Thursday, December 12, 2013

Apple Upside Down Cake

This cake recipe has been whipped together, layered in a pan, and popped into the oven three times in the past seven days… a true record for one who doesn’t covet desserts. I now refer to it as The Evil Cake as it has managed to entice, beckon and bewitch slices to disappear like magic.

It’s really just an upside down cake, fairly traditional with that appealing caramel-like melt that gets heated up and laid down first in the bottom of a standard cake pan… later presenting as the top of the cake when the whole thing gets flipped over. And while pineapple is often the fruit of choice in these flip-flop cakes, apples (from a generous delivery of Piñata apples from Stemilt Growers) were happily substituted in ALL three cakes that quickly disappeared.

Quite honestly, I had no real intention of partaking in the initial cake I baked. It was a dessert made to please another. I simply cut a razor-thin slice to “test” it and whatever real intentions I may have had disappeared along with the cake.

Besides being delicious, this cake is just too easy to make. It’s one pan, one layer. Perhaps, it’s this ease in assembly that contributes somewhat to its “evil” ways. And once you cool it a bit and flip it over to plate, that caramel-like melt that I mentioned earlier… well, it’s now bubbled into a gooey, sweet topping that’s made its way in and around the apples and over the sides of the cake, becoming slightly (and delightfully) crisp here and there. The apples are perfectly sweet and beautifully flavor-tinged with that brown sugar-butter caramel and light touch of cinnamon. And the cake is moist and just subtly sweet, making it the perfect complement to a rather luscious topping.

While the holidays may call you toward pies and such, this easy upside-down apple cake is definitely my simple, sweet choice for a holiday (any day) offering. Dust it with a little powdered sugar and a crumble of chopped pecans for a little dressier version, if you’d like. Either way… it will disappear.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pear, Persimmon & Pomegranate Salad {for Stemilt Growers}

Leafy greens factor into most every day of the week in our kitchen, whether they get plated in the form of a salad, chopped and tossed into a soup, or whirred up into a morning smoothie. And it seems that regardless of what form they take, fruit is often part of the mix. Even in soups and smoothies! Think Butternut Squash Soup with apples or pears as a sweetening component, for example. And most any in-season fruit is the absolute trick to sweetening up (and loving) green smoothies.

When it comes to salads, that whole savory-sweet component works as well. Right now, pears are kind of my go-to. There are a whole heap of varieties available so I’m happy to grab whatever looks good... though the firmer varieties will hold up nicer in a plated salad where you want to showcase the fruit just a bit more.

Thinking of a plated salad that might look beautiful for a holiday dinner (or any dinner, really), I selected Stemilt’s d’Anjou pears. Cut and fanned out over a bed of lightly dressed arugula greens, these delicious, juicy and subtly sweet pears take center stage in a colorful plating… particularly attuned to the season. Both in color and flavor, these pears “pair” well with a bright pop of pumpkin-hued persimmon and a sprinkle of fresh, ruby-red pomegranate seeds and toasty walnuts.

Pear, Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad is a particular pleasing plating! For recipe details, click over to The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chopped Kale Salad {The Perfect Winter Mix}

One of the greatest things about cooking is the opportunity it offers for change. You never have to rest on your laurels.. a single recipe (or idea) in hand, blindly and boringly eating the same old thing, day after day. A simple tweak to an old favorite plating, the introduction of a new flavor or pairing of ingredients, or a bit of inspiration from the world around you… and voila… you have something new to enjoy.  

This particular Chopped Kale Salad was born of a little of all the above. I make a lot of kale salads but this one was, surprisingly, inspired by a packaged salad at a favorite deli that was grabbed on-the-go, late in the afternoon, midway through a long checklist of errands. Desperate for something to eat, I popped into the deli along with an unexpected throng of other late-afternoon seekers of sustenance and quickly got sidelined along the sandwich and salad cold case. A long soup line was the tie-up, and one guaranteed to imped any thorough selection process. So, the cold case it was. Among the options was a little packaged kale “vegan” salad… with romaine, red cabbage, carrot, sugar peas, apples, grapes, and other bits and pieces mixed in with a tahini-based dressing. I loved it… and I loved that it incorporated so much of what can be gathered from a winter’s bounty into one healthy salad that would give any summer salad a run for its money. (I happen to believe that salads are equal opportunity seasonal fare… you just have to embrace the possibilities).

