What I’m Cooking: Summer Desserts & a Salad

First, a small brag. These peaches are from the two trees I have in my front yard. It’s been a couple of years, and I forgot some cardinal rules, so I lost a fair amount of the crop to critters, but I managed to salvage a nice amount. I was also surprised to learn that the younger (by a year) of the two trees is actually a white peach!

I made three great recipes this week that I had to share with you all. The first is a pie that I haven’t made in years, but one bite reminds me why it’s been on my mind for years.

Peach Creme Fraiche Pie is the easiest, best peach pie of summer. You take unpeeled peaches, quarter them, mix with some sugar and creme fraiche, and put in a pie shell dotted with streusel. It comes out almost like a custard around big pieces of slightly softened peaches, just sweet enough but the overriding flavor is that pure chunk of peach.


I only made a few changes from the linked recipe. I didn’t pre-bake the pie crust this time, although I have in the past – I think it works fine unbaked. I don’t actually measure the creme fraiche, I just use dollops. I also mix the creme fraiche and the sugar (I use the larger amount listed, and it’s definitely not very/overly sweet) with the peaches before dumping them into the crust. This year, I was so excited to use my own peaches from the front yard!

I had some blueberries, local and organic, that needed to be baked up, right around the time I stumbled upon this recipe for a Blueberry Crumb Cake. My best pan for it is a 10″ springform (only pan with high sides) so I decided to use it. I was worried that the extra volume of a 10″ round versus a 9″ round would make the cake too short, so I did a 1.5 times recipe (only exception was I just used 2 eggs, no fraction).

The cake definitely ended up quite tall, which makes for a nice presentation. If you also have a 10″ round and want a big cake, go ahead and make the 1.5 times recipe, otherwise I think it’d be fine just as a single recipe. I made it as written otherwise, with the exception that instead of butter and flouring the tin I butter and sugared it, which is a tip I had read years ago and love using with these kinds of recipes.


I promise, this blueberry cake is quick to come together and pretty forgiving – I mixed it with just a fork, and I promise it worked great! I served it to rave reviews, and it definitely has gone into my “make it again” file.

The third recipe is actually a salad, which I’ve been enjoying for lunch and dinner. It doesn’t involve any cooking, comes together pretty quickly, and is endlessly adaptable based on what’s in season and available for you. I’ve posted my version below, but encourage people to look at the original for more ideas, if you’re so inclined.

Summer Bean Saalad

Summer Bean Saalad

Inspired by this Mediterranean Bean Salad

  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, or similar volume of the tomatoes of your choice
  • 2 sweet bell peppers
  • 1 can black olives, drained
  • 1 cucumber, optional (see note)
  • 1-2 jars marinated artichoke hearts (see note)
  • Up to 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons Italian herbs
  • 4-8 ounces feta cheese
  • Place the beans in the bottom of the bowl, add the Italian herbs, and lightly toss together.
  • Begin cutting each item, adding it to the bowl as you go. Cut the tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumber (if using) into medium-large chunks (roughly 1/2" in size). If you're using cherry tomatoes, half them. Cut the black olives into quarters. Chop each artichoke heart into similar sizes as the other produce. Shake off some of the oil, but leave whatever remains - it will add oil to the salad.
  • Toss the salad together, and see if you like the proportion of items. If necessary, add more of a specific vegetable to balance things out. Pour a little balsamic vinegar over the salad, and then crumble the feta in. Again, use as much or as little as you'd prefer.
  • Toss again, and serve. This should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
  • Note: If using cucumber, use your best judgement in terms of whether or not to peel and/or seed the cucumber. For the artichoke hearts, I've become addicted to Costco's Kirkland brand - I have yet to find a woody piece of leaf which has been my problem with other brands. It's also nice because it's a big jar and you can use as much or as little as you want. I've been putting in probably 8 pieces or so, depending on how it looks.
  • Strawberry Loaf Cake

    When I first stated baking for the synagogue, I scoured the internet for cookie recipes that would be incredible but relatively inexpensive. I wanted a citrus cookie, but as our Rabbi is allergic to lemon, I looked for an orange cookie. I found this incredible cookie, and I’ve made it numerous times over the last four or five years.

