Category Archives: Summer

almond fig cake

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On a Thursday a few weeks ago, I came home and took a few pictures of the changing leaves.  Then, I came inside and made a cake.

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Not just a cake; this cake.  Figs are either past their prime or almost past their prime, depending on where you are, but I was able to scoop some up for cheap at my food co-op that day.  Generally I prefer green figs for eating- they’re firmer and not as sticky sweet as their purple or black counterparts.   But a girl in Wisconsin can’t say no to cheap figs, regardless of color, and I was determined to make a mostly-almond gluten-free cake, like a cross between the one I’d seen on Joy The Baker and like the many almond meal cakes on Rachel Eats. {Pssst, this one’s my favorite.}

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This was not my first attempt at an almond fig cake, and the first one was maddening.  Too much liquid up front due to bad math resulted in me whisking in more and more tapioca starch and almond meal in vain.  The cake was good, but it took over an hour to bake and the figs were too heavy for the batter- they sank like stones.  Soggy figs cooked inside a cake are not very good, and I ended up picking around the fruit and just eating the cake.

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Then, that Thursday, I found this pin.  What!  The cake I was looking for… almost.  Of course I couldn’t resist tweaking.  With the lengthening sun filling my kitchen with crisp fall sunlight, I poured a Campari Shandy, pulled out my discount figs, and got to work.  The result is gluten-free, Paleo but for the 1/4 cup sugar, and absolutely perfect if you prefer your cakes dense and flavorful and without a wisp of frosting in sight.

Almond Fig Cake
One 9-inch cake
By David Tanis

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
140 grams almond meal
35 grams potato, arrowroot, or tapioca starch (I used potato)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 almond extract
8 to 14 ripe figs, depending on the size of your figs and how many you want (I used 9, but the original calls for 12-14)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch tart, pie, or cake pan. In a small saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat.   Once the butter is browned, remove from heat and whisk in the honey.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, starch, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.  In the saucepan, whisk the eggs and almond extract into the butter and honey mixture; then pour into the dry mix and stir until just combined.  Pour batter into the buttered pan.

Carefully wash and dry figs.  Remove the stems and cut the figs in half.  Arrange fig halves cut-side-up over the top of the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the figs and batter with the reserved 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out dry.  Cool before serving, if you can resist.

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Filed under Breads, Clean Eating, Desserts, Fall, Gluten-Free, Summer

bourbon cider

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I wish I could come up with something more creative and alluring for a title, but to be honest, I’m exhausted.  The sprint to the end of the summer has left me worn out.  The yard work, the garden explosion, the canning and fermenting, the end-of-summer weekend trips and errands, not to mention work?  I’m spent.  This drink that I cobbled together from a couple of places was just what I needed to accompany the knit-leggings-and-solo-bonfire party I held for myself tonight.  It hit my sweet tooth and warmed me up- just what I need for the beginning of fall.

DSC_3374Bourbon and Cider
Serves 1

2 oz. bourbon
4 oz. apple cider
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3-5 drops angostura bitters
small pinch of allspice
slightly larger pinch of cinnamon
2-3 oz. ginger beer

Shake together bourbon, cider, lemon juice, bitters, allspice, and cinnamon.  Pour in a tall glass over ice.  Top with ginger beer; stir to combine.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Beverage, Fall, Summer

Shish Taouk (spiced chicken kebab)

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I imagine I’m sitting outside a tiny restaurant, white-washed stucco walls under a bleached umbrella, on a chair that wobbles on the uneven tile.  I’m in a cotton  maxi dress with tanned skinned under dappled sunlight, wavy salt-blown hair, looking great. (Hey, it’s my daydream-  and in daydreams, everything is clingy but flattering in a way that maxi dresses are NEVER really flattering on me. Just go with it.)

The sky is bright royal blue; the water, striking teal; flawless beaches stretch below rocky cliffs, and seagulls that never crap or chase after you or try to grab your food are calling from high above on the wind.

I know next to nothing about the Mediterranean, but that’s definitely how it appears in my daydreams.  This song always plays in my head when I think of anything coastal Mediterranean.  Ugh.  I’m a stereotype.

