A tart , fantastic tasting jam
My friends, Jacqueline and Heinz, have a beautiful sour cherry tree. These cherries live up to the word “sour”—or let's say tart. They make your mouth packer. But they are absolutely delicious, very delicate with a soft skin and texture. This is not any commercial variety.
I am supposed to be getting ready for my 5-week long trip to Germany, with a hundred things to do before we leave—but I just had to have some of these cherries. I picked about three pounds. I ate a lot and made about 4 pint-sized jars of jam and a cherry clafoutis. The jam is to die for— it’s tart and carries the essence of these gorgeous cherries. I can taste it mixed with yogurt, on a piece of toast, or on my cherry chocolate tart. The icky part of making this jam is pitting the cherries. My husband volunteered for this very messy job, bless his heart. It took him 30 minutes to pit those little buggers with a cherry picker. Although he did watch the baseball game with one eye while pitting. You have to wear an apron and and short sleeves. Our cutting board now has cute little red spots.
I wasn't going to blog this, but changed my mind. I'm starting to like taking photos, plus I have this cute hand-painted cherry platter made by a local artist Beth Grippenstraw in Santa Cruz, California. (check out her work, fun and very unusual). I used David Leibovitz's recipe for the jam, he calls it no recipe jam.
A heavenly recipe for duck lovers
I love duck, especially duck confit. I have made the confit from scratch and it is delicious, but the recipe is a lot of work and takes time. Costco and Whole Foods started selling duck confit legs during the holidays and I freeze them for later use. They are not as good as my homemade ones, but they are fine for my recipes like duck quesadillas or my cabbage duck pasta. Several years ago, I found a recipe for duck quesadillas in an old Food & Wine magazine. I adapted this recipe and it became a well-loved staple in my cooking repertoire.
A couple of years ago, the Shadowbrook restaurant in Capitola, California sponsored a cooking contest and my duck quesadillas won first prize. This dish was served for a season at their beautiful bar.
Tucked away on a hillside, this unique restaurant with its gorgeous setting and lush tropical landscaping has been a Capitola icon for decades. A funicular railway transports you into a different world. The restaurant itself is a mishmash of rooms on different levels with a grand entrance to a stunning bar with an indoor waterfall. There are rooms with high and low ceilings, connected by staircases. Some rooms have fireplaces, some rooms have great views and one has a redwood tree growing next to a table. Just the setting alone is worth it, but the food is delicious. Their signature dish is the miso salmon.
But let's return to my quesadillas. They are a real treat—a delightful mixture of flavors. I used gruyere cheese for years, but lately I've substituted goat cheese or feta cheese. The addition of different salsas and chipotle sauce supplement the quesadillas beautifully, adding richness and flavor.
This strawberry ice cream has a rich fruity flavor
After I bought some strawberries at the farmer's market, they started look sad in my refrigerator, so something had to be done with them immediately. While looking for a recipe, I came across one that was egg and custard free—just right for a busy day. I had ½ cup of my homemade raspberry sauce which I added to the ice cream. However, the ice cream would be fine without it. Instead of cream, you could use half and half too. This ice cream has an intense berry flavor, like the one my mother used to make when I was a child. She would mix strawberries, cream and sugar and put it into ice cube trays and freeze it.
A fruity summer treat
The man in my life loves cobbler, because that's what his mother always made. (His sister is still working on their mother's recipe.) My husband thinks she used Bisquick mix. As I'd rather not use the mix, I'm still trying to recreate Bisquick. So, let me know about any recipes you have. My topping is different (so my husband informs me) — softer and more flaky, like a cake. He likes his crunchier—like a biscuit—my brother-in-says. Both of them had second helpings, so I guess they liked it. I served mine with vanilla and my homemade strawberry ice cream.
For the filling, I used apricots and raspberries, because that's what we brought up to our mountain cabin in the Sierras, and they needed to be used right away. I love cooking up there because if you don't plan ahead, you make do with what you have. But the original recipe from the Cooking Light Magazine called for peaches and blueberries. I made the cobbler a second time at home with blueberries apricots (the one you see in the picture). There is an old-fashioned grocery store up in the Sierras that has almost everything—but no fancy stuff and not much fruit. However, you can find all the plumbing supplies you need and cans of nearly everything. I have to admit, the plumbing and electrical items come in very handy. Our little cabin in the woods has been my place to recharge and reboot for many years.
A refreshing crowd-pleaser
Our little California coastal town had a hot spell for several days. Usually when the central valley heats up, we get fog and the sun often doesn't come out until noon. So, I enjoyed the heat and the sun and decided to make a refreshing German beverage called Erdbeer Bowle for my book club meeting. I had made this once before during one of my summer parties and it was an absolute hit. Everybody loved it.
