Roasted Peaches with Ricotta Buttercream

five roasted peachesMy Instagram feed is starting to fill up with everything pumpkin. It won’t be long before the pumpkin spice fairies start sprinkling that crap on everything. Come on guys, it’s only early September. There are still amazing local peaches at my market. Let’s take our time and go slowly into fall. peachesThis was my “Summer of Ricotta.” Arguably, not quite as much fun as the Summer of George, but still pretty great. I taught my friends how to make homemade ricotta. I felt like a science teacher. There is something quite magical about watching the curds separating from the whey. I ended up making it almost every week. We ate it on toast with peaches and honey, with garlic roasted tomatoes and with strawberries and almonds. We ate it stirred into hot pasta and then we whipped it with feta and cream cheese for a dip.

Brooks Headley, former pastry chef at Del Posto in NYC, created this recipe. This is my take on it. He topped the peaches with a crispy panko breadcrumb topping. I went a little rogue and made a crumble topping with Biscoff (Speculoos) cookies, pistachios and butter. If you can’t find  Biscoff cookies, you could use graham wafers or gingersnap cookies.

The peaches are poached in the oven in a mixture of equal parts white wine vinegar and honey. This combination is brilliant. It coats the peaches and the residual liquid cooks down to a thick syrup that is ambrosial.

Check out the video I made to show you how to make these peaches.

 

two roasted peaches

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Peaches with Ricotta Buttercream.

one roasted peachtake a bite

 

“Grate” Tomato Sauce

forkful of pasta 2Last week, it occurred to me that my husband has become much more sociable, while I am have become considerably less so. It seems like every few months he comes home regaling me with a tale about a recently acquired friend. Our kids joke about dad’s new BFFs.

I don’t think I have made a new friend in over 25 years, unless you count Kelly Rippa. My daughter tells me that Kelly is only my friend in my mind. I believe that Kelly would really like me if only she knew me. We have so much in common. Both of us fly into a rage when our husbands chew fruit in close proximity to our ears. It’s a documented disorder, check it out.

I was reading an interesting article about how smartphones have destroyed a generation and it got me thinking about what constitutes a real friend. Do you have to have face to face contact to be real friends? Over the past few years, I have gotten to know a fellow blogger, Wendy (The Monday Box) through reading and commenting on each others blogs. I consider her to be a new friend.

Last weekend, one of my husband’s new friends came to visit us at the cottage. He and his wife arrived bearing a huge basket of vegetables from their garden. It was such a thoughtful gift. I have been cooking with it all week. There were 4 huge heirloom tomatoes in the basket and a few bulbs of garlic. I was inspired to make a batch of quick tomato sauce. When mother nature gives you gorgeous produce, don’t mess with it too much.

I have only made my own tomato sauce once, and that was many years ago with my friend Marla. We bought a few bushels of plum tomatoes from the market and spent all day peeling and seeding them and then proceeded to cook them down for hours. The kitchen looked like a crime scene. There was red pulp and juice everywhere. It cured me of canning forever.

When I saw in Bon Appetit magazine, how Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen makes her tomato sauce, I was encouraged to try making it again. No peeling or seeding. She just grates the tomatoes on a box grater and cooks them very briefly. No fuss or muss.grating tomatoes A generous amount of garlic and olive oil meet in the pan for a few minutes. A few sprigs of rosemary are added and then in goes the grated pulp from 4 large tomatoes. Make sure to salt with abandon. Tomatoes and salt are best friends and depend on each other to shine. sauteeing garlic and rosemarycooking tomatoesI added a small squeeze of Mike’s Hot Honey. I seem to be possessed with a desire to add it to everything I can. Chef Ashley finishes her sauce with 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. I whisked in just 2 teaspoons and felt it was delicious with just that small amount. Enriching tomato sauce with butter is Marcella Hazan‘s trick and it’s glorious. spagettiI kept it simple and added just a few tiny fresh tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese.tomatoesbasil

3 bowls of pasta 2

spagetti and sauce in bowl 2Click here to print recipe for _Grate_ Tomato Sauce.

stick a fork in it

 

Banana Fudge Chocolate Cake

Cake with unlit candlesWe’re not into big, full-on birthday celebrations in our house. We’re just not the partying kind of family. 4/5 of us fall squarely into introvert territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I have recently learned from a wonderful book called The Introvert Advantage.

So while we do celebrate our birthdays without much fanfare, the one thing I do insist on is a homemade birthday cake. Even if I do have to bake my own cake. Everyone in our family has their favourites. My oldest son and husband always request Almond Berry Shortbread Cake, my youngest son will accept anything with chocolate, see here, here, here, and here.

My daughter usually requests Carrot Cake with Lemon Curd Filling. However, this year when I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her August birthday, she told me I could surprise her and make anything I wanted. She knows I love to bake new things so I’ll have fresh material for the blog. What a great daughter.