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Please, don’t let that embarrassing little daydream confessional steer you clear of this chicken.  Are these Turkish? Lebanese? Vaguely Middle Eastern? I’m not quite sure, but the marinade… it’s got a lotta stuff going on.  It’s complex.  Herby from the thyme, the mint, with some warmth from the aleppo and red pepper flakes. The tomato paste brings a savory-sweet backbone.

I know, the list of ingredients call for a lot of “things,” which is slightly daunting.  Don’t be daunted.  Put your leftover tomato paste in the freezer, save the rest of the bell pepper for easy fajitas, pick off some of that mint that’s taking over… the neighbor’s garden.  She won’t mind.   Breathe.  Marinate.  Open an adult beverage and hit the grill.  You can even put on a maxi dress.

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*Please, if you have time and you like garlic: make some of this two-minute toum to dip your chicken in.  You’ll be eating it on everything for the rest of the week, I promise.

You can start your prep the night before by mixing together all of the marinade ingredients except the fresh mint and refrigerating; then stirring in the chopped mint and chicken to marinate for an hour or so before firing up the grill.

Shish Taouk
Inspired by Saveur
Serves 2-3

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (white or dark meat- I like a mix of breasts and thighs (!))
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon finely diced red pepper
1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint (to taste)
1 tsp. each aleppo pepper, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and dried thyme
1/2 tsp. each oregano and black pepper
1 clove garlic crushed (I use 1/2 tsp. fermented garlic paste)

skewers or a grill pan

Mix together all of the ingredients but the chicken.  Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces; stir into the marinade and refrigerate, allowing to sit for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.   If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water.  Before grilling, brush the grates with peanut oil or another high-heat oil to prevent sticking.  Skewer up the chicken and grill on medium high for 5-6 minutes, then flip and continue grilling for another 4-5 minutes, until both sides are nicely charred.  Serve with kachumbar, rice, on top of a salad, or in a pita.  Or however you want.  Leftovers are delicious!

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Filed under Chicken, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Summer

Summer Veg (grilled creamed corn and mixed roasted veggies)

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The story of my life:  I’m not sure what I’ve been up to, but I’m sure I’ve been busy.  Part of me actually does like being busy, having a sense of purpose and achievement.  But another part of me hates the part of me that over-glorifies being busy.  I love writing down and subsequently crossing things off a long to-do list, but I hate feeling trapped by the list, not actually caring about the doneness of the things on the list.  Who cares if I bleach the shower curtain?  Or if I put away that load of laundry? It’s just as clean sitting in a pile as it is crammed in a drawer.  Sometimes I’d just rather sit very still and try not to think.

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That being said, I do hate seeing a garden-grown vegetable go to waste, and summer is my time of excess.  I buy too many ears of corn at the market; the extra zucchini and eggplant in the garden look ignored and miffed in the August sun.  But I’ve found yet more ways to cope with my feelings of ineptitude (“I can’t believe I didn’t make eggplant parmesan with homemade tomato sauce on Friday night instead of pizza!” …Um, no.) and my overflowing crisper/garden.  Case in point: Luisa’s roasted vegetables, which make me feel virtuous.  Peppers! Carrots! Zucchinis! Throw it all in- together.  And that’s the brilliance.  But really, the brilliance is that the dish is amazing up front, but then a generous scoop is fantastic in a pan with a couple of eggs for breakfast, they’re delicious cold as a salad topping, and it’s easily and tastily reheated.   Check out her post here for the jist of it, or see below for my preferred ratio/mix of veggies.

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The second recipe I have to share with you is one for grilled creamed corn.  Do not underestimate how good this corn is, or how much fresh sweet corn a grown person can eat once it’s conveniently removed from the cob.  I’ve made this with 4 ears and we both stand over the pan, scraping up the very ends;  with 5 ears there is a small dish of leftovers that I try to nab for lunch before N does.  It’s a perfect accompaniment to anything grilled, as you grill the ears for 8-10 minutes while it’s heating up on high; then put your meat on, and let the corn rest while the main event is cooking.  About 15 minutes before your other grilled goods are ready to be eaten, slice the corn off the cobs and 5 minutes in the pan delivers a slightly spicy, tangy creamed corn with a hint of charred summer goodness.  It’s like sunshine in a pan.  With carbs.  And dairy. Win-win.

