an ode to shortbread

world's best shortbread cookiesWhen I was a girl, shortbread were standard issue in my mom’s Christmas cookie offering. Hers were tiny snowballs, studded with toasty, resinous walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar—the unassuming but delicious backbone of the cookie tin.

Perhaps because of this, I always imagined shortbread as the elegant adult of the Christmas cookie party—unfussy, subtly sweet, full of really good butter, and delicately cooked to blonde. 

My favourite shortbread is the roll-and-cut variety. There’s something smart but playful about choosing a shape—a star, Christmas tree, snowflake, diamond—and making dozens of identical snappy cookies to stack high and dust with powdered sugar, like snow.

I also favour a lightly-sugared shortbread that straddles the line between sweet and savoury. My preferred recipe uses a scant 1/2 cup sugar for four-dozen cookies, and can be coaxed further into the sweet realm with the aforementioned dusting of snow.

My preferred flavour combination is a holy trinity of orange zest, crushed hazelnut and pink peppercorn, which is just savoury enough and gives a moment of pause as you tease out the different notes. The peppercorn infuses the dough gently, providing a nice background warmpth, while the citrus pops and the hazelnut lends heft.

That said, the nut + spice + fruit formula is endlessly adaptable. Other combinations to try:

  • pistachio + green cardamom + orange
  • coconut + saffron + lime
  • walnut + lavender + lemon
  • pine nut + rosemary + Meyer lemon
  • almond + dried cherry + candied ginger
  • pecan + thyme + dried cranberry

Shortbreads always find a way into my cookie tins. I hope this sweet-savoury take on the tradition inspires your own.

world's best shortbread cookies

Orange Hazelnut Pink Peppercorn Shortbread

Makes about 4-dozen small cutout cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts (or other nut)
  • zest of 1 large orange, about 1 Tbsp (or other zest)
  • 1 tsp crushed pink peppercorn (or other spice)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
  • powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a food processor, combine hazelnuts, sugar, orange zest, peppercorn and vanilla extract. Pulse until hazelnuts are finely chopped. Add flour and pulse further to combine.

Add butter to processor a few pieces at a time, pulsing to combine. The resulting mixture will be mealy and likely will not stick together, depending on your ambient humidity.

Transfer dough to a large bowl and knead until smooth and held together. If the dough will not come together, add water in 1 teaspoon increments until combined, but this is likely unnecessary. 

Divide dough in half. If storing for later, wrap in cling film and allow to come up to temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling.

On a floured surface, roll dough portions to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out with desired shapes.

Place cookies 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Chill sheets in freezer for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake for about 12 minutes until bottoms are barely sandy in colour. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

If desired, dust the cooled cookies with powdered sugar.

alternate method to cut shortbread

Tips for Successful Shortbread

  1. Don’t fret if the dough feels a bit dry and crumbly, just knead a bit more. This is preferable to adding water for a tender-crumbed cookie.
  2. Minimize re-rolling by maximizing the cuts you make in the dough. I try not to re-roll dough more than once, as the extra flour lends tough cookies. Instead, I suggest slicing your final pass into a diamond or square shape (instead of an odd-shaped cookie cutter) to minimize wasted dough (see photo above).
  3. For even baking and minimal spread, pop your cookie sheet (with raw cookies on it) in the freezer for five minutes before baking.
  4. Light evenly-coloured shortbread are preferred. If yours are darkening too quickly, reduce oven temperature to 3oo°F.

Related

gingerbread for days

cranberry gingerbread recipeIn our house, holiday season hits when all things gingerbread emerge from the oven. I blame my childhood and a mom with a tooth for finely-aged fruitcakes and all desserts molasses-based and warmly-spiced. The headiness of gingerbread is the harbinger of Christmastime.

Through the years, I’ve amassed a steady repertoire of gingerbread recipes. This Melissa Clark recipe from the New York Times was a longtime standby, but last year I realized it uses too much sugar (for my preferences), which in turn masks the cranberry that should pop against a sweetly spiced cake.

