almond cake with summer berries

I started off the summer testing a couple cake recipes, searching for “the one” — a simple, plain cake that tastes great all by itself, one that would also make a perfect companion to the various fruits that come and go all year long: citrus-rhubarb-berries-peaches-plums-cherries-apples-pears.

This cake was it. It’s the one to keep on your recipe list of basic essentials — just like a black t-shirt, it goes with everything.

Almonds pair well with many fruits, especially all the ones (like peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and even apples) they’re actually related to botanically. And fun fact: Stone fruit pits are the source of “bitter almond” flavor. They contain oils that are used to produce almond extract and flavorings, each kernel harboring a small amount of prussic acid a/k/a potassium cyanide. (Don’t worry, we’re talking trace amounts that are destroyed when heated during the manufacturing process).

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italian summer country cake

I’m eating a piece of cake, remembering when my kids had birthday parties…the clearing of the table right after the cake, just before the presents, and all those paper plates with beheaded cupcakes on them.

Little cakes in paper liners with their fancy frosted tops chewed right off. I know some grown-up children who still consider cake a mere delivery vehicle for cream, fudge or frosting, but for me it’s always been the opposite.  As a girl, I’d scrape off the frosting and go all in for cake.  [Read more…]

Roasted Strawberry Refrigerator Jam

I bought 8 pounds of beautiful, ripe, organic strawberries the other day at Costco. Because I have some serious fruit lovers in my house the berries disappeared pretty quick, almost before I could set aside what I needed to make this jam.

My plan was to make a simple standby recipe from Cooking Light for refrigerator jam – no canning or sterilizing required – but I had some other things to do and didn’t want to stand watch for the better part of an hour over a pot of simmering strawberries.

So I let the oven do the work, a technique I employ a lot in my cooking. Hands free is a great thing in the kitchen.

I usually make this jam with red wine or balsamic vinegar instead of brandy, but this time I used the last drops from a bottle of framboise (clear raspberry liqueur). Strawberry-flavored vodka would be fun to try, too.

There’s an inspiring feature in the April 2011 O Magazine on women food entrepreneurs, Seven Women Who Turned Their Passion for Food into a Career. I found a few of the food products mentioned in the story during my many shopping travels.

I spread Belle Chevre Honey Breakfast Cheese on Effie’s Homemade Oatcakes, then topped with some jam. Delicious!

Roasted Strawberry Refrigerator Jam

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons clear fruit brandy (raspberry, strawberry, cherry) or strawberry-flavored vodka
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split, plus scraped seeds

Instructions

  1. Toss the strawberries in a bowl with the sugar, brandy, vanilla pod and scraped seeds. Let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or small roasting pan.
  2. Roast in a 250 degree oven for about 2 hours, until the berries are very soft and shriveled. Mix around once or twice as they cook.
  3. Let the syrupy berries cool. Remove the vanilla pod. Pulse in a food processor or mash by hand with a potato masher to a chunky consistency.
  4. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/04/roasted-strawberry-refrigerator-jam/