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My preferred method for cutting corn off the cob:  balance the ears on a small upside-down bowl that’s placed inside of a larger flat-bottomed bowl or baking pan (picture here is an 8×8 pan).  You elevate the corn so you can cut all the way down the length of the ear without hitting the side of the dish with your knife blade, but you still catch almost all of your corn nibs! Another great idea: use a bundt pan if you’ve got one.  You’re welcome.

Grilled Creamed Corn
Originally posted in summer 2010; updated and with new pictures

Serves 2-3

5 ears fresh sweet corn
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour (I use a generic glutenfree AP mix)
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes (or red pepper flakes)
1/8 tsp. cayenne

Shuck the corn and soak for at least 5 minutes, up to 1 hour.  Heat your grill to high.  Place the corn on the grill with the length of the slats, so the corn nestles in between the grill slats.  Grill for 2-3 minutes until the bottom is partially charred and then turn the cob about a quarter of the way; repeat on all sides of the corn, which takes approximately 8-10 minutes, but be sure to keep an eye on it and turn when needed.  Remove from grill and allow to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the corn from the cobs.  Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat; whisk in the flour and allow to cook for about 1 minutes, stirring constantly.  Increase the heat to medium high and slowly pour in the milk and buttermilk, whisking constantly to form a roux.  Once the milk is all in and there are no clumps, stir in the corn, salt, and spices.  Simmer for approximately 5 minutes on medium high heat, stirring almost constantly, crushing some of the corn against the bottom or the sides of the pan with a heavy spoon.  Serve warm.  Excellent reheated as well.

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Summer Veggie Confetti (or, Mixed Roasted Vegetables for Summer)
Serves 2-6, depending on how much you like your veg

Directly from Luisa at The Wednesday Chef, though I like a slightly different ratio of summery veggies, as follows:

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic  (I use 1 tsp fermented garlic paste)
1 medium tomato
4-6 carrots
1 medium potato
2 small zucchini or summer squash (I like one yellow and one green)
1 small eggplant
1 bell pepper- any color (Luisa calls for red or yellow, but I actually really like a green pepper, or a mix of red and green)
2-3 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher or crunchy salt (less if using table salt)1 tsp. dried herb/spice blend- I like an equal mix of dried basil, sage, thyme, and red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Mince or crush the garlic.  Dice the remainder of the vegetables into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces, not letting any one piece get to be much bigger an an inch.  Toss veggies in a 9×13 baking pan, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and herbs, and carefully mix to combine (careful not to crush the tomatoes too much).  Roast for 40-50 minutes, stirring twice- once after about 25 minutes, and again 10-15 minutes later.  Gorge. Feel virtuous for eating so many veggies. Repeat.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Side dishes, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian

the long stretch (whiskey-spiked iced tea)

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We’re in it.  Days are bright and hot. Nights are short and leave a film of dew on the yard.  Late nights and early mornings, watermelon and zucchini and peaches, dirty foot prints, darkened skin, gin and tonics.  The long stretch of high summer, July into August, is possibly the most fleeting time of the year, and I always feel a deep need to make the most of it.

Making a pitcher of this tea is possibly the easiest thing you could do to start the weekend off right.  Green and black teas, a couple lemons, a bottle of ginger beer, and our favorite brown liquor.  Whiskey has a firm grasp on fall and winter, but in this drink, it does right by summer too.  I’m particular to Bulleit Rye, but bourbon certainly isn’t bad.

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Whiskey-Spiked Iced Tea
Inspired by Thug Kitchen (nsfw!)
Makes about 84 oz.