My version of this kale salad has much of what that little inspiration offered, with some of my own twists… crisp, leafy green kale and romaine leaves, purple cabbage, red onion, carrot, sugar snap peas, broccoli, apple, grapes and macadamia nuts… mixed with a white miso-tamari-orange vinaigrette that’s sweeten with a bit of honey (so not technically “vegan”).

Apart from the abundant nutritional value a salad like this offers, it’s just deliciously crunchy, savory-sweet, and popping with a bit of everything in every bite… like a good chop should… even in Winter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mini Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches {for Stemilt Growers}

Even in the savoriest of kitchens, this is the time of year that sweets really come to the forefront with a plethora of puddings, cookies, crumbles, and tarts being whipped, creamed, baked, and rolled. Even I will step from my content little perch as a potato-cheese-bread girl and partake in a bit of pastry puffery. (Desserts are, after all, almost as much about the presentation and form… as they are the flavor.)

But, truth be told, desserts that really appeal to me are what I’d call pretty little desserts… as in mini. What’s better than a sweet little nibble that satisfies that sweet tooth, without overindulging.

When Stemilt asked me to deliver something that might be a little twist on a holiday favorite, I immediately thought of Apple Pie A La Mode, a quintessential dessert this time of year. However, in its traditional form (typically a generous slice), it’s always just a bit too much for me after a full meal. I love all the dessert options that say “holiday” out loud and bold… only I love them even more if they can make that statement in just a few bites.

Mini desserts are perfect holiday treats; having all the flavor you crave with little of the guilt or indulgence… a mini splurge.

These Mini Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches are simply your favorite, store-bought vanilla ice cream with a no-fuss crust and a quick stove-top medley of holiday-seasoned apples mixed in… then sandwiched between mini homemade cookies. If you want you can even use your favorite pre-made pie crust and boxed cookies. But don’t cheat on your apple pie “filling.” That’s the sweet secret to these little nibbles and a firm apple, like Stemilt’s Jonagold variety, works beautifully!

Sweet… simple… and small. For recipe details, click over to The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Easy 30-Minute Chicken & Brown Rice Soup {with Fresh Lemon}

The best chicken soup is made from a homemade stock, patiently rendered over a few hours and coupled with a beautiful, tender roasted chicken that’s pulled from the bone and married with a pretty chop of the tried and true mirepoix… onion, celery and carrot.

The homemade-stock variety of this soup classic is often something that’s contemplated and planned for. It’s comfort food at its best… warm, soothing and satisfying. Perhaps it’s a pot you put together on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

And then… there’s everyday cooking and the desire to still have that homemade chicken soup flavor… in 30 minutes. Soup is such a comfort food and you just don’t always have hours to get there.

The trick is to build flavor… even if it’s only 30 minutes you have to work with. There’s still time to craft a tasty, satisfying bowl. Here it’s achieved by being a little patient with that ever-important veggie trio and getting some seasoning on it that can develop some aroma and flavor, and just the right texture… before getting doused with broth. The chicken (in this version) is diced into small cubes to mimic the veggies and gets a little seasoning and swim time before the rice joins in. The seasonings are fairly standard… dried parsley, tarragon, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. When the soup is almost ready to ladle out, it gets a good little squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little chop of fresh parsley. These last two layers add a fresh pop of flavor that is subtle but do much to brighten up this soup... cutting through what can sometimes be a monotone flavor level without it. Just a little spritz of fresh lemon adds wonders to the flavor dimension of chicken soup... it's a naturally bright flavor note that a soup like this kind of begs for.

This is a 30-minute Chicken & Rice Soup that does a good job of delivering a tasty bowl of comfort… patiently planned for, or not… perfect for a busy weekday or a truly lazy Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quick Miso Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Almonds

Brussel sprouts had, for years, been on my short list of foods I didn’t like… and therefore didn’t make (a list I carefully did not share with our girls as they grew up, lest they craft one of their own). I actually abhorred the smell of brussel sprouts as a child and, quite frankly, didn’t realize until much later in life that their offending odoriferous quality could be quelled by simply cooking them up quick. And flavoring them up properly could even trump their less-than-favorable stench if opting for a longer roast. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered just how good these little doll-size cabbage heads could be when roasted whole or sliced thin for an interesting salad.

A recent trip to Whidbey Island, located in the Puget Sound, approximately 30 miles north of Seattle, was yet another mental nudge to keep brussel sprouts in the mix. Along with Whidbey’s Monet-like landscapes and picture-perfect vistas, a friend and I had an inspired meal at Christopher’s in Coupeville.

