Wednesday, June 27, 2012

rustic peach and raspberry cobbler

Two summer favorites, peaches and raspberries, combined into a traditional Southern dessert, creating a glorious rustic cobbler.

Peaches are at their peak this time of year. Ripe fruit so sweet that you can’t bite into one without the juices running down your face. My favorite of all fruits, a bite returns memories of childhood summers spent in Texas.

A splashing of raspberries provide just the right amount of tart, and a flaky crust hugs the fruit filling. The look is rustic and not meant to be perfect.

Yellow or white peaches can be used.  I chose white peaches for this cobbler.  A perfect summer's night is having a peach and raspberry cobbler topped with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

What is your favorite childhood memory of summer?

rustic peach and raspberry cobbler
Adapted from The Vineyard Cookbook

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
4 or 5 tablespoons ice water
6 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
1-cup fresh raspberries
3/4-cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly butter a 7-by-9-inch baking dish.

Combine the flour, salt, butter (5 tablespoons) and shortening in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and process until the dough begins to hold together and gathers on the blade.

Shape the dough into a ball, working in a little more flour if necessary. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the peaches and raspberries. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit and toss together. Set aside at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes to give juices time to accumulate and sweeten.

On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rough 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Line the buttered baking dish with the dough, allowing the excess to hang over the sides. Spoon the peach and raspberry mixture evenly over the dough and dot it with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Fold the overhanging dough back over the fruit. It will not cover the fruit but will form a decorative edge.

Put the cobbler on a center rack of the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling hot.

Spoon the cobbler warm or at room temperature into bowls. Swerve with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream, if desired.

Enjoy your summer!

Monday, June 25, 2012

smoked salmon and dill spread

Appetizers can be encouragement for guests to start engaging in conversation when they arrive to your home. Often, when an appetizer is served that includes an interesting combination of flavors and appetizing presentation, it quickly becomes the topic of conversation. Most likely, your guests will want to know the recipe.

My lovely in-laws were recently guests for dinner in our home. Typically, the moment our guests walk through the front door, they enjoy gathering around our kitchen island, and start engaging in conversation. Honestly, there is no better way to start off a dinner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For this dinner, I wanted to begin by serving a simple appetizer prepared ahead of time, and placed on the kitchen island, ready for everyone’s arrival. This appetizer needed to be full of flavor, but not too filling. I opted for a smoked salmon spread and it worked perfectly, creating a great kick off to our family dinner. And guess what? My sister in-law asked for the recipe!

The blending of smoked salmon, tangy capers, and fresh dill specks in smooth cream cheese, creates a perfectly creamy pale pink spread that can’t be beat. This dip is perfect to serve with bagel chips. It is simple to prepare, yet elegant to serve. 

The key here is to purchase good-quality smoked salmon in a vacuumed–packaged plastic at your local grocery market. When you buy the packaged salmon it is already sliced, so you need only to lift the slices from the package and place into the food processor.  

After sixty-five years of marriage, my in-laws still have a deep love for one another. Both my husband and I admire their loving and affectionate relationship. We too hope to have such a life long bond. I feel blessed to have such amazing in-laws who are inspirational role models in marriage, and as parents and grandparents. They truly are the most in love couple that I know.

smoked salmon and dill spread
Adapted by At Blanchard’s Table: A trip to the beach

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-cup sour cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
8 ounces smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Pinch of salt
Dash of fresh ground pepper
Fresh dill, for garnish
Bagel chips for serving

Puree the cream cheese, sour cream, and lemon juice in food processor. Add the scallions, capers, salmon, chopped dill, and salt and pepper, and pulse to blend. Garnish with dill and serve at room temperature with bagel chips.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and mozzarella

Have you tried the latest craze of having your pizza topped with salad?  I know, it may not sound very appealing to a pepperoni and sausage pizza lover.  Just like most new crazes, it may take some nudging to get others to try. Trust me, this maybe the pizza to change their minds and yours too.

Imagine a warm flat bread fresh out of the oven, brushed with olive oil and covered with hot melted bubbles of mozzarella cheese, topped with sweet balsamic vinegar drizzled over peppery ribbons of arugula, mounds of salty prosciutto, and a sprinkling of parmesan.  Are you ready for your pizza and salad now?

Fortunately, I benefit from having a wood-burning pizza oven in my backyard.  But you don’t need a wood-burning pizza oven for this pizza; rest assured that this pizza could be made in a conventional oven.  Below, you will find that I have included cooking directions for both.

