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”

    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”

    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”

    Apple Honey Cake

    For many of us, holidays are a combination of dishes that must be made, new dishes to try, and the sad fact that each person can only eat so much. Every year for Rosh Hashanah, my mother makes a fabulous apple cake. When I moved down here to Texas, I started making it for break-the-fast (the meal following the 25 hour fast during Yom Kippur, which is ten days after Rosh Hashanah) instead, because my friends and I weren’t cooking dinner during Rosh Hashanah. Continue reading “Apple Honey Cake”

    What I’m Cooking: New Year’s Eve

    Many times, I find recipes just like everyone else – the Internet. I don’t always change anything, or fuss with them in any way. I wanted a way to share some of these recipes with you all, without attaching a full blog post to something that may not need it. Hence, “What I’m Cooking.”

    I have no idea how often this feature will run, but hopefully it will be a glimpse into my life, and provide links to good food. Today’s post is about the food I made to bring to a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s. Normally I won’t bring this much, but there had been a couple of cookie recipes I’d been eyeing, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, I was rushing to get there, and didn’t make the time to take hardly any photographs, for which I apologize!

    Continue reading “What I’m Cooking: New Year’s Eve”

    Peach Kolaches

    I can’t believe it’s been two months since I published anything! I have had a completely crazy fall – I taught 5 cooking classes for the high school students in our religious school and had other baking at the Shul (another word for a synagogue, or a Jewish “church”) kitchens almost every week. We serve lunch after our Saturday services every week, and occasionally do other meals. Our cook handles most of the meal, but I am often asked to help make “fancy” desserts for specific events or to help fill in when it’s a busy week.

    Peach Kolaches

    On October 30, we had a musical Friday night service with the theme “Deep In The Heart of Texas” which was followed by a Texas-themed dinner. As with all of our themed Friday night dinners, I designed a dessert menu to compliment the theme. It’s a fun challenge for me to come up with the dessert items.  For Texas night, I decided to make Texas sheet cake, pecan pie bars, grapefruit cookies (a riff on my favorite orange cookie recipe), and kolaches. Continue reading “Peach Kolaches”