Luscious little, colorful orbs bursting with complex flavor, cherries are a versatile fruit in both sweet and savory dishes. Perfectly capable of shining all on their own, they can also stand up to a myriad of flavors. This easy-to-make, rustic dish is a classical pairing of Kirsch-kissed cherries with an almond topping, baked to crispy perfection….
My somewhat nefarious love affair with pomegranates started as a child when my friend and I would sneak onto a neighbor’s property to snatch the fruit from their large, abundant pomegranate bush. We would take refuge in my old playhouse, breaking open the tough skin and spending the next hour indulging in the brightly colored seeds. Unfortunately, our gig was up our third year, when the neighbor caught us red-handed, abruptly ending my foray into childhood delinquency. Flavored with pomegranate molasses, this cake is wonderfully moist and tender and sweetened with a pomegranate juice syrup that is scented with cardamom and rose water. The dark chocolate ganache glaze contrasts beautifully the traditional Middle Eastern flavors and spices of the cake….
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in an area that has four seasons, is not to get too excited at the first warm, sunny day. Mother nature always seems to bring several more weeks of frost and a few days of snow. This year the trees, tulips and daffodils were in full bloom while several inches of snow fell. What finally gets me in gear are the few, short weeks that our lilac bushes bloom. The blossoms are a sight to behold and their scent is intoxicating. What I love most is that the blossoms are edible, enhancing baked goods, pastry creams, sorbets, syrups and flavored sugars. Lilacs add subtle floral notes to this cake’s moist, tender crumb, making it perfect for spring and the warmer weather ahead….
Gubana, a traditional nut-filled yeasted bread, hails from Fruili, in Northern Italy. Similar to babka and strudel, it delivers many of the flavor nuances that distinguish Eastern European and Slavic pastries. Copious amounts of marsala-drenched raisins, nuts and cocoa filling are rolled up in an orange-scented dough before being coiled into a round pan….
My initial attraction to persimmons is always immediate, as I love their rich coral orange color. Although several varieties are widely available in most markets in the U.S from October through February, they are not used in baking nearly as much as many other winter fruits. They have a delightfully sweet and slightly astringent taste. We’ve added dates for some added sweetness and texture, along with fresh ginger and allspice to add a little complexity to the flavor. These bars are addictive, with a unique flavor that always leaves you wanting more….
Winter months bring snow and magic moments in the kitchen. We bake for family and friends to gather together to feast for the holidays. It is my favorite time to bake goodies with the hot oven keeping my kitchen warm and toasty.
For long days spent skiing in the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, nothing tastes better than a hot cup of cocoa; they are legendary together. This mix has a double dose of deep, dark chocolate and rich dutch cocoa, making a creamy, full-bodied hot cocoa that is decadent and satisfying (even for a hardcore dark chocolate lover like me). The beauty of this recipe is that you can add coffee, toffee, marshmallows, liqueurs and flavorings to customize the flavor….
Watermelon season is forever interlaced with my childhood and the excitement I always felt during the lazy days of summer. A couple of months off of school, hours of fun in the water (beach or poolside), cookouts, and the thrill of mischievous exploration and adventure. Many of my summers were spent visiting relatives whose farm house was surrounded by acres of farm land. Elated that one of these was a huge watermelon patch, I would ‘pass by’ daily on my bike, eagerly awaiting for them to ripen. It was in this small farming community that I was introduced to bartering and the art of the deal, as neighbors never seemed to pay cash for anything. Instead, there were always seasonal foods and services to be exchanged in this small community and bartering with neighbors and growers was considered the norm. My friends and I took great delight in wheeling and dealing with the local ‘watermelon man’ for our melons. Keenly aware that thievery was often an issue once the harvest began to ripen, we used a couple of hours of guarding the field each day as our bargaining chip for melons. I proudly shared my earned melons with family and friends, which always seemed to be bigger and taste better than any of the other watermelons we indulged in each summer.
Back in the day (and mine goes way back), there were no seedless, mini or specialty watermelons, only colossal, juicy melons with a myriad of big black seeds. Surprisingly, there are very few traditional recipes using this large and abundant fruit, other than in beverages, frozen treats or salads. This is what first attracted me to this Italian watermelon pudding. The added bonus is that it’s easy to make, refreshing and not too sweet….
My fondness for panna cotta is that it is truly a rustic dessert in that it is simplicity exemplified, requiring only a few basic ingredients. It is the quality of these ingredients that can propel it to a ‘salt of the earth’ perfection, so each ingredient must be the freshest and best you can get. Purists feel panna cotta should be savored solely in its naked splendor, yet it’s delicate flavor and texture are the perfect medium for infusing or pairing with an endless array of flavors (as we have done in this recipe). Although there is no written reference to this dessert prior to the 1960’s, it has since attained the status of a traditional Italian dessert, leaving one only to imagine the legend and lore of this recipe to be that of an immaculate conception or closely guarded tradition, passed down orally, from one generation to the next. …
When the cherry season rolls around, I never seem to tire of making this quintessential French dessert of cherries baked in a cream and egg base. Truth be told, I also make it with bottled or frozen cherries, plums and other stone fruits, but there is something reminiscent, something deja vu for me, when making it with fresh cherries. Ridiculously easy to prepare and very forgiving, a bonus for the inexperienced baker, clafoutis was one of my first forays into baking solo as a pre-teen. The resulting baked dish is a beautifully rustic yet notably elegant dessert, a feat the French seem to pull off so well. The perfect dinner party dessert, clafoutis is a win-win dish, leaving your guests gratified and duly impressed with your culinary prowess and you feeling accomplished and content. Older than you, me or any living person, it is as modern today as it was in Limousin, France some 200-300 years ago when it was first created. Truly a “keeper”, this is my “go to” recipe for seasonal stone fruits, a dinner party dessert or something quick and easy that is still special enough for guests. …
It isn’t too often that I use ‘pre-made’ ingredients in the desserts we make, as I like making most everything from scratch. This dessert includes not one, but two ‘pre-made’ ingredients, Nutella and Biscoff cookies, both delightfully delicious on their own. Paired with an espresso mousse, this dessert becomes shamefully sublime and a top contender in the surreptitious world of guilty pleasures….