I began the quest for my ultimate gingerbread.

This ultimate gingerbread is moist, tender-crumbed, soaringly high and springy, a bit sticky, and rich with molasses and spice. In my efforts to build a perfect recipe, I went through several and compared many traditional versions, eventually landing a hybridized recipe that resembles most closely this excellent Joy the Baker gingerbread. My version nixes the frosting in favour of a sticky cranberry layer, further refines the sweeteners and spices used and modifies the baking approach.

Having made it a couple times now, I will proclaim this gingerbread a Christmastime keeper. It meets all above criteria and keeps improving as it ages. Make it now for dessert tonight or breakfast tomorrow or a dinner party this weekend.

Orange-Scented Upside-Down Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

Makes one towering (about 2.5-inches high) 9-inch round cake

Ingredients

For the cranberry caramel layer

  • 1 12-oz (3 cup) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp medium brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch fine sea salt

For the cake

  • 2.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • zest of one large orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses (learn about the different types of molasses)
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup, golden syrup or other neutral liquid sweetener
  • 3/4 c hot (not boiling) water

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a 9-inch round springform pan, by buttering it and lining bottom with parchment paper.

Prepare the sugar*: in a large bowl, combine granulated sugar and orange zest, pressing the zest into the sugar to fragrance it and release the oils.

Prepare the cranberry layer: in a small saucepan, bring butter and brown sugar to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, add salt and cinnamon and spread into bottom of prepared pan. Arrange cranberries over caramel in one layer.

Prepare the dry ingredients: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

Prepare the wet ingredients: to your sugar/zest bowl, add oil and eggs and whisk until thick and pale. Stir in the molasses and agave syrup.

Add dry ingredients to wet, stirring well to combine.

Gently add the hot water** to the batter until fully incorporated and silky smooth. Your batter will seem quite loose, but worry not!

Gently pour batter over the cranberry layer, taking care not to disturb the berries.

Bake cake on centre oven rack and check after 45 minutes or so. The top should be springy and a toothpick inserted at several places should come out clean. My cakes typically took about 50 minutes total to bake.

Allow cake to cool completely. Run a knife around the outside and remove the springform. Invert onto a serving platter cranberry-side up, remove the parchment layer and serve.

This cake is excellent on day one, but only continues to develop in flavour and texture. I love it most on day three. It will keep, tightly wrapped in a cool space, for about a week. Pieces freeze well, wrapped in clingfilm and foil, and can be defrosted for later enjoyment.

Notes

*I picked up this technique for citrus zest years ago. In short, whenever you’re using zest in a recipe that calls for sugar, take the time to work the zest into the sugar. It releases the essential oils and maximizes the aroma.

**From my research, adding hot water to a cake right before baking is an unusual technique central to many traditional gingerbread recipes. While I was unable to locate where this started or why, from my trials, it seems to help activate the baking soda and produce a springy, tender-crumbed, high-profile cake.

Related

squash, sweet & savoury

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetIt’s that time of year when our household comes into more apples and squashes than we can immediately enjoy (see above photo, week after week…), so we get to work incorporating them into preparations we will enjoy through the fall and winter.

Both of these recipes (one sweet, one savoury) use up a good amount of apples and firm, meaty squash (think: pie pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash). They also are perfect to freeze for later enjoyment.

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetSweet: Apple-Cranberry-Pumpkin Breakfast Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins

These little muffins are deep, dense and kept moist with pockets of apple and cranberry. The pumpkin seeds and raw sugar add great textural contrast. They’re hearty and chockfull of wholesome ingredients for a weekday breakfast — this isn’t cake (not that cake for breakfast is ever wrong…!).

The muffins keep well covered at room temperature or in the fridge. Or, wrap them tightly in clingfilm to freeze for later enjoyment.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • 0.5 c allpurpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, brought to room temp
  • 1/4 c raw sugar
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 c canned or fresh cooked squash flesh (think: pie pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash)
  • 1 large apple, peeled and cored, cubed (to the same size as cranberries)
  • 1 c cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 c raw pumpkin seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit. Prepare your muffin tins, either with liners or butter and flour.

