Strawberry Spoon Cake

There is a lot of (self-imposed!) pressure to use our beautiful freshly picked strawberries in the best possible way. 🙂 I have several treats that we make annually, but I try to select a few new things to make. I had my eye on this spoon cake after seeing it in the New York Times. I loved the name too! Spoon cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Jerrelle Guy. I doubled the strawberries and used a larger baking dish. I also weighed the ingredients, including the berries. I may bake it in a 10-inch cast iron skillet next time.

We ate it for dessert with vanilla ice cream. It could be served as a very special breakfast as well. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), melted, plus more for greasing
  • 10 ounces/290 grams (about 2 cups) fresh, hulled strawberries (or thawed frozen strawberries)
  • 2/3 cup/150 grams packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup/120 milliliters whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease an 8, 9, or 10-inch (square or round) baking dish with butter. Set aside. (I used a 10-inch round ceramic baking dish.)
  3. Using your hands or the back of a fork, lightly mash the berries to release all their juices, and stir in 1/3 cup of the brown sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, milk and salt.
  5. Add the flour and baking powder and continue whisking just until the batter is smooth.
  6. Transfer the batter (it’s not much) to the greased baking dish, and spread evenly into corners.
  7. Spoon the strawberries and all their juices over the top of the cake batter.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or just when a toothpick comes out clean in the center. (I baked mine for 22 minutes in a 10-inch round dish.)
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
  10. Serve warm with ice cream.

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.

Creamy Cucumber-Avocado Salad

This fabulously easy salad was creamy and delicious. We ate it as a side with grilled vegetable and fresh ricotta sandwiches, but it could also be served as a light summertime main dish.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used avocado mayonnaise, chipotle Cholula hot sauce, and cilantro. My kids thought that it tasted like guacamole. 🙂 Great.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 seedless cucumber (about 3/4 to 1 pound), washed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used avocado mayonnaise)
  • juice of half a lime, plus more to taste
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Chipotle Cholula, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  1. Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce; adjust to taste.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing and garnish with chopped herbs.

Cream of Fresh Pea Soup

I have one more green soup to share. This bright green soup screams “springtime” to me but it can be a wonderful summertime soup because it is also delicious served chilled. It is a classic soup in my house- I have made it for years using both fresh or frozen peas.

The fresh herbs provide the bright flavor in the finished soup. I have always incorporated fresh dill but I can imagine that it would also be delicious with basil or a combination of fresh herbs.

This recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Fast, healthy, and delicious.

Yield: 5 to 6 servings

  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
  • 4 cups peas, fresh (about 20 oz) or frozen
  • 1 cup milk (low-fat or soy okay)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T minced fresh dill, mint, basil, tarragon, parsley, and/or chives
  1. Melt the butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and salt, and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the stock/water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the peas, cover again, and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender.
  4. Purée the soup with the milk using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender, then return the purée to the pot.
  5. Reheat the soup very gently. Add the minced fresh herbs just prior to serving.

Note: This soup also tastes wonderful served at room temperature or chilled.

S’mores Blondies

I first made this crowd-pleasing dessert for our last summer beach day and sunset before the start of school. I’ve already made them again! Insanely delicious.

The bars are not overly sweet and they have an amazing texture. I weighed the dry ingredients to ensure perfection. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell. I modified the method. Fabulous!!

Yield: 24 blondies
  • nonstick cooking oil spray
  • 9 whole graham crackers (about 135 grams), or store-bought graham cracker crumbs (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ¼ cups/160 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 packed cup/220 grams dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces/225 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks (I used 78% cacao Lindt)
  • 2 ½ cups/150 grams mini marshmallows
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and arrange oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Coat the inside of a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of excess parchment on the long sides of the pan. (The excess will help you pull the blondies out later.)
  3. If using whole graham crackers, add them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they form a fine powder. Alternately, you could put the crackers in a large resealable plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin, then add them to the bowl. If using store-bought crumbs, add them directly to the food processor.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the crumbs, and pulse a few times to combine.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  7. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  8. Turn the mixer to low and add the graham crumb mixture and mix just to combine.
  9. Add about ¾ of the chocolate to the mixer and mix to incorporate.
  10. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Use damp hands or a small offset spatula to press the dough into an even layer.
  11. Bake on the lower rack until the bars are golden at the edges and the surface has a crackly appearance, 25 minutes on convection or about 30 minutes in a standard oven.
  12. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate on top of the marshmallows and return the pan to the top rack of the oven.
  13. Bake until the marshmallows have softened and are lightly toasted and the chocolate is melted and gooey, 10 to 14 minutes.
  14. Remove the pan from the oven. If any of the marshmallows have puffed up, use a toothpick or skewer to puncture them; they will deflate easily.
  15. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, 45 minutes.
  16. Using a thin knife, slide the blade between the blondies and the pan on the short sides of the pan, then use the parchment sling to carefully remove the blondies.
  17. Let cool another 10 minutes, then slice into 24 even pieces and serve.

Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Seared Halloumi & Sourdough Croutons

This is a great dish to make with wonderful September tomatoes. I used a blend of my CSA tomatoes with grape as well as Campari tomatoes. It may possibly be my daughter’s (and even my husband’s!) dream salad- loaded with tomatoes, cucumbers, sourdough and fried cheese?!?! It was well received. 🙂

The recipe was inspired by a Greek horiatiki salad and is also similar to an Italian panzanella. Incorporating halloumi cheese makes it hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main course. This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin.

Yield: 6 to 8 as an appetizer or side, 4 to 6 as a main course

For the Croutons:

  • 1 pound slightly stale sourdough or country bread, thickly sliced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the Salad:

  • 4 to 5 cups cucumber chunks, preferably thin-skinned, such as Kirby or Persian
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved, or ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks (I used a blend of orange cherry, grape, and Campari tomatoes)
  • 8 to 12 ounces halloumi cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 T thinly sliced red onion or scallions, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 3 T coarsely chopped fresh mint or basil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar, plus more as needed

To Make the Croutons:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut each slice of bread into 1-inch-wide strips. Tear each strip into 1-inch pieces, removing the crust as you go if it is very thick.
  3. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet (or use 2 sheets, if necessary to prevent crowding). Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Bake until golden brown and crunchy on the outside, 10 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet and turning the croutons halfway through so they brown evenly, and checking them every few minutes. (I baked mine for 12 minutes on convection.)
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning with a light sprinkling of salt, if needed. Let cool on the baking sheet.

To Make the Salad:

  1. In a colander in the sink, toss the cucumbers with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place a bag of ice cubes or an ice pack on top to chill and firm the cucumbers. Let drain while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Slice the halloumi about 1/4-inch thick, then cut into bite-size strips.
  4. Smash and peel the garlic cloves and combine with 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a measuring cup to steep.
  5. Pour off excess liquid from the bowl holding the tomatoes. Add drained cucumbers, red onion or scallions, fresh herbs and 2 tablespoons vinegar to tomatoes and toss well.
  6. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the extra-virgin olive oil, add the oil to tomatoes and mix well. (If desired, the salad can be made up until this point and refrigerated for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain off excess liquid in the bottom of the bowl before proceeding.)
  7. When ready to serve, add about half the croutons to the salad and toss so they can absorb the liquid.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar.
  9. Cook the halloumi: Line a plate with paper towels and lightly coat a nonstick skillet with extra-virgin olive oil. Heat oil over medium-high until rippling. Working in batches, cook the halloumi strips on both sides until golden-brown and crusty, about 1 minute per side. Remove to the plate to drain.
  10. Taste and add more croutons to salad as desired. (If there are too many, the salad will be starchy; too few, and it will be wet.)
  11. At the last minute, toss in the halloumi, mix gently and serve immediately. (If desired, transfer to a clean bowl or platter for serving.)

Velvety Corn Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Swirl

I have another fresh corn dish to share. 🙂 This wonderful soup was buttery and luxurious. The beautiful swirl of roasted red peppers puréed with Fresno chiles and smoked paprika gave the finished dish the perfect amount of heat. It is a great late summer dish to serve as the evening temperatures begin to drop.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I modified the proportions and puréed the soup in a Vitamix and omitted pressing it through a sieve. I used chicken stock, but the original recipe also includes instructions to make corn-cob broth to use as an alternative. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 3 fresh Fresno chiles, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika) or 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 4 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 6 large ears) or 4 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 4 1/2 cups water, corn-cob broth (see below) or chicken stock, plus more to adjust consistency
  • Lime wedges, for garnish, optional
  1. Place bell peppers on an aluminum foil lined, rimmed baking sheet under broiler and roast, turning frequently with tongs, until blackened and blistered all over, about 5 minutes per side. (Alternatively, the peppers can also be charred over an open gas flame.)
  2. Remove from heat, wrap in the aluminum foil pan lining (to steam off the charred skin), and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Cut in each in half vertically. With a paring knife, remove seeds from each half, then turn over and peel away the blackened skin. Do not rinse; a little remaining char is fine. Reserve one half for another use.
  4. Transfer 3 halves of roasted pepper to a blender or food processor and add Fresno chiles, pimentón, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth purée. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  6. Add onions and corn kernels to the melted butter. Season well with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium. Cooking, stirring, until onions are softened and beginning to color, 7 to 8 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  8. Add 4 1/2 cups water or stock/broth and salt to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, until corn is well cooked.
  9. Transfer to a blender or Vitamix and whiz to a smooth purée. Thin with additional water or stock/broth to the consistency of heavy cream, as desired. (I did not add any additional stock.)
  10. If using a Vitamix, purée soup at the highest setting for one minute to ensure a velvety smooth purée. (If using a blender or food processor, pass soup through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with the back of a large spoon or ladle to extract every drop of liquid. (This step is important to guarantee a velvety texture.) Discard any fibrous remains.)
  11. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  12. To serve, reheat and ladle into shallow soup bowls. Swirl about 2 tablespoons pepper purée into the center of each bowl. Pass lime wedges at the table, as desired.

To Make Corn-Cob Broth: put 8 cups water in a large saucepan. Add 6 corn cobs, cut into 3-inch chunks; 1 small onion, sliced; and a small sprig or two of thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain. Make broth up to 24 hours in advance.

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