At Christopher's, we ordered brussel sprouts as a side and asked to have the bacon omitted... sure they would scoff at this request. While I might have strayed from my usual no-meat stance, my friend was the one ordering and she is far more diligent in her food footing than I. Surprisingly, there was no scoffing and the sprouts were still delicious … cooked al dente (if you think pasta)… with some bite left in them. They had great flavor, an umami that I thought may have been bacon-rendered even though we nixed this ingredient (!!).  What was particularly appealing was their freshness… more like a warm salad than a veggie.

Thinking about how to recreate this umami quality without bacon, we concluded it would be possible with a little white wine, some miso, and a touch of broth.

And… being a bit of a detail girl and believer in the “how” of how you do things (the cut you make, the layering of flavor, the method of heat, etc.), thinly slicing these brussel sprouts lengthwise with a bit of the core intact keeps the crunch in this side.

 I love it when a trip produces both beautiful vistas and veggies to take with you to enjoy long after you return home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maple-Rosemary Roasted Pear Bruschetta {for Stemilt Growers}

With Fall happily upon us, apples and pears are bountiful, beautiful… and brimming with sweet flavor. And though October is officially National Apple Month… I want to give pears a little love too. In thinking of what I might offer the folks over at Stemilt, I immediately thought of the coming holidays and the many nibbles that will be served up to friends and family over the next weeks and months. With so many different palates and dietary restrictions to consider, I tend to lean toward appetizer platters... a spread of goodies that are easy to put together and present a few offerings that can mix, mingle or get noshed on their very own. And there’s nothing better than including seasonal fruits in the mix. Many times I’ll just slice and serve them up fresh, especially apples and pears, as a complement to a mix of cheeses, nuts, and crackers or fresh bread.

This time, I decided to create a Maple-Rosemary Roasted Pear Bruschetta, using Stemilt’s delicious Bosc pears. With just a few ingredients and a short visit to the oven, these fresh pears roast up beautifully for a savory-sweet topping to crisp baguette slices… slathered with a brie-blue cheese, sweet fig jam or a slice of delicate prosciutto. Guests can build their bruschetta any way they’d like… you really can’t go wrong.  And with some dried cranberries and candied walnuts offered alongside, it only gets better.

These roasted pears are so good on their very own… as part of this bruschetta offering… OR (if you are lucky enough to have any left over… or plan it that way), they are a delicious add to butternut squash. Hold just a few halves aside… add them to some roasted butternut squash and roasted red onion, a little broth, some salt and pepper and, voilà, you have dinner… a flavorful Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup! It’s so simple, easy…  and pearfectly delicious! It’s my favorite squash soup for this season.

Head over to The Stem for details on roasting up these delicious Stemilt bosc pears.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spicy Lentil Soup

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity that has kept me happily tied to my kitchen, developing recipes and just plain cooking for family and friends. It’s also been a year heavily consumed by the planning of a wedding; a great celebration that took place just more than a week ago… and one that completely grabbed my time and complete attention the entire month of September (in a great way).  With our oldest daughter happily wed, we returned home to host family staying on after the big day… presenting a great opportunity to head out to one of our favorite destinations: Hood River and lunch at Celilo Restaurant.

On this particular visit we all had the Spicy Lentil Soup. When I asked our server what created the “spice” in this particular soup she said it was made with onion, carrot and celery.  Hmmm. I needed another approach. I said the soup sounded delicious and asked if she knew if there were any chili peppers in the soup… to which she said she’d ask the chef for more details. Bingo. She came back with there’s cumin and a little cinnamon. Not exactly a treasure trove of information but enough when combined with a taste test. I think this might be my favorite lentil soup… for the moment. I love that little add of cinnamon… so unexpected and not necessarily discernable… but I truly believe in those pinches of flavor that add a subtle, yet important note to the end result. I can’t recall if there were any peppers in the Celilo soup but I added both roasted piquillos and sweet red peppers (from jars) and found they add a perfect little pop of flavor and subtle heat.

This is really a very simple lentil soup that is built upon a good sauté of veggies and a combination of dried spices that add that discernable “spice” to the soup’s name… along with that onion, carrot and celery!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ribbons of Kale Salad with Fresh Grapefruit {and a Grapefruit-Anchovy Vinaigrette}

Sometimes the simplest things still need a little nuance. They seem as plain as day -- one glance, one sip, one savor -- easy to decipher. We don't take note.

