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Summer Daze

The best kind of pizza!

Despite the pandemic daze I often find myself in, being cooped up has reignited a flame in my cooking life, using seasonal ingredients in imaginative ways. My over-grown garden of veggies nudged my palate to explore new tastes and combinations that permeated further into Italian bread, stone fruit, and a deep dive into wood-fired oven cooking.

My garden is delivering cucumbers, zucchini, and basil in abundance as I anticipate the ripening of my favorite member of the garden club, the San Marzano tomato. Eating zucchini every night can be tiresome. Still, I find great pleasure in a sliced zucchini, drizzled with lemon olive oil and grilled or zucchini tucked into foil packets of shallots and basil, to be topped with fresh fish, and ready for the BBQ. 

Fragrant, juicy peaches have been my obsession, making peach cobbler, peach and cucumber salad, peach ice cream, and peach with ricotta on toast. I love peaches and wish the season lasted longer!

Bread baking is still part of my life, now using olives or walnuts in the dough and also learning to make focaccia. Our last batch of focaccia with rosemary was so good, it was as if an angel from heaven descended and anointed its spongy texture, and salty, herbal taste. Irresistible.

My friend, Chris, has a stunning wood-fired oven in his backyard, and after baking pizza one night, I convinced him that we could make a complete meal in the oven the next night while the fire was still hot. Lemon chicken, Italian white beans, summer veggies, and focaccia sizzled side by side. I felt like I was back in Italy, my other love. 

Here’s a sampling of what Chris and I have been formulating and happily eating. Perhaps one of these photos will inspire you to capture the mid-summer harvest in new and delicious ways. 

My favorite fish dinners this summer.

Ready for the BBQ. Halibut on top of zucchini, lemon olive oil, basil, and tomatoes.

Lunch of fresh prawns, poke, and grilled veggies.

A great French tradition – Ratatouille!

Garden fresh and luscious.

Plums and apricots in a frangipane base. So delectable!

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My bread learning curve – French Country and Focaccia.

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Cocktail of the month: Aviation

A summer cooler – introducing The Aviation.

My favorite – Caprese.

Chris’ Caprese. Belissimo!

My Caprese. Delightful!

Breakfast of champions! Sourdough waffles with apricots and cherries and honeyed ricotta on homemade bread topped with peaches and thyme.

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Peach magic. Peaches, cucumbers, rice vinegar, mint, and basil complement pork tenderloin.

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Wood-fired dinner extraordinaire.

Wood-fired dinner of lemon chicken, Italian white beans, and grilled zucchini.

Essential tools of the kitchen.

An antique gift from my Aunt Barb. I love making pesto in this beauty!

 

Delight in each day!

“When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.”
Gwyneth Paltrow

Ciao for now!

 




Peachy Keen

My very favorite summer dessert.

I’ve always had a thing for peaches. I think it’s because my mom said when she was pregnant with me, she craved them. This love must have been passed along in utero because I too, delight in the season of stone fruit.
Every summer at the beach, we would excavate the old-fashioned, wooden sided hand crank ice cream maker and churn out quarts of fragrant peach ice cream, our favorite flavor. We took turns cranking the handle till our arms ached, all the while anticipating the best part – licking the paddle. It was a summer ritual.
Besides ice cream, peaches consumed our summertime baking activities: peach jam, peach pie, and my personal favorite, peach kuchen. I don’t know where the recipe for peach kuchen came from but I’ve been making it for over 45 years and still love it as much as I did as a teenager. Maybe it brings back fond memories of those care-free summers, swimming for hours in the warm ocean by day and baking with peaches by night.

Sweet and juicy ripe peaches from the farmer’s market, the best kind, are the foundation for my Peach Kuchen. The recipe comes together easily as there is no dough to roll out, just a crumble that you pat into the bottom and sides of a pan. Slice peaches on top and sprinkle with sugar. A top sour cream layer adds depth of flavor when paired with the juicy peaches and buttery crust. It is irresistible and great for breakfast too!

Peachy Keen
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Note: Although this recipe is called a “Kuchen,” it is not the typical German yeast dough Kuchen. It must be a modification perhaps by my grandmother.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 Cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 oz. butter or 1 stick, cold and cut into ½” cubes
  • 5-6 ripe peaches – I leave the skin on
  • ¾ Cup sugar, more or less depending on the peaches and your sweet tooth
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • hearty sprinkling of grated nutmeg

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut butter in with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Pat into the bottom of a 7 X 11” pan.
  3. Slice peaches and arrange over crust.
  4. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over peaches.
  5. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn oven down to 325.
  6. Meantime, combine the yolks and sour cream. Stir in the nutmeg or you can sprinkle it on top of the custard mixture.
  7. Pour the sour cream custard mixture evenly over the peaches.
  8. Bake another 30 minutes or until crust is brown and custard is set.
  9. Serve warm or cold.
  10. Makes about 8 servings.

An apple is an excellent thing – until you have tried a peach.
George du Maurier
Ciao for now!