2 bags black tea
2 bags green tea (ginger and/or citrus green tea is great too)
2 lemons
1/4 c. maple syrup (or agave or honey)
1-1/2 cups whiskey (rye or bourbon preferably)
1 bottle ginger beer

Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the black and green tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, juice one of the lemons and thinly slice the other.  Remove the tea bags, add the maple syrup, and stir to dissolve.  To the tea add 4 cups of cold water, the lemon juice, and the whiskey, and stir to combine.  Add the lemon slices and let chill in the fridge.  Before serving, carefully stir in the bottle of ginger beer, starting with half of the bottle and adding more to taste. (This is for personal preference- I like more ginger beer, but most of my friends preferred less.)

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Beverage, Summer

roasted strawberries + stewed rhubarb

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Summer is my time of excess.  Too many choices at the market means more greens, more zucchini, more berries than I can tackle in a week.  Weekends become packed with adventures: hiking, kayaking, boating, picnics, road trips.  Typical weekend tasks are crammed into weeknights, and suddenly on any given Thursday night I realize I have a fridge full of produce that needs to be used before Saturday morning’s farmer’s market… and that I haven’t vacuumed in two weeks… and that I haven’t slept properly in two weeks, either.  Time for another G&T.

Believe me, this is not a complaint.  Instead, here are a couple ideas to help you use up that glut of rhubarb you’ve got in the backyard or those strawberries you just had to bring home.  Last Friday morning, I picked a flat of strawberries.  For whatever reason, I had made up my mind that I needed a full flat.  Had to have it.  Then I had a million errands to run for the weekend’s canoe-and-camping trip, and I realized at 4pm that I had no clue what to do with the berries and the rhubarb on my counter… but I was leaving for the weekend.  So I fell back on an old mantra- “When in doubt, roast.”  Sweet or savory, you’ll cut through the bulk quickly, and if nothing else, it’ll prolong fridge life.

(I don’t think that’s actually an old mantra, I think I just made that up. Go with it anyway.)

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Think of these more as “guidelines” than “recipes.”  Cardamom could replace the vanilla bean, or sherry could replace the brandy, or lemon juice could replace the balsamic.  Be creative.

This is a simplified version of Heidi Swanson’s Roasted Strawberries from her Super Natural Every Day.  The balsamic vinegar really makes these an irresistible treat that should be put on top of pretty much everything.  My favorite so far: mascarpone spread across a gluten-free butter (Ritz-style) cracker and topped with a huge dollop of these strawberries. 

Roasted Strawberries
Makes a generous 1 cup (1/2 pint)

3 cups strawberries, cleaned and quartered or sliced
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brandy (or similar liquor or liqueur, or apple juice)
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
Olive oil, approximately 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 350.  Clean and chop strawberries.  Stir in maple syrup and brandy.  Brush olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet, then spread out strawberries and shake lightly to even out.  Roast for 35-45 minutes, carefully stirring with a rubber spatula 2-3 times while roasting.  Remove from oven to cool.  If using balsamic vinegar, pour over the hot berries and lightly stir in.  Cool for 5 to 10 minutes and serve warm over shortcakes, biscuits, yogurt, or toast.  Store extra in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks, though they won’t likely last that long.

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I first saw this idea on Orangette a few years ago, and I tweak it slightly every summer.  I use less wine and chop my rhubarb more finely, which results in a thicker, almost stew-like rhubarb.  This preserve is amazing with tangy yogurt, some soaked or fermented oats, and a small handful of toasted nuts.  But like Molly, I tend to eat it straight from the jar, cold, with a spoon.

Stewed Rhubarb
Makes approximately 1 cup (1/2 pint)

3 cups chopped rhubarb (roughly 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces)
1/4 cup cane sugar or caster sugar
1/4 cup red wine
1/3 to 1/2 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350.  In a pie pan or bread pan (or similar baking vessel), stir together the diced rhubarb, sugar, and wine.  Split the vanilla bean and nestle in both halves- no need to scrape out the seeds, most of them will be jostled out during cooking and stirring.  Roast for 35-45 minutes, stirring 3 or 4 times throughout.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving or moving to a jar for the fridge. I personally prefer this chilled, but I imagine it would be good over warm baked oatmeal or on toast too.

