August 31, 2010

Rustic Peach Cake

When you have a newborn in the house, finding the time to cook, much less bake, takes on a whole new meaning. You basically have to seize the free time whenever you can while the baby's sleeping or being entertained by her dad. Those moments are precious and other things like taking a shower often take precedence. But recently, I used my free hour to bake a beautiful rustic summer cake.

This recipe is one I found in Cook's Illustrated 'American Classics' which is on newsstands now. I was immediately drawn to it for two reasons: peaches are at their peak right now and who doesn't love peaches? And, because it is really, really easy.

This rustic peach cake, like many sweets that I see in Italy, is just the kind of cake I love: not too sweet, not fussy, made with simple ingredients, like fresh fruit, that can be eaten anytime of day. My personal favorite is in the morning with a homemade cappuccino made with local roaster Drew's Brews Zappia family espresso. Or, as a late-night snack with a glass of Hatcher family dairy whole milk. Yum. I plan to save this recipe and use it all year long, replacing the peaches with whatever is in season. It would be great with apples (like this torta di mele), pears, plums or dried fruit in the winter.

This cake is so good and so un-sweet, therefore not too guilt-inducing (there's only a 1/2 cup of sugar in the recipe) that this is all that was left 24 hours after I made it.

Rustic Peach Cake, from C.I., American Classics

1 cup a.p. flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Mix until light:
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
8 T unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs
2 T sour cream (or whole milk)
1 t vanilla extract

Then add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix on low until just combined. Pour into greased and floured cake pan.

For peaches:
peel, pit and slice 2 medium peaches and toss with 1/4 c sugar and 1/2 t cinnamon then arrange in a circular pattern around the edge and in the middle of cake.
(*Tip: scattering some chopped, dried apricots or peaches over the batter before arranging the fresh peaches on top will soak up the excess peach juice and eliminate a soggy cake top, but this is kind of fancy and is optional.)

Bake @ 350 for about 35-40 min. I used a 9-in cake pan, but you could use a springform or any kind of cake pan for this.

August 5, 2010

Sweet corn pesto pasta

It is a delight to be back in the kitchen at the same time as my CSA basket is overflowing with the abundant produce of summer. We have more corn, summer squash, basil and fresh herbs than we know what to do with. Tomatoes are still at a premium and we've lost 100% of ours to the squirrels in the backyard, but I've managed to get my hands on a few heirlooms here and there.

Because of the generosity of so many of our friends and family, we enjoyed many great meals dropped off at our house in the weeks following June's birth. Now, though, I am craving some of my mainstay dishes, like pasta with fresh summer veggies.

As we've had more than 50 consecutive days of 90+ degree weather this summer, cooking has of necessity become quick sauteeing, blanching or cold, fresh ingredients only. This pasta dish was a perfect example. I made a batch of pesto first, then sauteed fresh corn in a little olive oil and added red onion and a bunch of herbs from my garden: thyme, basil, oregano. After combining the corn and the pesto and adding a little of the pasta cooking water to thin it out, I added some fresh tomatoes to give it color and grated fresh pecorino cheese on top.

Simple, summery and delicious served with a cucumber salad on the side and a big glass of cold white wine.