Though the last few months have been a meteorological roller coaster here in Colorado, the temperatures that now soar up near or above 90 every day indicate that summer has finally arrived in full. The air conditioner in our apartment can hardly keep up with the summer sun, blazing through our western-facing windows on its long descent toward the mountains. Fortunately, our freezer faces no such challenge and can house within it a treasure trove of icy treats perfect for combating the summer heat. And what better way to welcome the arrival of the season than with a dessert that features one of its most celebrated fruits?
Ahhh, rhubarb. Such pretty stalks. Such poisonous leaves. (Seriously, don’t eat the leaves.) And such a short growing season that it’s best to indulge heavily when it finally appears. I can hardly prevent myself from making into my favorite Rhubarb Crisp, but in an effort to broaden my horizons, I dug into a very, very vintage cookbook to find some new ideas. To my delight, I discovered marlow, a dessert that is now so out of the common psyche that when I poked around to learn more, I couldn’t even find it on Wikipedia.
From what I’ve pieced together, marlow is a marshmallow-based dessert that can either be frozen to mimic ice cream or chilled to mimic mousse. It can feature a variety of flavors as the marshmallow, sugar, and heavy cream act as a clean canvas onto which you can paint rhubarb, cherries, chocolate, butterscotch, or anything else you want to eat for dessert. After the fruit (in this case) is cooked down with sugar, the marshmallows and whipped cream are mixed in to create a frothy, fluffy mixture ready for freezing.
It’s funny how things change from when you’re little. As a child, I had a very uncomfortable relationship with eggs. With breakfast in general, actually. At the risk of sounding gross, on school days, I frankly couldn’t eat eggs for breakfast without the risk of them coming back up. Perhaps it was the 30 minute car drive on windy mountain roads. Perhaps it was the vestige of the tendency for nausea that I experienced as an infant. Either way, it took YEARS before I started eating eggs for breakfast on a regular basis.
Now, of course, it’s almost laughable how much I love eggs. For breakfast, as a mid-morning snack, as a burst of protein at lunch, baked or custard-y in desserts. But I especially like them in frittatas.
I’m horrified to report that as a child, I didn’t care for banana bread. I don’t know what about it displeased me, but frankly, I was a fairly picky eater for many years and shunned off a number of foods that I now find delicious. Lately, we’ve been on a bit of a banana kick in our house, but we inevitably end up with a couple of bananas that reach their prime too quickly and end up getting blacker and more shriveled on the counter as the days go by. Fortunately, the cooking gods have a perfect solution for this problem. As bananas ripen and their sweetness becomes far too over-powering to eat them on their own, they become the perfect mix in for a loaf of sweet, tangy, breakfast bread.
There are a few things I really like about making banana bread. One, I hate wasting food, so I find it extremely satisfying to re-purpose over-ripe fruit to make something new and magical out of them. Two, this old recipe (given to me from my mother, who got it from HER great-grandmother) is extremely straight forward. The ingredients are quite basic, and the instructions are fast and easy. No complicated folding, alternating, sifting, or resting required.
I’m such a sucker for seasons. Each fall, I revel in the last blasts of colorful leaves before they fall to the ground and the first brisk morning that requires a jacket and boots. When winter arrives, the first snowfall leaves me breathless at its beauty. Then, as the days lengthen and spring erupts out of every bulb and tree bud, I wonder how I ever functioned without it. I swear, as appealing as climates like San Diego sometimes feel, I really don’t know what I’d do without the anticipation and satisfaction provided by shifting seasons.
At the moment, I’m clamoring for summer. For late evening walks in short-sleeved tees and sunlight after 8pm and COOKOUTS and mini golf. This weekend, after several days of positively gorgeous weather that hinted at the season to come, I quite simply couldn’t take it anymore and I pretended it had arrived right in my own kitchen by whipping up a batch of barbecue pulled pork and a simple, delightful potato salad that tastes just like summer.
I freakin’ love potato salad, and this one checks all the boxes I look for in a ideal scoop. Smooth chunks of potato still in their skins, a tangy assortment of crunchy mix-ins, cool and crisp, and most importantly, LIGHTLY DRESSED. I’m not interested in swimming through an ocean of mustard-flavored mayonnaise to uncover the 2-3 pieces of potato that may be hidden within, thank you very much. Most importantly, this salad is composed of pretty basic ingredients that I almost always have on hand and comes together fairly quickly.
Comfort food, thy name is Biscuits and Gravy. This is usually my first stop on the menu at a new breakfast or brunch joint, and there’s no way I want it to be anything other than a soft, fluffy biscuit nestled in a wave of rich gravy and crumbled breakfast sausage. Woe to the trendy places that try to gussy it up.
But this hearty meal is also incredibly easy to make at home. So maybe it’s really woe to me for not doing so every damn weekend.
First up, the biscuits. These ones are super easy and super fast. The ingredients are pretty basic, and I keep most of them on hand on a regular basis. No raising, very little kneading, and just a few passes with a rolling pin and we’re on our way to biscuit magic.
Next, the gravy. Which honestly, is even easier than the biscuits. All it takes is a pound of sausage, some flour and milk, and a little seasoning. I love my gravy a little herb-y, so I like adding rosemary or sage, too.