So often, it's the more intricate flavors and recipes that we feel we must pay heed to ... jotting down notes from a favorite meal hoping to jog our memory and taste buds when we return to our own kitchens.

But a simple salad? A mere handful of ingredients. This seems like a simple task. And that's when you get nudged by the beauty of nuance.

This little kale salad is my version of one that we get every time we visit Oven & Shaker. While this self-proclaimed "urban saloon" is the brainchild of Cathy Whims, a James Beard nominated chef, and is touted for its authentic Italian street food fare and, most notably, for its pizza oven (the "Oven") and their mixology offerings (the "Shaker"), this kale salad is the first thing we think about when we think Oven & Shaker.

A simple kale salad with little pops of fresh grapefruit and a light anchovy vinaigrette. It's so simple, I didn't ask any questions of our server the first time we tasted it, didn't jot any notes down. It's just kale, grapefruit and a vinaigrette.

The first time I made it, I was far too generous and heavy-handed with my anchovies. And, garlic. Did I even taste garlic in the O&S salad? And, grapefruit. Was the fresh citrus that prominent? I didn't recognize exactly how I had erred. It was edible, but not right.

Thinking a lighter touch on the vinaigrette would render the salad I was after, I pulled back on the anchovies, cut back on the garlic... oh, and fresh lemon. Lemon? Was there lemon?

We visited Oven & Shaker last weekend. When our salads arrived, I took note. First of all, the kale was delicately cut into thin ribbons (a chiffonade cut, not a chop); there was a light touch of grapefruit, offering a cool, fresh citrus pop without overpowering the delicate nature of the greens. There was a subtle little dusting of toasted bread crumbs sprinkled on top. And, a delicate, little lacey cheese fricco served alongside that could be chipped to incorporate with the salad or simply eaten like a chip. I then looked at the menu again... anchovy-vinaigrette was the dressing, pecorino the cheese, and the fricco was a poppyseed fricco.

Two days later I set out to again make my little version of the favored salad... first slicing the kale leaves into thin little ribbons. This is an essential, yet seemingly simple element to this salad that should not be overlooked as it results in a very light, almost fluffy quality that helps to tame kale's more robust nature. The grapefruit should be cut into supremes and then into bite-size pieces. I found one large grapefruit was plenty for two generous salads. The breadcrumbs? Well, I was going for a quick version so I grabbed a bag of crisp crostini that is baked and packaged by Whole Foods. A few spins in the food processor results in a good toasted bread crumb in seconds. Though I am staying away from dairy, I made a few parmesan friccos to serve alongside (or overtop, as preferred) by simply sprinkling some shredded parmesan in little three-inch round circles (barely more than one layer thick, if that) on a sheet pan and popping it under the broiler for maybe a minute... keeping a hawk eye on it so that they didn't burn.

What I took particular note of in again tasting the restaurant version of this salad was the lightness of the vinaigrette... there was no extreme flavor notes. The anchovy was definitely a flavor enhancer and not one you'd easily recognize except for the menu call out. Maybe they didn't use whole, canned anchovies (as I had been doing... bringing the vinaigrette together with the help of a blender). Perhaps all it needed was a little squeeze of anchovy paste and a good little whisk. And there was truly no real garlic or lemon kick. So... subtle was the key.

While cutting my grapefruit into supremes, I collected its juice in a bowl placed beneath my working hands. I do this any time I segment or supreme citrus even if it's not going into a recipe... I'll just drink it up. As it collected the juice in this dish, I had a little epiphany... did that vinaigrette use fresh grapefruit juice? That would make so much sense... a little citrusy, a little sweet... a perfect little tang? And with that thought, I had my vinaigrette... simply fresh grapefruit juice whisked with a little extra virgin olive oil and a light touch of anchovy paste, seasoned with a dash of kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Little nuances made to a favored salad... as plain as day (if day were plain).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tuna-Potato Cakes with Baby Heirloom Tomato-Cucumber Salad

A typical week usually involves several visits to the market; it's something I truly never recovered from after a brief stint living in Europe. I don't like deciding a week's menu beforehand... as I never really know what will sound good a few days down the road. I like to figure out what we're having for dinner based on what sounds good (now) and what looks good (now) at the market. At best I might be able to cobble together plans for two meals... maybe three... on a good visit.

And if things get busy... like they have lately... this whole scenario kind of goes straight out the window and my efforts to put something edible on a plate get tested by just how well-stocked our fridge and pantry really are. Sometimes it's pretty, other times not so much. We have two tomatoes, three olives and a loaf of bread. How does a very barren bruschetta sound for dinner?