In a large bowl, prep dry ingredients: whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.

In a smaller blow, prep wet ingredients: Cream together butter and raw sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and maple syrup. Fold in pumpkin.

Add wet ingredients to dry (don’t over-mix!). Fold in the apple chunks and cranberries.

Fill prepared muffin tins two-thirds, and liberally sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and raw sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450° Fahrenheit*, turn down the heat to 400° Fahrenheit and bake for a further 7 minutes or so, until golden and a toothpick inserted in several places comes clean.

Cool the muffins in tin for about five minutes, then transfer to a rack.

*I use this method of high temperature coupled with a quick cook time to ensure a fluffy, tall muffin, even with 75% whole wheat flour at its base. Cooked at lower temperatures, whole wheat-flour dominant muffin and loaf recipes tend to fall flat as they cool and look a bit sad.

img_1307Savoury: Roasted Apple, Sweet Onion & Acorn Squash Soup with Apple Relish

Makes six 1.5 cup portions

This soup is a bit more special than your everyday squash soup thanks to the addition of apples and high-heat roasting of all the vegetables before they take a swim in the broth base. The relish is totally optional, but a spoonful adds a bit of crunch and zing to liven up the rich soup.

The soup portions and freezes beautifully for up to six months.

Ingredients

For the soup

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 large apples, cored and cubed (skin is okay)
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • about 20 sage leaves
  • ~4 Tbsp olive oil (for roasting)
  • 1 litre stock (we use homemade chicken stock, but any ol’ stock works)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • Allspice, nutmeg, pepper and salt, to taste

For the relish

  • 1 medium apple, cored and finely diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4c cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 6 sage leaves, chiffonaded
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 4o0° Fahrenheit.

On a lined sheet pan, coat the squash halves with oil, prick with a fork and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg.

On a separate lined sheet pan or baking dish, toss the apples, onion and sage with oil and salt, and arrange tightly.

Bake both pans at once until vegetables are golden and meltingly tender, about 40 minutes (watch closely, as ovens vary!)

Meanwhile, gently heat stock in a large saucepan (suitable size for the entire soup recipe).

To the soup stock, add all the roasted vegetables, including the sage and residual juices (peel the acorn squash from its skin first — apple skins are okay).

Let mixture come to a simmer — the vegetables will break down after about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make relish by combining all ingredients in an acid-safe bowl, testing for salt. Set aside.

Remove soup from heat and let cool slightly before blitzing with an immersion blender to your desired texture — I like a smooth soup, but this is delicious chunky as well.

Taste (and taste again!) for salt levels. It probably will need a good pinch!

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with spoonfuls of relish.

Related

 

apples & honey

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For as long as memory persists, I have welcomed the season with a salted honey apple cake.

It most likely started back in 2008, when I stumbled on a gorgeous Smitten Kitchen recipe, Deb’s now-famous Mom’s Apple Cake, which she acknowledges is not her mom’s alone, but the cake of many moms and many kitchens, a simple recipe passed down over time on grease-spotted index cards from mother to daughter.

My tradition took on new meaning when I met my would-be husband. The apple cake is also a frequent part of the Rosh Hashanah table, using oil in place of butter, plus (in my version, honey and) apples, important symbols of the holiday. Austin was raised Jewish, and while we don’t observe religion as a family, it’s been meaningful to incorporate the cultural traditions of his childhood alongside my own growing up in a Greek Orthodox home, to make our own misfit (but nonetheless meaningful) family rituals.

img_1113

img_1140

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

This cake uses the simplest of pantry staples—flour, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, eggs… made tender by pounds (and pounds!) of apples—so many apples you’re certain the cake will never bake. But indeed it does, a whole 80 minutes later, and you’re left with a dense, moist, apple-studded cake with so much heft that it feeds dozens for days.