DSC_1679Happy 4th, everyone.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Desserts, Gluten-Free, Spring, Summer, Uncategorized

Meatball and Kale Soup

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Saturday was probably my favorite date of the year.  Not day, necessarily; there was nothing particularly eventful, and it wasn’t full of great friends, great food, or everything going exactly as planned.  (Yes, that would be a requirement of my Type-A personality “Perfect Day.”  Pathetic.)  But more a perfect date, being one of the elusive longest days of the year.  It was sunny and warm and slightly humid but not oppressive.  The farmer’s market finally exploded with leafy greens and herbs, radishes and green garlic and pea shoots.  I made progress on goals and crossed things off lists, one by one, satisfying that Type-A personality.  A friend brought over a hand-picked peony bouquet.  We dug a hole and planted a tree in our front yard and wiped the sweat from our brows, warmed from the sun, sticky and dirty but satisfied.

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Funny that just a few weeks before was almost exactly the opposite.  A light drizzle had been falling for four days straight, and the damp and chill had permeated.  Cooped up in the house alone, I listened to melancholy songs on repeat and devoured a lovely book, story by short story, each one highlighting the inevitable disappointments of meaningful relationships.  The weekend required a long solo hike, a strong bourbon drink, and a bowl of steaming soup.  I granted it all three.

One bright spot was finding the first bit of leafy green at the farmer’s market, tucked away in a far corner.  A small Hmong woman was selling bunches of petite kale, freshly picked, roots and all.  The morning was gusty and cold, spitting rain and angry gray, and I was one of the few straggling around.  Not many seemed to make it back to the kale corner.   I considered myself lucky and in the solitary walk back home, decided I would consult my not-so-new but new-to-me favorite vegetable book for inspiration.

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As soon as I saw the recipe, I recognized it from a handful of food blogs, and my mind was made up.  There were green onions, mint, and the kale from that morning’s market; pork and chicken stock in the freezer.  No fresh chiles this time of year, so dried would have to do.  One soggy hike later and I was prepping meatball soup for supper.  The recipe came almost straight from the book, with the addition of a few potatoes cubed over the pot, thrown in to appease my deep-seeded and ever-present longing for carbs in all forms.  It was filling, but not in a extra-couple-of-pounds-in-winter kind of way.  After a bowl of soup and a whisky smash, the gloomy spring weekend didn’t seem so bad after all.

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Nigel Slater’s Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale from Tender (aka meatball and kale soup)
Serves 4

Even though it’s summer, I’ve made this twice since, once with fresh spinach in place of the kale, thrown straight into the soup pot (skip the blanching).  I highly recommend either variation.

1 pound ground pork (I used half pork and half beef)
3 green onions
a small handful each of fresh mint and fresh parsley
2-3 green garlic, or 2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. red pepper flakes (original calls for 2-3 thai or similar chiles)
2 tablespoons oil
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
2 small-medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped (approximately 3-4 cups)

Place the meat in a medium bowl.  Slice or chop the onions, fresh herbs, and mince the garlic or slice the green garlic.  Throw all of it, along with the red pepper flakes or diced chiles, into the bowl with the meat. Mix well with your hands.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan.  Form the meat mixture into small balls, no more than 2 inches diameter, and place in the pan.  Brown well, in batches if needed- don’t crowd the meatballs or they’ll steam each other.  Once well browned, set aside on a plate.

Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cut the potatoes over the pot into bite-sized pieces (not on a cutting board- a lot of the starch is left on the board, and I like it in the soup to thicken things a bit) and carefully place in the hot stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then add in the meatballs and the drippings from the meatball plate.  Season with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch kale leaves for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how thick or tough they are.  (More delicate kale may only take 2 minutes, so be flexible and watch the pot.)  Depending on the size of the pot, you may want to blanch in multiple batches.  As the kale is blanched, lift from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop directly into the soup pot.  Once all the kale is in the soup, bring to a brief simmer, stir, salt to taste, and serve.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Winter