Arugula and Nectarine Salad

A few months ago when Andrew and I visited wine country, we tasted a lovely Viognier from Melville. It smelled like nectarine from the first swirl, and tasted sweet, yet dry. We bought a bottle and I immediately started thinking of what to serve it with. I imagined my favorite kind of meal: a lingering summer evening with cheese, bread, and a light main course.


Thank you, Food and Wine for a wonderful recipe. If you examine the magazine photo closely, you'll notice that my salad looks nothing like it. To make it a main course, I used a salad-appropriate amount of arugula, gave up on cutting perfect goat cheese rounds, and substituted nectarines for the apricots. I suppose I don't need to tell you how well the evening went. We also ate these for dessert, which, as I've already explained, are only mildly addicting.


For the original recipe, head to Food and Wine

Cherry Brown Butter Squares

The brown butter for these bars smells so good, you might be tempted to stick your finger in the (cooled) saucepan and start slurping it down. The same reflex goes for the batter, after you’ve whisked the butter into the bowl and stirred in all the browned bits of flavor.  But wait, it gets better. Dark, juicy cherries sit smack in the middle of a vanilla-scented crust and filling. Sound tempting yet?


I’d been waiting for an opportunity to make these when a bag of cherries magically arrived in my CSA box this week. And I’m not sure I can even eloquently explain how magical they are. They’re also perfect for any bbq’s, beach days nights at the Hollywood Bowl (where I’ll be taking them next week), or any event that requires food to be transported. They’re super cute, stack well, and will be gushed over by all who try them. I promise you that.


Cherry Brown Butter Squares

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, via Bon Appetit

Makes 16 2-inch square bars

It might seem like you won’t have enough crust, but just work it gently with your fingers and it will spread to cover the entire pan. Since I don’t own a cherry pitter, my pairing knife and I got to know each other a little better this weekend. A pitter would be useful, but is certainly not mandatory for stellar results.


7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries, which yielded some leftovers, perfect for snacking (alternately, you can use 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)


Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. (I used foil.)

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

Nectarine, Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart


Ok. I’ll say it. I almost, almost destroyed this tart. Do you ever make the simplest recipe mistake, when you aren’t thinking, then kick yourself for missing something so simple? Today was one of those days. Oops.


Everything started well. The gingersnaps were whirling away in the food processor as I grabbed a large pat of butter from the fridge. I glanced at the recipe quickly. 6 tablespoons. Then I glanced at my conversion chart. ¾ cup. Except that 6 tablespoons is actually ¼ cup, so I streamed double the amount of butter into the cookie mixture. As I poured it in, I thought it looked like a lot, but didn’t give my conversion a second thought. Until I started pressing it into the pan. The butter was gathering in pools, and the cookies were sopping wet. That’s when I realized what had happened.


To salvage the mess, I scooped everything back into the food processor. I couldn’t remove any butter, but I proceeded to add the rest of the box of cookies until it evened everything out. Crisis averted.


After that, this tart was smooth sailing. The filling is creamy, light, and lovely with hints of lemon and sugar. The sweet nectarines were juicy and worked so well with the crust and filling (even without the crystallized ginger). I suppose you could even eat this for breakfast if you have any leftovers.

Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in a Gingernsap Crust

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

37 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken (about 9 ounces; about 3 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of pieces)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (1/4 cup!)

1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling: Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger if you’re using it. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

For topping: Overlap nectarine slices atop filling in concentric circles. Brush with jam. Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger if you’re using it. (Mint makes an excellent garnish, if you’re skipping the ginger.) Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours.

Whole Lemon Tart

Sometimes being a multi-tasker has its drawbacks. Like when you’re trying to half-bake a tart shell, and braise beef for dinner, and dust the living room, and do laundry, and listen to DVR playing in the background—things can go south quickly. Take this tart for instance.


The recipe is easy enough (bonus: it only takes one single lemon!), but since my Dutch oven (with the braised beef) took up most of the oven, I slid the pan on the lower rack but the tart shell didn't exactly brown evenly. Oh, and let's not forget that before I half-baked the shell, I poured the filling right in, yes, completely forgetting I omitted a step. Oops. I poured it back into a bowl, but the damage was (partially) done. Thank goodness for powdered sugar. Just cover the tart with it, and no one will ever know.

Side note: If you know anyone who's not a huge fan of lemons, try this with a Meyer. I'm telling you, it's a completely different experience: sweet and rich, minus the puckering feeling in your mouth.


Whole Lemon Tart
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Rollet-Pradier via Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets

1 partially baked 9-inch (24-cm) Great Unshrinkable Tart Shell (also via Smitten Kitchen, recipe below)
1 Meyer lemon lemon
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons (12 grams) cornstarch (I had run out, and substituted 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour for the cornstarch)
1 stick (4 ounces; 115 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven 325°F (165°C). Line a trimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and put the tart shell on the sheet.

Slice the lemon into thin wedges, remove the seeds, and toss the lemon and sugar into the container of a blender or food processor. Blend or process, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed and blended with the sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the mixture into a bowl and, using a whisk, gently stir in the whole egg and the yolk, followed by the cornstarch and melted butter. [I actually just use the food processor for this whole mixing part, beating the other ingredients in until smooth.] Pour the filling into the crust but be sure to leave 1/4 inch between the top of your filling and the top edge of your crust.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the tart for 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling, lightly browned and set. Don’t take the tart out until it is clearly set, however — you’re looking for a slight jiggliness with no suggestion of liquid underneath. Transfer the tart, still on the baking sheet, to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. The tart is ready to be served when it reaches room temperature.

