Millions of Peaches …

Well, maybe not millions of peaches, but I did stop at a farm stand yesterday and bought a large bucket full of local peaches and nectarines.

I was going to go with a smaller bucket of fruit, but then I thought I definitely need to make a cobbler of sorts.  It’s just that time.

After sifting through a dozen or so peach recipes, I decided to go with something that would blend the best of Barefoot Contessa and Martha Stewart – these ladies never let me down.  I used Martha’s recipe, but I followed Ina’s directions to peel the peaches.  I also added the zest of one lemon and an extra tablespoon of lemon juice.  I didn’t have a vanilla bean, so I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cobbler topping.  I also wasn’t feeling the ginger tonight, so I left it out.

Rinse 10 – 12 peaches really well and set on a cutting board near your stove.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.   Place 2 peaches in the water at a time and cook for about a minute or so.

Carefully remove the peaches and place them in a cold water bath for a few seconds.

Gently remove the skins and return the peaches to the cutting board.  Using a paring knife, cut the peaches into large wedges – be careful!  They are slippery little suckers!

Place the peaches, blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large bowl.  Toss to coat the peaches and blueberries evenly.

Pour into a large baking dish and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Cut butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas.

Add the vanilla extract to the cream and then add it to the flour mixture.  Stir until it forms a soft dough.

Separate the dough into small, even balls and place on top of the fruit.  Brush the dough with cream (I used milk) and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking.  (Be sure to place a cookie sheet under your pan to catch the drippings!)

Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour before digging in.  Practice patience, my friends.  The juices need to set.  Trust me on this.

Top this beautiful cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream, and you are in business.

Peace and peaches.

Easy comfort food

Today we spent much of the day traveling for my partner’s step grandfather’s funeral, who recently passed away at the age of 96.  Papa Diel led a very long, productive life.  He was passionate about education, his family, and working for the greater good.  I may have only known him for the last 6 years or so, but I will miss his dry sense of humor and good stories.

When we got home, we were exhausted and we both wanted something easy but satisfying for dinner.

I had some leftover goat cheese and lots of tomatoes and basil, so this dish came together in a snap and really hit the spot.

For my friends who do not appreciate goat cheese – not to worry.  The olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and pasta water come together with the goat cheese to make a really light and creamy sauce – perfect for a summery night when you want something that isn’t too heavy, but it needs to satisfy a comfort food craving.

Pasta with tomatoes and goat cheese

1/2 box whole grain spaghetti pasta (I used Barilla Plus Multigrain Spaghetti)

3 large tomatoes (or more if you wish)

couple handfuls fresh basil

4 garlic cloves

crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

about 1/3 cup goat cheese

Kosher salt

black pepper, freshly ground

olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Season with a small handful of salt, not a few shakes of the salt shaker.  (Be sure to do this.  You need to reserve some of the cooking liquid and it needs to be flavorful.)  Prepare the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta.  Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into small pieces.  Gather the basil leaves, roll tightly, and chop to produce ribbon like shreds of basil.  Mince the garlic.  When the pasta has about 3 minutes left to cook, heat a large skillet pan on medium heat.  Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the garlic and just a few red pepper flakes (a little goes a long way!) and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Now the pasta should be finished.  Instead of draining the pasta, use tongs to gather the noodles out of the boiling water and add directly to the olive oil and toss to coat the noodles.  Add the tomatoes and toss to combine.  Crumble the goat cheese into the pasta and toss to combine.  Ladle in about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pasta water to the noodles to thin out the goat cheese to create a light sauce.  Add fresh basil, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve with extra basil for a garnish and parmesan reggiano cheese if desired.

Serves 2 large portions or 4 small portions

I hope this brings you comfort, whether you’ve had a crazy long day, or you just want to enjoy more garden fresh tomatoes and basil.

Peace.

Celebrate summer with vegetables!

I love planning meals and trying new recipes with seasonally available fruits and vegetables.  It seems that the body responds much better to what’s in season, doesn’t it?  I also love going to our local farmer’s market and being able to interact with the people who help raise the fruits and vegetables I eat.  There’s something really great about knowing who raised the beautiful heirloom tomatoes I’ve been eating all summer.

This salad is a celebration of everything I love about summer – the colors are bright, the flavors are fresh, and it’s really easy to make.  You can enjoy it warm or cold, as a main dish or side dish.  Plus, it lends itself to using whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand.  This would also be delicious with chickpeas or cannellini beans for extra protein.

Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad

3 or 4 medium zucchini

3 or 4 medium yellow squash

2 red onions

1 or 2 red bell peppers

about 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

about 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped, plus more for garnish

2 cups good feta cheese (preferably in a block)

olive oil

salt

pepper

red wine vinaigrette, I used Wish Bone Red Wine Vinaigrette

1 box of pasta, I used Barilla Plus Multigrain Rotini Pasta

Directions:

Fire up your grill or turn on your oven to 425.

Slice the zucchini and summer squash into round coins, about 1/2 inch thick or thinner.  Slice the red onions into large petal pieces and cut the red bell peppers into similar sized slices.  Place all the vegetables on a large baking sheet and drizzle with just a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Cook the vegetables on the grill until the vegetables are softened to your liking, or roast in the oven until golden brown.  (You may have to cook your vegetables in batches).  Once the vegetables are cooled enough to touch, chop the veggies into desired size for the pasta salad, trying to keep the veggies all about the same size.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a small handful of salt to season the pasta water.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente pasta.  Drain.  (I ran my pasta under cold water since I was serving this dish cold.)  Pour the pasta into a large serving bowl.  Add the cooled grilled vegetables and chopped parsley and basil.  Add enough red wine vinaigrette to your taste and mix (remember the vegetables have a little bit of olive oil already, so you might not need as much dressing as you think).  Chop the feta into dice-sized cubes and gently fold into the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with more fresh basil.

Serves 6 – 8 people for a main dish or lots more people for a side dish.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread Two Ways

I recently read about coating walnuts with chocolate before adding them to banana bread (via 101 Cookbooks) and thought that would be perfect in zucchini bread as well!  I had some time today to test two recipes for zucchini bread, and I was surprised that the vegan recipe was our favorite!

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

I started by preparing enough chocolate covered walnuts for both recipes, using vegan semisweet chocolate chips.  I toasted 2 cups of chopped walnuts in the oven (350 for 7 minutes) and melted 1 cup of chocolate chips over a double boiler. Once the walnuts were toasted and chocolate chips melted, I combined them and then spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. It was way too hot in my kitchen for the chocolate to harden, so I put the walnuts in the fridge for a few minutes.

Since my plan was to add chocolate covered walnuts to the batter, I wanted to start with a healthy base for both recipes.  You could make either recipe into muffins or a loaf – follow the same heating instructions for the oven and bake 20 – 25 minutes for muffins or 40 – 50 minutes for a loaf.  Let me know which recipe you love most!

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

2 -1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 cups finely grated zucchini

1 cup chocolate covered walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a standard 12 muffin pan with butter and flour or use paper liners.

In a small bowl whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Stir in coconut.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl add the applesauce, oil, sugars, molasses, and vanilla.  Whisk well to combine.  Stir in zucchini.  Add flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and stir until just combined.  With a rubber spatula gently fold in the walnuts.  Spoon batter into the muffin tins until 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool in the muffin tins for 5 – 10 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan and continue to cool on a a cooling rack.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup finely grated zucchini

1 cup chocolate covered walnuts

Heat oven to 375 and butter and flour a loaf pan or use a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  In a medium bowl, add eggs, sugars, vanilla, applesauce, and oil and whisk well to combine.  Stir in zucchini.  Add flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and stir until just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the walnuts.  Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes and then remove loaf from the pan and continue cooling on a cooling rack.

Enjoy!