Over the years, I’ve tweaked and fussed with Deb’s recipe and have come to a version of my own, unique enough to be renamed as Salted Honey Apple Cake. Deb doesn’t use honey, whereas I toss the apples in honey instead of sugar, with a good pinch of sea salt (thus the salted); add lots of fresh nutmeg (the Greek in me can never resist—traditions merging!); substitute apple cider for the orange juice; and bake the cake for about 80 minutes in a 9×13-inch pan for easy slicing and eating (the original recipe uses a bundt, but I am most fond of sheet cakes…)

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The cake is fantastic in a number of ways—it’s deeply forgiving, so you don’t have to be precise with measurements or quantities; it uses up all the apples you picked when you were overzealous at the pick-your-own orchard; it’s a hit at the office, as it slices and eats like a dream; and since it makes so much darn cake, you can easily freeze hunks in tinfoil for later snacking (it freezes and defrosts perfectly). A piece (or two) also makes a pretty great breakfast alongside a strong cup of tea.

I can’t imagine Octobers without this cake on our table, sweetly welcoming a new season and a new year.

20819346903_11723ac199_b

Salted Honey Apple Cake

Makes a heavy, dense 9×13-inch cake (about two inches deep). Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Mom’s Apple Cake.

Ingredients

For the apples

  • 6 large apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like honeycrisp or McIntosh)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 5 Tbsp honey

For the cake

  • 2 3/4 cups allpurpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c apple cider
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large or 5 regular eggs

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and line with parchment a 9×13′ pan.

Toss apple chunks in a large bowl with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and a pinch of sea salt. Set aside to do their thing.

Mix dry ingredients: in your largest mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mix wet ingredients: in a smaller bowl, whisk together oil, apple cider, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, scraping and getting to the bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is well incorporated.

Prepare the batter: Spread half of batter into your prepared pan. Arrange half of apples over it, pressing gently into the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the rest of the apples on top, along with any juices that have pooled off.

Bake the cake for about 80 minutes. The cake will be deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into several places (make sure you test several areas, as raw batter likes to hide in this cake!) should come out clean.

Cool the cake completely before gently lifting from the pan using the parchment and slicing into squares.

Just to point out how foolproof this cake is—the photos above are all from different years, and you can see it bakes up reliably each time! (Though each year, I manage to cram in a few more apples…)

Related

that glut of zucchini

IMG_8640
Here it comes. That glut of zucchini. It’s finally midsummer when the farmshare box tumbles over with the stuff and it arrives in great heaps to the market.

Zucchini overabundance can feel like a challenge — how to eat it all up before it spoils, without resorting to tossing slices on the grill every single night. Over the years, we’ve come to a few reliable and surprising ways to use up excess zucchini that are delicious and offer variety.

I’m sharing three of those recipes here — two savoury and one sweet — in case you’re elbow-deep in summer squashes and debating how you’ll possibly eat another.
stewed zucchini with golden raisins

Stewed zucchini with golden raisins

Serves four as a side, or a generous portion of pasta sauce. 

I’ve been making this sauce for nearly a decade. It’s the perfect summer side: sweet and salty, savoury, creamy and adaptable. It’s also versatile — use it as a pasta sauce with a dusting of cheese, straight from the pan as a side to chicken or pork, or cold and spooned over crostini as an easy appetizer. It’s a great recipe for when you really do have an excess of zucchini as it allows you to use a whole lot in one go.

Ingredients

  • 4 c zucchini, grated
  • 1/3 c golden raisins
  • 3-4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ample salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmigiano-Regianno, for grating, to taste

Method

Cook the zucchini: Heat olive oil over medium in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add zucchini and garlic and cook about five minutes, until the zucchini starts to break down. Add the raisins and a generous amount of salt and pepper, tasting as you go.

Let it do its thing: Continue cooking about 10 minutes total, until the zucchini is soft, the raisins plump and a lot of the excess liquid evaporated. The mixture should be tender and almost creamy (as in the photo).