The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Since relocating to Los Angeles in September, I haven’t spent many evenings dining out. Aside from the two weeks of forced exile to eateries because of a broken fridge, my recent dinner at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica was our first real night out in a few months. It was a night where reservations were made after several restaurants were carefully considered before settling on Rustic Canyon, and I was genuinely looking forward to it.

Rustic Canyon appealed to me because of its emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients (they shop at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market) and, based on their website and online reviews, what seemed to be a commitment to simple, quality food. 

Bouchon, my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, follows a similar method of using Farmer’s Market fare. Once we arrived for dinner at Bouchon at 5:30 and ordered a scallop appetizer – one of the last the kitchen had available that night. When they run out of the good stuff, it’s gone.

So, it’s safe to say my expectations were high. While I love to cook at home, I’m usually overcome with giddiness at the thought of a night out at a really, really good restaurant. It’s my chance to order food I don’t normally make at home, try wines I don’t usually buy. I should also mention that I crossed out Wine Resolution #17: Try a wine you think you don't like. Blame it on Sideways, but Merlot sales went downhill when that movie became popular. I drank Merlot only when it was offered at tastings, but tonight I took the advice of our server and paired a Napa Merlot with my scallops. I'm happy to say I was not at all disappointed.


Side note: I don’t tend to take pictures in restaurants. While part of me is dying to capture the moment, another, more pronounced part says no, don’t interrupt the moment with a flash that causes other diner’s to look your way, or incessant plate spinning for just the right angle. I can’t do it. But check out the link above. Their food is as clean and inviting as their website.



We started with artichoke ravioli, which was good, but not overly exciting. Then my scallops arrived, perfectly browned on both sides with a celery root puree and red wine reduction. The next fifteen minutes were blissful as I savored every bite. You might be wondering where the cake comes in. I stumbled upon the recipe in the LA Times during my Google-research phase and was thrilled to see that it was on the menu the night we went. (We also ordered the donuts with dark chocolate sauce – an absolute must if you visit.)

The restaurant version was as I expected – moist and the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness. It was especially nice when paired with a small bite of cool vanilla bean ice cream. When I made it at home, the friends I had over noted its versatility – perfect for breakfast, brunch an afternoon snack, and a great alternative to Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. It seems this cake can be eaten at any time of day, and for any occasion, making it a great recipe to keep in your files when you need something just right.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Servings: 18

Adapted from pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix.
4. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
6. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

Glazed Lime Cake

Martha Stewart’s Lime Meltaways were the first lime-themed sweets I made that truly captured my attention (alas, I made them before my blogging days so there are no photos to share, but Smitten Kitchen made them so you can see how enticing they really are). Now I can't get enough of these small green wonders.
I’m not in the habit of baking during the week. Baking requires time, energy, accurate measuring, and a certain amount of patience to be successful. When I get home from work and need to magically put ingredients together in under an hour, baking is the last thing on my mind. Now, give me a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and there is always time to precisely follow directions and even enjoy a vanilla latte or a quick magazine read while my treats are baking away in the oven.
Enter Wednesday. It's the one day a week that my husband goes jogging after work, leaving me with plenty of time to bake. Thankfully, this cake is simple. Its ingredients come together in a stand mixer and head straight to the cake pan. During the 35 minutes it bakes you can easily prep ingredients for your main course and finish the glaze that will be drizzled on top. Aside from an extra round of dishes, it didn’t appear to be more work than usual, and ended our evening on a sweet note.

Glazed Lime Cake

Recipe courtesy Bon Appetit


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1 1/3 cups self-rising flour
2 to 3 large limes
1/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 8-inch square baking pan. Using electric mixer, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in milk, then flour. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grate enough lime peel to measure 1 tablespoon. Halve limes; squeeze enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. Mix peel, juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Set lime syrup aside.

Using skewer, poke holes all over baked cake. Spoon half of lime syrup (about 3 tablespoons) over hot cake. Cool.

Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar into remaining lime syrup; drizzle over cake. Let stand 1 hour. Cut cake into squares.

Apple Muffins

These muffins are perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. I eat them two at a time, and tuck them into my purse before heading to work.

Apple Muffins

Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger


Cooking spray
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and cinnamon; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Mix in the applesauce and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Blend just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp

The contrast of cool vanilla ice cream with warm, gooey fruit is what makes this recipe so intriguing. I’ve attempted this dish three times: Once with nectarines, once with peaches, and this time with apricots since it was the only stone fruit variety available at the store this week.

It turns out that of the three varieties, I prefer apricots the least (though that didn't stop me from eating this). If you can find them, choose nectarines or peaches. The nutty aroma of amaretto will fill your kitchen as this bakes, and after suffering through the 45 minute wait, a sugary-sweet, bubbly masterpiece awaits. Yum!

Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup crushed amaretti cookies, coarsely crushed

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 pounds nectarines, pitted and sliced into thick wedges

8 ounces blueberries

3 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur (recommended: Disarrono)

Vanilla ice cream

To make the topping: Stir the flour and sugars in a medium bowl to blend. Add the cookies and almonds and mix well. Add the butter and rub in until moist clumps form.

To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. Stir the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add the nectarines and blueberries, and toss to combine. Stir in the liqueur.

Spoon the fruit mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the cookie topping over. Bake until the nectarines are tender and the topping is golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream.