Nectarine & Blueberry Tart

I especially loved this beautiful tart because in addition to being delicious, it is made with a flaky and buttery press-in crust and a cheesecake-like no-bake filling. Nice shortcuts! I topped it with my favorite summer fruit- white nectarines. The original recipe uses peaches which would also be fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. The chilled temperature and brightness from lemon zest made it very refreshing.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low; add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).
  4. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch square tart pan or a 9- or 10-inch round tart pan, with a removable bottom.
  5. Dock bottom at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
  6. Place on rimmed baking sheet or pizza tin, and bake until golden brown and set, 23 to 33 minutes. Let cool completely. (Crust can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.)
  7. Beat together cream cheese, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until creamy.
  8. With mixer running, slowly add cream and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups.)
  9. Spread mixture into crust; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  10. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel peaches/nectarines, if desired; cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. (I left the peels intact.)
  11. Transfer to a bowl and stir in berries and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  12. Just before serving, spoon macerated fruit over tart and drizzle some of juice from bowl over it. (I used all of the juice!)
  13. Sprinkle with mint, if desired, and serve.

Lee Brothers’ Pimento Cheese

My friend served delicious pimento cheese sandwiches recently- reminding me how much I enjoy them. 🙂 Eating them also reminded me that I wanted to try this version from Charleston, South Carolina.

The recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by the Lee Brothers. I used Cabot 3-year sharp cheddar cheese. I served it on the Fourth of July as a dip with crackers and pita chips. Alternatively, it could be used to fill about 4 sandwiches. Easy and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated with a food processor or hand grater (not pre-grated)
  • 1/4 cup softened cream cheese (2 ounces), pulled into several pieces
  • scant 1/2 cup jarred pimento or other roasted red peppers (from a 7-ounce jar), finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons Duke’s, Hellmann’s or other high-quality store-bought mayonnaise (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese in an even layer.
  2. Scatter the cream cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise and chile flakes over the cheddar cheese.
  3. Using a spatula, mix the pimento cheese until it is smooth and spreadable, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pimento cheese to a plastic container or bowl, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve as a sandwich spread or as a dip.

Note: Pimento cheese keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Vanilla-Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

I have had my eye on a couple of easy sheet cake recipes. My indecisiveness led me to combine them. 😉 It was a successful combination! This cake was moist and delicious.

The simple vanilla cake is from Food 52, from their book Genius Desserts, contributed by Jami Curl. It was proposed to serve it topped with strawberry compote & butterscotch whipped cream. I included these original topping recipes below- just to keep my options open.

The frosting recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It was originally from an easy sheet cake recipe with a “reverse creaming” technique. Of course, I’ll have to try this cake as well at some point. 🙂

For the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 T plus 2 tsp (20 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (227 g) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) canola oil
  • 1 T (18 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) boiling water

For the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • sprinkles, for garnish, optional

To Make the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper. Spray with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream with a fork, mixing until smooth. Add the oil and vanilla and use the fork to mix until they’re incorporated. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and continue to stir until the dry ingredients are mostly incorporated. The batter will turn very thick.
  5. Add the boiling water and stir until the batter is smooth and uniform with no traces of unmixed ingredients remaining.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners.
  7. Bake the cake for 35 (to be safe- check even earlier) to 40 minutes, until it’s golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To Make the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Make icing while cake cools.
  2. Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add powdered sugar, sifted cocoa powder, and salt and beat again, scraping down sides of bowl, until completely smooth.
  4. Add vanilla and continue to beat until fluffy and lightened in color, another minute.
  5. Smooth icing over top of cooled cake (it should not be at all warm to the touch, or else the icing will melt).
  6. Top cake with sprinkles, if desired.
  7. Cut into pieces and serve.

Do Ahead: Cake can be baked and frosted 2 days ahead. Chill until icing is solid, then cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For the Alternate Cake Toppings:

For the Strawberry Compote & Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  • 4 cups (600 grams) frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups (800 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (480 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup (72 grams) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (12 grams) pure vanilla extract

To Make the Strawberry Compote:

  1. Combine the strawberries and vinegar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is soft and has released some juice.
  2. Add the granulated sugar 1 cup (200 grams) at a time, stirring between additions until the sugar disappears.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and bring the fruit and sugar to a boil. Boil for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the compote cool before using.

To Make the Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  1. Chill a bowl and a whisk.
  2. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the brown sugar and vanilla.
  3. Whisk the cream until stiff-ish peaks form. Take care that you don’t turn it into butter by overwhipping.(You can use a mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the cream.)
  4. Use immediately.

To Serve the Vanilla Sour-Cream Cake with Compote & Whipped Cream: **Two Options:

Option 1: Spoon the Strawberry Compote over the cake. Top the compote with the Butterscotch Whipped Cream, using the back of a spoon to give it some pretty swirls.

Option 2: Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled cake out of the pan. Cut the cake into 12 equal pieces. Spoon some Strawberry Compote over each piece. Top with a generous dollop of Butterscotch Whipped Cream.

Note: The Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake will keep, tightly covered at room temperature, for several days. Once assembled with the Strawberry Compote and Butterscotch Whipped Cream, plan to enjoy this cake the day you assemble it. That said, if you cover and refrigerate it, it will not disappoint the next day or the day after that. Especially for breakfast.