When I was recently in Germany, we celebrated May Day in our village with May wine (Mai Bowle). Read more about my trip on Wanderlust. May wine is an old, traditional beverage brewed with Sweet Woodruff (Waldmeister). Another one of my favorites when in Germany is Berliner Weiße, beer mixed with Waldmeister syrup. It's absolutely delightful when sitting in an outdoor cafe on a hot day. Having never come across Sweet Woodruff here in the US, I made strawberry punch (Erdbeer Bowle) instead. It is also very refreshing and sets a festive mood for an enjoyable gathering. There were six in our book club and we drank it all! I had started with only one bottle of wine, but added another later. To keep it cold, I freeze a large block of ice. Be creative when choosing a container. I used a large flower vase. Enjoy!
O Solo Fantastico
For years, our family has been eating artichokes. They grow here on the foggy Pacific coast in northern California and the farmers will sell them in the markets when they are freshly picked. For me, they have always been a delicacy.
I usually cook them, cut them in half, and clean out all the hairy stuff with a spoon. Then I dribble my best olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them with a sprinkle of French sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. These make a healthy appetizer for a rich meal and a wonderful snack or lunch the next day. My husband likes to eat his artichoke with mayonnaise.
Bless the Italians for their wonderful food. This recipe is to die for. The Italians like to serve vegetables " al forgo," which means baked in the oven. The artichokes are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, fresh mint, nuts and olive oil and then baked in a seasoned broth. I made this recipe twice and the first time I just devoured one after I finished taking my photos. Years ago, I found this recipe in an insert of a German magazine devoted to Italian cooking.
A secret weapon for the common cold—a delicious prescription
Your throat starts to scratch, you don't have any energy, your nose starts to dribble!
You know you're in trouble and you just hope that it will not be the cold or flu that your friend has—but your body is telling you otherwise. As far as you concerned, you have several choices. Make yourself a stiff grog, a German remedy. Pour some rum in a glass, add some hot water and chuck down the whole thing. This cured me many years ago on the island of Sylt in Germany.
Another choice is chicken soup. Hopefully, you kept some of your own in the freezer just for this occasion, but if not, gather up your energy and cook this soup. It might help, but at least it will make you feel better and your body will have a secret weapon to help you in the days ahead. This soup does not have to have exact ingredients. Just add what you think will help you. Anything goes, because your body is going into battle. Good luck! However, you don't need the common cold to enjoy this soup. It is delicious and tastes great when you need a little comfort. Just in case, make sure you freeze a little extra.
A sorbet that tastes like rich ice-cream with a refreshing flavor
This is the easiest ice cream you will ever make. And the best you will ever taste. It has been one of my old standbys for years. However, you do need an ice cream maker. This recipe takes minutes to assemble, a few hours in the fridge for the flavors to develop, and then it is ready to go into the ice cream maker. What comes out is a rich and creamy sorbet. The buttermilk gives it a refreshing flavor and taste, yet you won’t know it’s buttermilk. Granted, ice cream made with cream has a richer flavor, but I prefer the lighter version. I often serve this with fruit sauce, fresh fruit or with cake. It is especially refreshing after a heavy meal.
Always a crowd pleaser
These days, you rarely find my kitchen without avocados. The creamy texture and delicious taste make them irresistible and so healthy. I eat them whenever I can—on sandwiches, in salads, by themselves, as a snack or guacamole (which my husband makes). When I want to show off a little bit, I make stuffed avocados. I usually stuff my avocados with bay shrimp, some celery, small tomatoes and fresh herbs with a light dressing. It's delicious, easy to make and people always like it. It makes a nice lunch or appetizer. So, if you want a tasty dish with great presentation, check out this recipe. Feel free to substitute different ingredients or leave out the things you don't like. I have added chopped apple pieces instead of tomatoes, and used Greek yogurt instead of crême fraiche. Deb, who has a beautiful blog called "eastofedencooking", helped me take pictures for this recipe.
Take a break in the afternoon, have a piece of this tasty cake with a cup of tea.
This time of year, my lemon trees are producing gorgeous fruit. I flavor my water with them, I give them to friends, and I use them in as many recipes as I can. This recipe comes from my friend, Linda, who is an excellent cook. She helped me find my passion for cooking. However, I changed the recipe somewhat. This simple bread is compact and infused with lemon juice, is easy to make and tastes great by itself. But it also makes a stunning dessert when served with ice cream and fruit sauce or compote.