a recipe out of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve mentioned before that the blog of the same name is one of my favorites to follow, and I was thrilled to finally get my hands on her cookbook. I find it inspiring that someone who is not classically trained in culinary technique, photography, or writing has created such a mind-blowingly successful blog and now has a published book to show for it.
It’s the first of many recipes in the book I’m eager to try.
Since moving away for college eight years ago (eek), I haven’t been able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom. I think I’ve lucked out for Father’s Day a couple of times as June was more conducive to cross-country travel, but Mom has had to settle for phone calls and packages.
This is a special Mother’s Day, too. My mom is retiring this year after decades of work in elementary libraries and classrooms, teaching young Coloradoans (myself included) to read, to write, and to appreciate books. I have many fond memories over the years of going to the library with my mom for work and for fun, of stapling long strips of playful bulletin board borders to the edges of her displays, of ogling over the annual book fair catalogs and knowing that if there was one place she would buy us anything we asked for, it was books. Her fervor for the written word has, no doubt, cultivated my own passion for books and penchant for writing. She’s the #1 fan of this little food blog and tenders her support through comments, encouragement, and little e-mails alerting me to typos (which, by the way, I welcome from ANYONE who spots one – I want to squash typos out like bugs). So thanks Mom! For everything. I wish I could spend today with you!