Serve: Over pasta, alone, on toasts or as a side. Top generously with grated Parmigiano-Regianno, or another hard cheese.

Tip: If your zucchini has let out a lot of water, making the mixture too liquidy, quickly turn up the burner heat to high and stir constantly to evaporate the excess liquid. This happens with some larger squashes with high water content.

IMG_8656Savoury zucchini fritters

Makes six 3-inch diameter fritters. 

These little fritters (pancakes) have crunchy outsides and a creamy interior. They’re addictive alone or with a big dollop of Greek yogurt.

The biggest error I’ve seen with recipes for vegetable-based fritters or pancakes is not expelling enough water content. Whether you’re making latkes or sweet potato pancakes or these delicate zucchini fritters, it’s important to ensure a significant portion of water is removed through salting and draining. If the batter is too watery, the finished product is loose, comes apart in the pan and doesn’t brown.

This recipe doubles and triples beautifully, if you’re feeding a crowd or want to make extras to reheat for weekday breakfasts.

Ingredients

  • 2 c shredded zucchini
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/3 c white onion, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp herbs, finely chopped (I most often use tarragon and mint)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes or cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/3 c allpurpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • black pepper and salt, to taste
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Method

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the zucchini: Over a colander, shred the zucchini. Mix in 1/2 tsp salt and let stand for about 10 minutes. Over the sink, grab handfuls of zucchini and wring out in paper towels until dry. You will remove about half of the liquid from the zucchini and it will feel dry to the touch. 

Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, combine prepared zucchini, grated garlic, white onion, herbs, chili flakes, egg, flour and baking powder. Season generously with black pepper and salt.

Fry the fritters: In a shallow nonstick pan, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Place 3 Tbsp mounds of batter into pan (don’t crowd) and cook three minutes per side until golden. As the fritters fry, rest them in your preheated oven on parchment-lined tray allowing them to cook through — about 10 minutes. Repeat in batches until all fritters are cooked.

Serve the fritters: Serve stacks of fritters solo or garnished with sour cream or Greek yogurt. 

IMG_8682Cocoa espresso zucchini bread

Makes 1 standard-size loaf tin; recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

Zucchini and cocoa are one of those magical pairings. Add a shot of espresso and it takes the combination over the top.

This lightly-sweet quick bread uses a whole two cups of zucchini for one standard loaf, giving it incredible tenderness. I use about half whole wheat flour, as I love the density it provides. Sometimes I add chopped walnuts for textural contrast and resinous nuttiness that offsets the cocoa and grassy zucchini.

Because this bread is so moist, it keeps well wrapped in the fridge to slice off hunks through the week — for breakfast or snacks. I love it cold. Individual slices wrapped tightly in cling film also freeze well for defrosting and eating later on.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c allpurpose flour
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2c unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 shot espresso
  • 2 c zucchini, grated
  • Optional: 1/4 c chopped walnuts

Method

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9×5′ standard loaf pan with parchment.

Prepare dry ingredients: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, nutmeg and salt (and, optionally, the walnuts).

Prepare wet ingredients: In a stand-mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs, until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the melted butter, espresso and vanilla extract. Fold in the shredded zucchini.

Make batter: Add dry ingredients to wet in three additions, stirring to combine after each addition. Don’t over-mix! Turn batter into prepared loaf pan. If desired, top with more chopped walnuts.

Bake: Bake for approx. 50 minutes to one hour until a toothpick inserted into the densest part of the loaf comes out with very little batter residue and the top of the loaf is springy. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for about five minutes. Tug gently at parchment paper to lift out the loaf and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: Let the bread cool completely before slicing, to maintain its structural integrity. It slices best with a serrated knife.

Related

A guide to uncomplicated meal planning for two

Choosing and using a farmshare (CSA) service

Three plum cakes (and a plum bbq sauce!)

