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 Vegetable & Barley Salad

In the spirit of the season, I’m revisiting one of my go-to recipes that makes the best of summer produce. This barley salad with roasted Mediterranean vegetables is a great choice for sharing with family and friends at picnics, potlucks or parties over the next few summer months.

I originally posted this recipe in 2007, and haven’t really changed much except to simplify and punch up the flavor a little.

Happy summer!

Roasted Vegetable & Barley Salad

Serving Size: 6 - 8 side dish servings

I like to arrange some arugula or baby spinach leaves on the bowl or platter before piling on the barley mixture.

Make ahead note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, diced
  2. 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (2 pint containers)
  3. 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  6. 1 red onion, chopped
  7. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  8. 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  9. 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  10. 1 1/4 cups pearl barley
  11. 3 cups water
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  13. 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  14. 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
  15. 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  16. 1/2 cup crumbled goat feta cheese
  17. Arugula or baby spinach leaves; a few handfuls

Instructions

  1. Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 425°F.
  2. Toss eggplant, tomatoes and bell pepper with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast vegetables until eggplant is golden brown and tender and tomatoes are shriveled, stirring halfway through, about 25 minutes.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil for 1 minute more. Add water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer barley to baking pan with roasted vegetables and spread to cool, about 20 minutes.
  5. Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, honey, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and oil; pour over the barley and vegetables along with the basil and feta; mix together, and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.
  6. I like to arrange some arugula or baby spinach leaves on the bowl or platter before piling on the barley mixture.
  7. Make ahead note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/07/roasted-vegetable-barley-salad/

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

  1. 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons clear fruit brandy (raspberry, strawberry, cherry) or strawberry-flavored vodka
  4. 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/