Sweet polenta blueberry cake

Fresh blueberries bring back memories of making Finnish style pancakes with my Mom and picking wild berries in the woods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Whenever I happen upon carton boxes overflowing with my favorite berries I take them home and bake a cake. Blueberries symbolize American summers and the following recipe is my down-home version of  traditional shortcake. Cornmeal is beautifully yellow in contrast to the midnight blue fruit. A touch of rosemary and lemon give this cake an Italian attitude.

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Watermelon infused water

Watermelon water III feel the end of summer vacation coming on. It feels like curled toes at the edge of a cold swimming pool I am not quite ready to jump into. The month of August is the Sunday of summer and I have promised myself to prolong the sense of freedom that goes with loose-fitting timetables indefinitely. My plan is to outrun the seasons by intermingling spontaneity with life’s daily necessities.

Throughout the warm summer I have assembled  foods rather than cooking. Weekends have been luxuriously filled with visits to farmers markets and taking home baskets full of new harvest fruits and vegetables.

In the midst of making watermelon granita one lazy afternoon, I marveled at the amount of rind left on the countertop. Rather than discarding them I decided to conduct a kitchen experiment by putting the rinds in a big pan of water to chill in the refrigerator. Continue reading

Cherries and homemade mascarpone

Cherries on a plate and in a crateMaking homemade mascarpone has been on my “to do” kitchen list for some time. Although I must admit this has no particular relationship to bright red cherries. I was inspired to combine both after a weekend shopping trip to the farmers market. A crate of red stone fruits and a few glass jars of organic cream were the spark for a perfect pair. Just how easy making mascarpone turned out to be was quite a surprise. Like so many “old-fashioned” cooking methods, the key to success is to following a few simple steps. The results unfold after an effortless wait. Homemade mascarpone is infinitely creamier and most definitely lighter than the store-bought version. From now on, I am making my own. Just like ricotta, any kind of fresh cream will do — whether from a goat, a cow or a sheep. I poured my pale yellow homemade mascarpone over hibiscus-soaked cherries while thinking of a classic”clafoutis”. Did I already mention I hope summer is forever?

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Nectarine sorbet

Peaches on golden platesSummer  is the best of all seasons — bringing loads of melons, even more berries,  crates full of peaches, nectarines and baskets and baskets of blueberries. The abundance of reds, purples and pinks inspire to simple salads and heavenly desserts. Fruit macedonia for breakfast or lunch makes way for brightly colored frozen fruits after supper. I like to fill frosty caffè’ latte bowls with homemade fruit sorbet and top them with chopped fruits for an effortless dessert.

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Strawberry and lime tomato gazpacho

Tomatoes and strawberries with lime

I love strawberries. At the moment my interest in this ruby-red fruit is more accurately described as an obsession. With the heat of the summer weighing heavily on my mind, the only thing that lingers is the sweet aroma of strawberries. It would seem that this luscious red fruit is even starting to compete with my favorite of all time — the tomato. This is quite a statement, since not only do I love tomatoes, I would even consider wearing a perfume made from the oven-roasted version. Continue reading

Homemade ricotta

Strawberries and ricottaI like to experiment in the kitchen.  I even dream of spending a few uninterrupted months between the kitchen counter tops and my writing desk some day, to wonder and create recipes so simple that happiness is the only option when making them. In my vision, my pantry is filled with the bright colors of fruit jams, Mason jars filled with endless variations on simple tomato sauce and preserved vegetables from a garden of all seasons. Intent upon reaching that kind of happiness on a daily basis, I try “old-fashioned” recipes when I have a moment to spare, like the making of fresh ricotta. Continue reading

Strawberries with lemon and lavender

Strawberries and lavendarSpring arrives in April or May and slowly but surely baskets of strawberries begin to overtake the fruit vendors shelves in my neighborhood. The brighter their color, the more often I find myself  cheerfully adding strawberries to my fruit macedonia and picnic-style shortcakes. The days stretch out into long evenings full of light. All of a sudden, or so it seems, deep ruby-red strawberries fill my favorite vintage porcelain plates daily in the kitchen.  Just about mid-June, strawberries become so luscious and full of perfume that nothing short of a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey and some flowering lavender are needed for the perfect midsummer dessert.  This is the moment when I hope that summer will last forever.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of the very best organically grown strawberries
  • the zest and juice of one organic lemon
  • one tablespoon organic honey
  • the flowers of two sprigs of lavender from the garden

Wash a carton of fresh strawberries briefly in cold water, or brush them off with a linen cloth. Remove the green stems and cut the strawberries in half above a ceramic bowl to catch their juices. Swirl a few spoons of honey along with the flowers of blooming purple lavender into the fruit. Add the grated zest of the lemon and just enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to add a hint of tartness to the strawberries. Chill the strawberries for just one hour or bring them to the kitchen table right away.

Suggested combinations

The possibilities are endless but in the height of summer I suggest generous bowls of this fruit completely on its own.  For a lovely appetizer, wrap a strawberry in a leaf of fresh basil and serve.

Notes

In Italy a mixture of cut fruits marinated in lemon juice (and often wine of some kind) is called “Macedonia”.

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