Two perfect summer fruit desserts

My favourite way to use garlic scapes

An archive of meals from the Lovey Kitchen

See what we’re cooking this week

a big tapsi

20598957370_af65ae7d89_bOn the island, during the summers, YiaYia (my paternal grandmother) would always have a big tapsi (pan) of something stewing, braising or simmering over the low flame of her gas stove. Maybe it was gemista (stuffed vegetables) or faki (braised lentils) or gigantes (tomato-ey broad beans). Dozens of dishes from that stove live in my memory and heart and hands.

Hers is the epitome of peasant cooking, the kind that cross-cuts the villages that dot the southern European continent, and especially my Greek island home. Cook something, eat a little today, pack it away, then eat a bit more tomorrow. Stretch that dinner with some good bread and feta, and serve the next day’s over rice pilaf, then eat the dregs cold from the fridge with horta (braised dandelion greens) doused in as much lemon juice and olive oil and flaky salt as you can muster.

These endless dishes, when I was a girl, were an oddity. Here: the midday meal, a procession of half-full pans parading from the fridge, accompanied by whatever new addition graced the stove that day. Always, the bits and bobs matched with a big horiatiki (village salad — never lettuce!) and bowls of olives and a slab of feta and a jug of hyper-peppery olive oil that my Uncle Kleanthe pressed at his grove on the mainland. Hunks of bread dotted the flowered vinyl tablecloth wherever they landed. We’d tuck in — a dozen different plates for as many people — a choose-your-own-adventure sort of lunch.

This summer, my dad has sent a few snippets of these everlasting meals. He’s a boy back on the island at his family table — the yiouvetsi (beef and orzo, scented with cinnamon and clove) and spanakopitas (spinach pies) and bamiyes (stewed okra) of his childhood coming forth from the kitchen, by his mother’s loving hands. It’s my long-distance taste of faraway summer afternoons and a reminder of how I want to feed myself; to feed my family.

Grown and responsible for my own cooking, I’ve come to appreciate YiaYia’s sourdough starter approach to the daily meal, the style of cooking my ancestral islanders embrace as quotidien. Austin and I love to cook for now and for our future selves, dreaming up what dinners will become leftovers, what we will make tomorrow into something new. I’m sometimes weary of people who unequivocally dislike leftovers, especially as I consider all the foods so much tastier tomorrow — tomato-based dishes and long braises and stews and soups… food that rests and evolves into something greater.

Beyond lunch and dinner, this is how we may choose to live: piecing together the already-good bits to make something changed and more delicious. It’s the principle that underlines resoling old shoes and bringing together disparate friends for a communal dinner and reshaping a tradition. Life is tastier when you take the best bits from today and carry them re-imagined into tomorrow. We too are better as we evolve, come together and apart, and are reinvented… like at the island table.

Related

A guide to uncomplicated meal planning for two

Choosing and using a farmshare (CSA) service

Three plum cakes (and a plum bbq sauce!)

Two perfect summer fruit desserts

My favourite way to use garlic scapes

An archive of meals from the Lovey Kitchen

See what we’re cooking this week

for the love of summer red fruits

blackberry-tarragon galette recipe on Some Infinite ThingMy fleeting love affairs with fruits and vegetables are well known. I proclaim loudly that this here season is the best season ever, over and again, hyperbole be damned.

Red fruit season has arrived in Ontario, to my loud acclaim. First with tiny gem strawberries… then raspberries… then sweet cherries as big as walnuts… and now sour cherries. Soon we’ll have plums and blackberries and currants. It’s a good time of year.

When red fruit arrives, my reluctant inner baker comes forth to take advantage of this abundance. Below are two gorgeous, flexible recipes for whatever fruits you have on hand — swap in 1:1 whatever tart-sweet fruit you fancy and prepare to have your creations devoured.

sour cherry buttermilk crumble cake on Some Infinite Thing

Sour cherry and vanilla bean buttermilk cake with brown butter crumble

Makes one 9×9-inch square cake, about 2 inches high. Cooking time: 1 hour. 

Sour cherries (also labeled as Montmorency cherries) are my kryptonite: in galettes, tarts, milkshakes, cakes, sauces, jams… they’re the perfect foil of sour and sweet, like nature’s sour patch kid.