Exceptionally Creamy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I have made many tried and true dinners and desserts during this quarantine period- more than usual. I was surprised to realize that I’ve never posted our gold standard and absolute favorite ice cream. This is it. 🙂

The recipe is from Food and Wine, contributed by Jeni Britton. I have made it for years! According to the recipe, the ice cream is exceptionally creamy from the inclusion of cornstarch to help thicken the base and cream cheese to make it more scoop-able. I confirm the results. Fabulous.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.  (I use a stainless steel bowl.)
  4. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean and seeds.
  5. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the vanilla flavors the milk, about 4 minutes.
  6. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  7. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.
  8. Whisk in the salt.
  9. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.
  10. Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (I churn it in the ice cream maker for 25 to 30 minutes.)
  11. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container or loaf pan.
  12. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid or with additional plastic wrap.
  13. Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

Note: 1 tablespoon of Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste can be substituted for the split vanilla bean.

Sunflower Birthday Cake (Yellow Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting & Oreo Filling)

My baby celebrated her 13th birthday last week. I officially have two teenagers in my house!

She requested a yellow-themed celebration. Yellow is indeed her favorite color, but I think that it was also an excuse to have vanilla Oreos and goldfish crackers around to nibble on. 😉 Our decor included yellow mums, yellow balloons, yellow streamers, yellow tablecloths and place settings, and “yellowish” birthday cake popcorn. We also had a yellow cake with yellow (sunflower-themed) cream cheese frosting and pale yellow number cookies, our family birthday tradition. It was a solid theme!

The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake. There was enough frosting for the layer cake and 12 cupcakes- perfect.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake, generously frosted

For the Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 cups) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
  • vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
  5. With the mixture still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added.
  6. Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, about 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  9. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. (about 1 lb plus 2.5 oz per pan) Spread to the sides of the pans and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
  11. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 27 minutes. The cakes will mound slightly but will level when cooled.
  12. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  13. Run a knife around the pan perimeter to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate and reinvert onto another wire rack. Repeat for the other layer. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling & Sunflower Design:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor, plus more for the center of the cake sunflower
  • yellow and green gel food coloring
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup icing for the green leaves, set aside.
  6. Tint the remaining icing pale yellow with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Remove 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
  8. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  9. Place the second layer on top.
  10. Cover cake with a crumb coat and chill briefly, if necessary before continuing.
  11. Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the pale yellow icing.
  12. Tint the remaining icing deeper “sunflower yellow.” Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip.
  13. Tint the leaf icing deep green. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip and pipe onto 3 areas of the outside of the cake, or as desired.
  14. Then, starting at the outer edge of the cake, begin piping the dark yellow flower petals. Work in circles moving toward the center of the cake.
  15. When about 3 rows are complete, place a dollop of the dark yellow icing in the center and form the center of the flower with mini-Oreos. (It seemed easier to start by placing the first Oreo in the center.)
  16. Fill the gap between the last piped row of petals and the center by piping an additional row of petals.
  17. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

BTW- If you thought that was enough… we had another celebration that required another dessert- this time yellow cupcakes with yellow (also sunflower) frosting. We do love our celebrations and yellow cake over here!

Yellow Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. It’s just fun to dress up… and candy is involved. 🙂

She had two friends over for a Halloween themed “dinner party” a couple of weeks ago. I made these moist and delicious cupcakes for dessert. I was very pleased when she announced that they were the best cupcakes she’s ever had! ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It is part of a list named BA’s Best, a collection of essential recipes. I halved the cupcake recipe and doubled the frosting ratio.

We decorated them with candy eyes and sprinkles to make them festive for the occasion. They decorated caramel apples in the same fashion. Fun and tasty.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 T cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2 T pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla extract
  1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection. (If doubling the recipe, arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.)
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk, and oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
  5. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
  6. Add egg mixture to flour mixture in 2 additions, beating well between additions.
  7. Continue to beat on medium speed until mixture is homogenous and very thick, about 2 minutes.
  8. Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling two-thirds full (a level ⅓ cup batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake 5 minutes in the preheated 400° oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  10. Continue baking, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes have domed and spring back when touched in the center, 14 (on convection for 12 cupcakes) or up to 20-25 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Note: If doubling the cupcake recipe, use 7 egg yolks plus 1 large egg.

Do Ahead: Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature (unfrosted) or in the refrigerator (frosted).

For the Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Pipe the frosting on cupcakes.
Note: The frosting recipe can be halved if it’s going to be spread instead of piped onto the cupcakes.

Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

With the sunshine and warmer weather, an Easter weekend tradition in our house is to celebrate our love (and the food!) of the beautiful South Carolina Low Country. I usually serve a version of the classic Low Country dish, Shrimp and Grits, but, this year tried this scallop and cauliflower grits adaptation. We absolutely loved it!

This recipe was adapted from Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef, via Sur la Table.com. I puréed the vegetables instead of juicing them for the sauce, used riced cauliflower, and doubled the garlic. Amazing.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

For the Cauliflower Grits:

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds riced cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

For the Scallops:

  • 2 medium whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 16 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the Cauliflower Grits: In the microwave, steam the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, or until very tender.
  2. Combine the steamed cauliflower with Parmesan, garlic, and enough cream cheese to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Prepare the Scallops: Combine the tomatoes, pepper and carrot in a Vitamix, food processor, or blender. Puree.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to pan in one layer. Sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove scallops to a platter.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil to skillet.
  8. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  10. Slowly whisk in puréed vegetables and bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. To serve: Serve scallops on top of cauliflower grits with sauce spooned on top. Garnish with scallions and extra black pepper, as desired.

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