These little tuna-potato cakes are very much a product of this bruschetta-making mentality. Only in this real life scenario there were two cans of tuna, a couple of potatoes and a whole heap of beautiful little tomatoes.

First of all, tomatoes are so outrageously delicious right now that they could possibly be eaten on an old, leather shoe sole and be fantastic; particularly the heirlooms. Thankfully we had tuna and some fresh fixings.

These little tomatoes are beautiful (in addition to being delicious), varying from brilliant yellows and mango-orange to fire engine red. They are sweet, juicy and vibrant, requiring little more than a light sprinkle of salt and pepper... if that.

The tuna-potato cakes? Well, it's canned tuna amped up just a bit with a little mashed potato, fresh parsley, and sautéed shallots and celery. The mashed potato helps the patties hold their shape and just a light dusting of bread crumbs helps them get their bronze on during a very light skillet browning. The only side bar here is: get the best tuna you can... it makes a difference. (I used Fishing Vessel St. Jude White Albacore Tuna - Natural... it's US troll caught, has no added salt, and tastes delicious right out of the can).

The cakes get topped with a cap of juicy, summer-sweet little tomatoes mixed with crisp, fresh cucumber and some punchy red onion. You can plate it with a little base of dressed spinach greens or a whole heap of salad greens. Either way, keep the tomatoes close by to generously add over top.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grilled Peach & Mixed Baby Greens Salad with Balsamic-Fig Vinaigrette {for Stemilt Growers}

There's really no recipe, per se, to this salad... the way summer truly implores you to cook. It's simply a gathering of what's fresh and delicious this time of year... crisp leafy greens and fresh fruit that is beautifully ripe, juicy and flavorful.

Here I'm using Stemilt's organic yellow peaches paired with little Black Mission figs and some mixed baby greens. These peaches truly don't need one thing to enhance their flavor. Yet, I have to say, just a few minutes on a hot grill does do something magical to them. They warm through just enough, without compromising their firmness; and their sweet, juicy nature is just that much more pronounced... making them a nice partner to cool, crisp greens.

For details on this simple summer salad, including an equally simple, quick and tasty vinaigrette that works beautifully with the flavors of fresh peach and figs, check out this week's posting on Stemilt's blog, The Stem.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heirloom Tomato, Melon & Arugula Salad with Jalapeño-Orange-Honey Vinaigrette

So much of what we create in the kitchen comes from some sort of inspiration... our own imagination, something that has captivated our thoughts (or palate)... a recipe we've spied, a photograph, an outing, a conversation. Or, simply an ingredient that's at the peak of its season.

In this particular instance, it was much of the above; elements that came together to create a truly flavorful, summer-centric salad composed of so much of the bounty we assign to this time of year: ripe, succulent heirloom tomatoes that range from large, bulbous spheres to smaller varieties of varying symmetry, size and hue; sweet, juicy, summer melon; and crunchy pops of flavor that tie these two seemingly unmatched fruits together... arugula, radish, cucumber, and mint. Oh... and a chili-infused dressing. And, yes, it all (surprisingly) works.

The inspiration for this salad was a meal we had at Redd Wood in Yountville, California, just down the street from chef Richard Reddington's well-known spot... Redd. This newer venture, however, is a more casual, rustic restaurant... a chic pizza spot that is so much more than pies (though the pies are delicious!).

We have a favorite place we stay at in Yountville... a perfect locale for not just enjoying the fruit of this region's nectar, but a truly central position to many wonderful restaurants. And Redd Wood is just a good stroll from this perch, making it not only a great choice for good food but convenient! For us, it was a great spot to enjoy a relaxed, late evening meal tacked onto an equally relaxed, perfect day spent in and amongst the vineyards of this region.

This is my own rendition of the salad we selected at Redd Wood. As said, it incorporates a lot of what summer has to offer and, in particular, two ingredients you might not think to couple: heirloom tomatoes and cantaloupe. Then it pops these two ingredients with the addition of radish and arugula... flavors that kind of turn the lights on in this salad. And, unexpectedly, dresses it all in a light, chili-infused vinaigrette which illuminates the flavor of this salad but also keeps it so approachable.

In my version, I use a jalapeño pepper and tempered its robust flavor with a bit of honey, fresh orange juice and a little cayenne pepper.