For those who regularly make pizza at home, I recommend investing in a pizza stone and paddle; they make a big difference in the authenticity of the crust and overall quality of the pizza.  But in a squeeze, a baking sheet will do.

If you don’t have time to make homemade dough, you can make this delicious pizza with any good store-bought pizza dough.  I didn’t have time and purchased ready-made pizza dough from my local grocery market.  It didn’t disappoint and I will do it again.

A simple, devoid of pepperoni and sausage, pizza never tasted so scrumptious and fresh.  I love this new craze!

pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and mozzarella

Using store-bought pizza dough:

Allow refrigerated dough to come to room temperature before working with it.

Roll the dough out as thinly as possible before adding toppings.

If you’re not using the dough right away (and it hasn’t already been frozen), freeze it, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, within 2 days of buying it.  It will last for up to 1 month.  Thaw in the refrigerator, about 3 hours.  Bring to room temperature before rolling out.

1 recipe or store-bought pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1-cup baby arugula
6 ounces prosciutto, cut or torn into strips
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Gently separate balls of dough (if needed) and place on a lightly dusted work surface.  When you flatten the balls, gently press out the air but do not pack the dough.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the pizza dough into a circle to roughly 12 inches round and ¼ inch thick.  Dust a pizza paddle with cornmeal and working very quickly, place the dough round on paddle, brush the dough lightly with olive oil, next sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.  

If using a conventional oven, preheat the oven with a pizza stone set on the middle rack for 30 minutes at 500 degrees F.  When heated, Lightly slide pizza onto the baking stone and bake it until the crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza in the oven and again as you take it out.

If using a wood-fired oven, place the pizza in oven, away from the fire, and let bake for several minutes.  Turn the pizza 180 degrees and continue baking for another few minutes or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Pizza cooks very quickly in a wood-fired oven.

While the pizza is baking, toss the arugula with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and arrange the arugula, prosciutto, and Parmesan on top.  Cut the pizza into sliced with a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife.  Serve immediately. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

lemony lemon bars

When life gives me lemons, I make lemony lemon bars. Lemon bars are the perfect treat to make during the summer months. These luscious square bars have a buttery shortbread crust with a tangy citrus topping. They are perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day.

We have several lemon trees in our yard and during the summer, when lemons are abundant, I enjoy picking them off the trees and making these fresh lemony lemon bars. These bars are really simple and can be quickly whipped up.

My daughter, Gigi, had one of her girlfriends, Izzy, over to our house, so I made them lemony lemon bars. They helped me pick some lemons off from our lemon trees.  The tress are still a bit sparse with lemons, since it is only June, but there were more than enough (3 to 4) for these lemony lemon bars. 

Grate the zest from the lemons prior to juicing them.

I cut my lemony lemon bars into large squares. After everyone has eaten their bar, my hubby then recuts them into smaller ones for himself. Maybe he thinks that he isn't eating as much if they are smaller, but somehow every square disappears.

Once cooled, I take a small strainer, usually one use for tea, and sprinkle lots of powdered sugar on top.

Meet Izzy, a few of her favorite things are friends, food, books, the ocean, and laughter.  She is a bright, spunky, and beautiful girl.  We just love having her over to our house.

Meet Gigi, a few of her favorite things are the beach, Instagram, the TV show Nitro Circus with Travis Pastrana, and Rob Dyrdeks Fantasy Factory.  Gigi is very intelligent, super sweet, and gorgeous! She is a very special person in my life.

Both Gigi and Izzy ate their lemony lemon bars and quickly took off to meet up with their friends, leaving me with recollections of my younger teenage years with my friends during the summer.

Lemony lemon bars
Adapted from Cookies and Brownies, by Alice Medrich


For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8-teaspoon salt
1-cup all-purpose flour

For the lemon topping:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3-tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
½ cup strained fresh lemon juice (approximately 3 to 4 lemons)
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line an 8-inch square pan on the bottom and up all 4 sides with foil or parchment paper.

In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Using your fingers, press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden.

Meanwhile, stir together the sugar and flour in a medium bowl until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the lemon juice and zest.

When the crust is ready, remove from oven and lower the oven down to 300 degrees F. Carefully pour the filling over the hot crust and return to oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the topping is puffed at the edges and no longer jiggles in the center, when the pan is tapped. Chill to cool completely. With a knife dipped in hot water, cut into 3 rows by 3 rows for large bars or 6 rows by 6 rows for smaller sized bars.

Serve and enjoy!


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