Anything I want? I was a little overwhelmed with such wide parameters. Sometimes less choice is a good thing. I turned to one of my favourite baking books for inspiration. Bobbette and Belle is filled with classic baked goods with a unique twist.

I decided on baking the Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake since my daughter loves chocolate very much. I seem to recall that her first word was chocolate. If you plan to bake this cake, and you really should, plan on baking it over 2 days to allow yourself time to enjoy the process. There are 4 component parts to the recipe.Cake and presentThere are 3 layers of dense super-moist banana cake. Note that you will require 7 ripe bananas to make this! Most banana cake recipes call for 3 ripe bananas, so we are veering into deep banana territory here.Cake with slice removed 2The 3 layers are sandwiched with a deep dark chocolate fudge frosting. Then, the whole thing is covered in a silky light chocolate buttercream. Finally, the cake is topped with a chocolate glaze that drips ever so artfully down the sides of the cake.

I made the fudge frosting and buttercream on day one and the cake layers and glaze on day two. Here’s a video showing how the whole thing was assembled.

This cake was met with rave review from everyone who got to try it.Cake with slice removed

A very happy birthday indeed!!

slice with lit candle

Click here to print recipe for Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake.

slice laying on its side

Zucchini with Corn and Ricotta Pasta

serving pastaZucchini and I have a complicated relationship. She and her sister, summer squash and her cousin, the adorable pattypan squash, lure me with their shiny skin and vibrant colours. I bring them home from the farmers market, bathe them in olive oil, honey, salt and chile flakes and grill them for a few minutes. Sadly, I am always disappointed by their bland flavour and watery texture. yellow and green zucchinipattypan squash Then I saw a recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit for Summer Squash and Basil Pasta and I was convinced to give zucchini another chance. Apparently, if you sauté the heck out of the zucchini, for over 15 minutes, it becomes jammy and saucy. That’s when the flavour transformation happens. All the water evaporates out of the zucchini and the flavour becomes concentrated and delicious.

This is my take on the Bon Appetit recipe. I have adapted it slightly.

Slice up lots of garlic and start frying it gently in some olive oil. The original recipe leaves the sliced garlic in the final dish. I don’t love crunching down on big bits of garlic so after the garlic is lightly golden brown and has imparted its gorgeous perfume to the oil, scoop out the sliced garlic and discard it. slicing garlicsauteeing garlicZucchini needs salt. Lots of salt. Don’t be afraid. adding saltOnce the zucchini has wilted down, add some raw corn and keep cooking until the zucchini deepens in colour and gets all jammy. Don’t forget some spicy heat. I used red pepper flakes.zucchini cooked down to jammy consisitencyI finished the dish with some grated Parmesan, fresh mint, basil and a big dollop of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have any homemade ricotta hanging out in the fridge, even better. big bowl of pasta

Click here to print recipe for Zucchini and Corn Pasta with Ricotta.with a scoop of ricotta

 

Halloumi, Arugula and Dried Strawberry Salad

one plate I wouldn’t characterize myself as a greedy person, but something takes over me when I drive by a farm stand or visit a farmers market. I always buy way more than I can possibly eat. It happened to me last week with local summer strawberries. Winter strawberries trick you into thinking they will be good, but when you cut into them, the white centres are so disappointing. These local ones were deep crimson, inside and out!Baskets of strawberries_1Bowl of strawberries_1I needed to use these up fast before they spoiled. No to pie, cobbler, crisp, galette and jam. Been there, done that. I wanted to make something new. And then this recipe for oven dried strawberries popped up in my inbox. Unlike dehydrated strawberries, which are quite dry  and leathery, these oven dried strawberries are chewy, with a plump, juicy consistency. The roasting really concentrates the berry flavours.

Halved strawberries are mixed with a bit of sugar and allowed to macerate for about 30 minutes. Spread them out on a non-stick silicone baking mat and cook at 200°F for about 3-4 hours, until dried at the edges, but still juicy in the center. Once dried, they will keep in the fridge for about a week.strawberries ready for roastingstrawberries roastedThese berries made their way into a seriously delicious salad. The sweet strawberries play beautifully with the bitter arugula and salty halloumi. Toasted hazelnuts bring the crunch.Salad on r and w stripe clothFried halloumi is one of the cheese world’s greatest inventions. If you’ve never tried it,  you’re in for a treat. It’s kind of hard to describe. Salty and squeaky/firm on the outside and creamy and melty in the center.

 

Mike's Hot HoneyThe finishing touch was a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey over the fried halloumi. Sheer perfection. I met creator Mike Kurtz about 4 years ago on a NYC pizza tour. He pulled a bottle out of his bag on our third stop and offered us all a little squirt on our pizza. I was hooked! Sweet heat with cheese is fantastic. I buy mine online here in Canada from The Vanilla Food Company.

Click here to print recipe for Halloumi, Arugula and Strawberry Salad.

half eaten