It's kind of summer at its best... bountiful, bold... and balanced.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fresh Cherry Pie-In-A-Jar {for Stemilt Growers}

I recently took a couple of cherry pies … in jars… as a hostess gift to some friends who had invited us to join them on their boat. 

From her: “Oh my gosh, this is great. How fun is this?”

From him: “It’s a Pie-in-a-Jar… a Pie-in-a-Jar,” expressed in kind of a singsong sort of way and definitely just the beginning of the evening’s renditions of what you could put in a jar… accompanied, of course, with that little singsong tone.  (FYI… he’s the comic of the group.)

In the end, we took one of these two “pies” on our boating cruise into town for dinner, figuring we’d share it on the ride home. Well… let me tell you “he” was singing a little different rendition of his song on our return jaunt and I’m pretty sure “he” had his sights on that second pie ( a jar!). Come to think of it, I believe "he" was the one who grabbed the jar for the boat ride in the first place... hmmm.

There’s really nothing new on this pie-in-a-jar concept. It’s pretty much what you’d bake up as a regular cherry pie… only in a jar. A cherry pie with fresh cherries, that is. No packaged cherry pie filling here. It's a fun way to serve up a generous "slice" of pie... and, better yet, a fun way to gift a "slice" of pie (even if you share it among four spoons!). 

This particular little sweet is made with Stemilt’s beautiful, fresh cherries. And, recipe details and step-by-step instructions are up on their blog today! Click over to The Stem to read more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Cups

I love the fact that this bright red pepper cup presents all buttoned up and pristine, the perfect little side serving of veggies neatly tucked away. But the minute you slice into it, there's a party on your plate! One slice and you get a brilliant burst of flavor and interest... infusing your plate with all the goodness a good grill deserves.

Barbecuing is the perfect way to go when temps heat up... which has recently been the case. However, regardless of what we happen to be grilling, I need something on the side that really delivers... a sauce, a soupy medley, a fruity salsa... to accompany our main. Something to give whatever we happen to be grilling a nice, compatible balance of flavor, texture and substance. Why just spoon a sauté of veggies over whatever you happen to be grilling when you can compose it in a neat, little package?

On this particular occasion, we were finishing off a week of Paleo cooking (as you do to accommodate whomever happens to be visiting). On the grill: chicken. The sauce of the day: a grilled veggie salsa composed of roma tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and garlic seasoned with a good dash of kosher salt and ground black pepper, and topped off with some fresh chopped cilantro. (The veggies just take minutes on the grill and then get popped into a food processor... let them sit to cool a bit... whirred up, seasoned... and cilantro'd. Just remember to get the skins off your grilled garlic before processing).

While the grill is going, pop your red pepper cups into the oven and get your filling started on the stovetop. While you can include just about any veggie that strikes your fancy, we went with a simple sauté of onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Round it all out with a simple salad and you are good to go.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Red, White & Blue Cake

While a spectacular fireworks display is probably seen as the ultimate, quintessential culmination of many Fourth of July celebrations, large or small, what transpires from dawn to dusk can take a myriad of paths... large family breakfasts, lakeside gatherings, hilltop retreats, beachside campouts, outdoor picnics, or quiet barbecues at home, to name a few. And along with all these options are equally varied culinary choices. But one thing is for sure: many will involve a red, white and blue theme... and most likely a sweet.

For me, I'm most happy when that sweet is simply a bowl of fresh fruit (honestly!). And my favorite topping (before my apparent aversion to dairy) was sour cream mixed with a little vanilla extract and sugar. The best!!!

When thinking of what I might make that was just a step beyond a bowl of fruit, I immediately thought of a little cake that could easily be served with morning coffee, or dressed a few ways for dessert. A kind of any-time-of-day cake.

This Red, White & Blue Cake (earning its name when dressed in all its glory) is simply a pound cake laced with layers of fresh Stemilt cherries that, when sliced, kind of mimics the shape and striping of our flag. Slice it up in a traditional fashion and you'll still get that layered look, only kind of domed (due to the rising of the cake).

Slice it crosswise in half so that you get two pieces that are still longer than they are wide... and then slice each of these halves from the side in and you'll get a more uniform layer of cherries to dress up for a stars and stripes plating. Or, cut slices into cubes and layer them with some whipped cream and blueberries for a fun parfait.

The cake is great on its own... but even more celebratory with a good drizzle of lemony icing over top. For recipe details, click over to Stemilt's blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and opinions expressed are my own.