    Fast forward to last year, when a request for Sprinkles Cupcakes’ recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes introduced me to that wonderful recipe, and made me want to replicate it in cookie form. I had leftover strawberry puree, and tried adapting the orange cookie recipe, but my couple of different tries didn’t hit the mark and I moved on from that quest. Continue reading “Strawberry Loaf Cake”

    Syrup Soaked Orange Semolina Cake

    Tray of desserts for a Jerusalem-themed event

    Several years ago we had an Israeli-themed dinner at the synagogue, and I was in charge of making the desserts. A couple of weeks ago, we had a Jerusalem-themed event, and I ended up making the same set of desserts again, because I enjoyed them so much.

    Another tray of desserts for a Jerusalem-themed event

    One of the recipes is these Tahini Cookies from Yotam Ottolenghi, who is amazing. Another are these Kadorei Shokolad (Chocolate Balls), which my Israeli friends agree are wonderful and traditional. I rolled half of the balls in desiccated coconut and the other half in nonpareils; both are wonderful, and they give color and contrast to the cookie trays. I scoop the balls using a #60 cookie scoop [I own two different ones, I’m so addicted to cookie scoops!], a dozen or so at a time. I roll them smooth, coat in the desired coating, then put in the fridge to harden once I’ve finished the batch, otherwise they’ll be a little too soft.  Continue reading “Syrup Soaked Orange Semolina Cake”

    Vegetarian Cassoulet

    Like many meat-based dishes, cassoulet (a traditional French stew containing meat and beans) never entered my head, until I saw Gourmet’s Vegetarian Cassoulet recipe in 2008. It caught my eye in part because it used a lot of celery, and I often have half a head that languishes around. I made it several times within the next couple of years, and enjoyed it, but it never became a regular dish for me, and I forgot all about it.

    Continue reading “Vegetarian Cassoulet”

    Leftover Spaghetti Casserole

    Growing up, my parents taught us not to waste food, as much or more by example than by words. We froze the surplus from the garden to use during the year, composted vegetable scraps, frequently ate leftovers, and my mom often planned meals around bits and pieces that needed to be used up.

    I am not as accomplished as this, and frequently find bits of food falling by the wayside. It frustrates me, though, and I try to move closer and closer to being very low waste. Continue reading “Leftover Spaghetti Casserole”

    Raspberry Swirled Heart Cookies

    I found these cookies in 2012, when I was looking for Valentine’s-themed recipes for a work bake sale. They were so simple, and yet had amazing flavor, I was seriously impressed.

    It took me a couple of tries to successfully tweak it, but I also started making them at my shul and they became a favorite there, too. Since 2012, I make them faithfully every year for our work bake sale (in addition to other treats) and also make them during the year at the synagogue. Continue reading “Raspberry Swirled Heart Cookies”

    What I’m Cooking: Valentine’s Day

    My love of Valentine’s Day goes easily back to elementary school days. I remember making containers to hold candy for my family, and sneaking them into their rooms at night. The first year, my friend and I were taking sewing classes, and I remember sewing a heart-shaped pillow with a pocket for candy on it. One year, I took sponges and cut small heart shapes out of them, and sponged pink and red hearts on plain white paper. I cut the paper into strips and wove baskets out of them.

    It’s been many years since I’ve been that creative, but I still really enjoy baking for my friends and family. And for the last four or five years, the employees club at work (of which I’m on the board) has done a Valentine’s-themed bake sale.

    Continue reading “What I’m Cooking: Valentine’s Day”

    Whole Orange Cake

    Sometimes you spy a recipe somewhere, decide you have to make it, and it becomes a favorite. Other times, you have an idea for a bake, and go searching until you find a recipe that meets your idea. This is one of those times.

    While pondering what desserts to bring to my friend’s new years party, I somehow got the idea of making a whole clementine cake. I suppose it may have been influenced by Mary Berry’s recipe for a Whole Orange Cake (I’m on a major Great British Bake Off obsession right now), although I definitely wasn’t thinking directly about it. The first recipe I found was Nigella’s Clementine Cake recipe, which looked wonderful, except it used ground almonds and my friend has a nut allergy.

    Continue reading “Whole Orange Cake”