It’s funny how some foods are portrayed in pop culture. Spinach will make you strong, like Popeye. Thanksgiving turkey is always cut on the table. Cakes are always dripping with pink icing and a cherry on top, which is a look I’ve rarely (if ever) seen on an actual cake. Broccoli is frowned upon by kids who eat it only when forced to do so by their parents.
And Brussels sprouts? I grew up knowing, from some ubiquitous source I can’t identify, that Brussels sprouts were just the worst. A vegetable that no one enjoyed. This seeming fact was so ingrained that for years, I avoided them.
Oof. SO much time wasted.
Fortunately, like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts have been rescued from the soggy casseroles of old that may have contributed to their bad rap and have been resurrected as trendy, tasty sides and appetizers at millennial-bait restaurants around the country. And I couldn’t be happier! After a few tremendous restaurant experiences, I began to notice these green little balls of goodness everywhere and can rarely resist tossing a pound or two into my grocery bag.
Do you need some comfort food? Something that invites your soul to snuggle up against some memories of simpler times, of peaceful days when the world made sense? Something that fills your belly with a perfect medley of carbs, fat, protein, and flavor?
This fall has been crazy. In mid-August I dove headfirst into some projects at work that required every ounce of creativity, planning, and time that I possessed. I took on a leadership role in my choir. I volunteered for an election that, well, let’s just say it didn’t go the way I’d hoped, and since then have still had trouble finding my bearings in this strange, post-election world. Sharing new recipes with you just hasn’t been at the top of the list.
But now it is! As the flood recedes, I’m finally finding myself looking through cookbooks again, browsing the wild and wonderful internet for tasty new things to cook. Which is how I found this one.
If heaven is real, then I really don’t think it’s made of puffy clouds and golden harps. I rather imagine it must be filled with endless tables, buckling under the weight of all the chips, dips, cheeses and crackers (all calorie-free, OBVIOUSLY) that a person could possibly want. Really, is there a better way to eat than scooping up succulent dips and salsas with crisp, salty shards of simple carbohydrates?
My obsession with chips is pretty severe. I’m hopeless at Mexican restaurants. Those continuously re-filling bowls of free chips and salsa at the start of the meal virtually guarantee that I’ll be in a food coma before my main course even arrives. I’m pretty shameless about them at potlucks and dinner parties, too. But unless I am hosting a party of my own, I actually avoid buying them: if I have chips in the house, there’s like a 70% chance that I’ll skip cooking dinner and simply dine on chips and salsa instead, strangely able to justify it by pretending they are vegetables. Sad, I know.
But I’ve found a little loophole. As long as I have corn tortillas in my fridge (which is pretty regular) I can make teeny batches of chips whenever I like! Satisfy my cravings without overdosing! Plus they are baked, which in the chip world, is code for healthy! (Right?)
It’s shockingly simple. Cut tortillas. Spray with cooking spray and salt. Flip over and repeat. Bake. Eat.
One of the most amazing but frustrating things about moving all the time is that I am constantly re-learning local produce. While most of the produce itself has remained the same from city to city and state to state, the timing has shifted a month or two or even three in different climates. But tree fruit. Tree fruit has been the one genre of produce that has just been completely unpredictable as I’ve moved from place to place. DC’s tree fruit scene was insanely awesome. Durham, on the other hand, not so much (though GOD I miss the blueberries.) Columbus had great apples and decent peaches, but not really any cherries or plums to speak of.
Moving back to Colorado, I knew I would return to a land of great, high-altitude peaches from Palisade and other farming communities on the Western Slope. But I did not expect the cherries.
Oh em gee the cherries!
Colorado has had rather a bumper crop this year, and I’m obsessed. For weeks now, I’ve been eating them faster than I can buy them. In fact I COMPLETELY missed strawberry season because I was so distracted by these round little rubies. Which, actually, is fine with me because the cherry is my new number one.
I have this issue with cheesecake. The issue is that if it is in my fridge, or available for purchase on a dessert menu, or available for purchase within walking distance, or even capable of being created with ingredients in my apartment, I have exactly 0% ability to resist it. As a result I make a point of not buying cream cheese very often. If I don’t have that one essential component, I can pretend that I’m happy living a life where I don’t eat cheesecake every single day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, right? Right??
I live for good cheesecake. But I am kind of picky about what makes one good. There are few things more disappointing than cheesecake that looks delicious and is, well, meh. If it’s too lemony or too dry or too rich or too dense or has too much topping or not enough or has too many mix-ins or just a gross combo of them or the crust is too thick or some crazy person put CINNAMON in it I get really cranky.
Most of the time, when it’s time to make cheesecake again, I fall back on two, trusty recipes I’ve used for a long time. The first is a classic, baked cheesecake that, actually, I’ve only shared here in a version dressed up for Thanksgiving. The other I fashion exclusively in miniature form, a holiday tradition in my family as essential as the tree and the Home Alone soundtrack.
But this summer, I’ve been reveling in the availability of locally-grown sweet cherries (difficult to obtain in both Columbus and Durham), and a cherry cheesecake seemed like just the ticket. And while we are “enjoying” the high-nineties here in Denver, I’m pleased to report that the oven was only on for a few minutes, and even that is not totally required if you don’t want to.