I love sour cherries most in a tender buttermilk-based cake that comes together in a snap. I’ve made this recipe through the years, riffing on a classic Lottie + Doof recipe, who riffed on a Martha Stewart recipe. It’s equally fantastic with red currants, plums or similarly piquant fruit that can stand up to its sweet batter and crumble topping.

Ingredients

For the crumble

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 c allpurpose flour
  • 1/4c granulated sugar
  • 1/4c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine kosher/sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

For the batter

  • 1.5 c allpurpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine kosher/sea salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp, ~100g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, or scraped insides of 1 bean
  • 1/4 c buttermilk
  • 2 c sour cherries, pitted (or other sour fruit: rhubarb, red currants, diced plums)

Method

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the crumble: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine into a sand-like crumble. Reserve to side.

Make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Incorporate eggs and vanilla. Incorporate flour mixture and buttermilk, in alternate additions, scraping down sides of the bowl as you go. The batter will be paste like and smooth.

Assemble the cake: Spread batter into a parchment-lined 9×9-inch square pan. Top evenly with cherries. Top evenly with reserved crumble mixture.

Bake the cake: On the middle rack, for about 1 hour, until a pick inserted in the cake’s middle comes out clean. Check the cake after 45 minutes, as ovens vary.

Cool for at least 30 minutes, turn out, slice and serve. This keeps well in the fridge, tightly wrapped in saran.

blackberry-tarragon galette recipe on Some Infinite Thing

Herbed Fruit Galettes

Makes two 10-inch galettes. Cooking time: 30 minutes. 

Galettes are my answer to pie. I don’t like making pies — fussy, unforgiving and less visually impressive than the simple galette (or crostata, if you’re in Italy). This galette recipe riffs on a brilliant Smitten Kitchen creation, substituting sour cream for Deb’s ricotta and adding lemon zest in the tart dough, and intensifying the fruits with fresh herbs. A slice is the perfect vehicle — alongside lots of fresh vanilla ice cream — for consuming as much summer fruit as possible in one bite.

For these galettes, I opted for cherry/rosemary and blackberry/blueberry/tarragon fillings. Here are a few solid fruit/herb pairings:

  • blackberry + tarragon
  • black cherry + rosemary
  • strawberry + basil
  • plum + thyme

Ingredients

For the tart dough

  • 2.5 c allpurpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine kosher/sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 4 Tbsp ice-cold water

For the filling

  • 4 c fruit of your choice (or, 2 cups each of different fruits for each tart)
  • 1 Tbsp herb of your choice, finely chopped
  • 8 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the glaze

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • lashings of turbinado sugar, for a crunchy crust

Method

Make dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest. With your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture looks sandy. Combine sour cream and 3 Tbsp cold water and add to the flour mixture. Stir to incorporate and knead until a rough ball (don’t overwork the dough). Split into two equal portions, flatten into discs and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least one hour, but ideally overnight.

Make filling: Combine all filling ingredients and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. This will give the cornstarch time to do its thing.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Assemble galette: On a large floured surface, roll the dough balls into two round-ish shapes. They will be about 15 inches in diameter. Transfer each round to its parchment-lined baking sheet. Spoon galette filling into centre of each round, leaving about 3 inches of border. Fold up the corners into a rough shape, pinching the folds lightly to ensure everything is sealed.

Glaze the galette: Whisk egg yolk with water. Brush over crust. Sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Bake the galette: On the middle rack, for about 30 minutes, or until beautifully golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes, slice and serve.

This keeps on the counter for a couple days in a container, but the crust will soften slightly. You can reheat the tart in a 200 degree F oven for 15 minutes to re-crisp without compromising the fruit.

Related Resources

A guide to uncomplicated meal planning for two

Choosing and using a farmshare (CSA) service

Three plum cakes (and a plum bbq sauce!)

My favourite way to use garlic scapes

An archive of meals from the Lovey Kitchen

See what we’re cooking this week!