Fattoush Salad with Yogurt Tahini Sauce

{fattoush salad at Ciachhetti}

{fattoush salad at cicchetti, way back in june}

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Hello, friends! It’s been awhile! I’ve pretty much taken the entire summer off from blogging, and now all of the sudden it’s the last day of August and I haven’t made any of the yummy recipes I had planned to post.  Summer pasta bakes, homemade goat cheese, corn cakes, ice cream, as many berry and peach desserts as possible, basically everything Deb has posted over the past few months (and she’s done it with a newborn!) – I’m pretty mad at myself. I have so many excuses: camera phone issues (thrice-shattered screen(s) made it hard to take pictures), actual camera issues (memory card full), computer issues (storage full so I can’t upload photos currently on camera, thus the full memory card), desire to spend free time at the beach and/or with my adorable niece and nephew rather than in the kitchen or trying to fix phone/camera/computer issues.

But I finally went to the Apple store last week (fourth trip in five weeks) and an adorable young guy at the genius bar fixed my computer for me. For free! It was so amazing. I completely expected him to tell me I needed to buy a new laptop, or that it would cost $800 to open mine up to tell me what was wrong, but instead he just helped me empty my trash and my little MacBook is good as new (I realize that doesn’t speak very highly of my technology skills!). My mom told me once that when I was born she wanted to name me after her anesthesiologist – that’s how I felt about this guy at the genius bar, except I’m not expecting a baby and I never even learned his name. But if I was, and I had, that’s how I would have felt, because that’s how excited I was/am to have my computer back. Whoop!

But I digress. Back in June, pre-technology meltdown, I went to dinner at Cicchetti for a girlfriend’s birthday and fell in love with their fattoush salad. So much so that I went back to Cichhetti the following weekend with the sole purpose of ordering the salad again, so that I could better analyze it for a future blog post. Two weeks after that, I actually made it. It was delicious. I even managed to take pictures somehow. And then I went to the beach for the Fourth of July with the two cutest babies on the planet, took approximately 10,000 photos of them playing in the ocean, and crashed my computer. A couple days later I dropped my phone on a cement floor and shattered the screen, which brings me to my above list of excuses.

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But better late than never, right? As much as I would love to close out August with a peach dessert (ideally this one), I can’t think about another blog post until I’ve shared this salad. It really is the perfect summer salad (perfect summer meal, even): full of crisp and juicy vegetables, fresh herbs, crunchy and salty pita chips, and tons of delicious middle-eastern flavors. In my attempt to recreate the Cicchetti version, I started with the ingredients they list on their menu: cucumber, red onion, crispy flatbread (aka deep fried pita strips), bell pepper, fresh herbs, and tahini yogurt. A google search provided that traditional fattoush also includes romaine lettuce (which the restaurant version used) and diced tomatoes (which the restaurant version didn’t use but I wanted to). So figuring out the vegetables was easy; the trickier parts were the tahini sauce and the crispy flatbread. I played around with both until I found a version I was happy with, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

There are a ton of recipes for yogurt tahini sauce online, I started with one (it was so long ago that I can’t even remember which one) and then added more tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. For the flatbread, I chopped my pitas into little strips and then fried them until crispy in olive oil, and salted them right when they came out of the hot oil. Delicious, but not necessarily the healthiest addition to a salad. I’ve made this a few times since, and I just toast the pitas in the toaster and then brush them with olive oil and sea salt and run them under the broiler until they’re extra crispy. So long as you aren’t doing a side by side taste test, that way is just as good.  And if you want to save yourself the time and energy, you could just crumble a handful of store-bought pita chips over your salad and call it a day.  But if you’re in the mood, cutting the pita into matchsticks and frying them is pretty fun, and makes for a really gorgeous salad.

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I’m not a huge fan of raw onions, so if I were just making this for myself I might leave them out. But I understand that a lot of people like them, and they do add a good crunch. One of my favorite tricks (that I may have talked about before) is to soak a red onion in ice water after you slice or dice it. It needs probably at least 20 minutes of soaking time, but longer won’t hurt (I find the longer the better, personally), so I try to remember to chop my onion first and then get it in an ice water bath and stick it in the fridge, and then once I’m done with everything else the onion is usually ready to drain. It just makes the onion flavor a little milder, and also helps the onion stay cold and crisp.

When I had this salad at Cicchetti, it was served with the sauce spread on the plate and sprinkled with sumac, and then the salad and pita on top. So for purposes of my blog photo shoot that’s what I did; since then, I just toss all my veggies together, mix the sumac in with my yogurt tahini sauce and dollop it on top, and then serve it with a crunchy pita alongside (or a handful of pita chips crumbled on top).  Whatever will make it easier for you to make this salad, I will encourage you to do, because it really was one of the best things I ate all summer.

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For the Salad:
5-6 Persian cucumbers (or 1-2 regular cucumbers), chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, finely diced (soaked and drained if desired, see above)
1 heart of romaine, finely sliced into thin strips
1 package cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
Fresh mint leaves, chopped, to taste
Small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

For the Yogurt Tahini Sauce:
2 cups Greek yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
Ground sumac, to taste

For the Crispy Flatbread:
3-4 pieces flatbread or pita, cut into matchsticks
Olive oil
Sea salt

Make Salad: Toss chopped cucumbers, peppers, onion, tomatoes, lettuce, mint, and parsley together; set aside.

Make Sauce: Blend yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread onto serving plates and then sprinkle sumac on top (or alternatively, plate salad first and then dollop the dressing on top).

Make Flatbread: Heat about 1/2″ of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add flatbread pieces and fry until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and spread on a paper towel-lined plate to dry; sprinkle generously with sea salt and let cool. [It took me about three batches to get all of mine done.] To bake instead of fry: toast pitas, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and broil until golden and toasty, about 2 minutes (watch carefully so that they don’t burn).

Assemble: Spread yogurt tahini sauce on plates and sprinkle with sumac. Top with a large handful of tossed veggies and sprinkle with crispy flatbread (and additional sumac, if desired). Enjoy, ideally on a sunny deck with a glass of wine.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Tart with Orange Cardamom Shortbread Crust

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Once upon a time, back when I first started this blog, I posted so many recipes from this cookbook that I worried its author might sue me for copyright infringement. Or at least kindly ask that I stop posting all of her material, so that people still have reason to buy the book (which I strongly recommend, btw). I also thought my readers might find me pretty unoriginal. So I decided to take a break, but from time to time I just can’t help myself. This recipe is the first thing that comes to mind as soon as I see rhubarb hit the market each spring, so I thought it deserved a feature on B&B. It’s been an entire two months since I’ve posted (sorry!!!), but luckily this tart is gorgeous (and yummy) enough to motivate me to share it.  We already knew that strawberries and rhubarb were a delicious duo (thanks, pie), but the combination of fresh strawberries and silky smooth rhubarb curd (with no weird rhubarb strings) is really amazing.  And the orange cardamom shortbread crust is just to die for – I don’t usually love orange in sweets (give me lemon or lime any day) and I’m not a huge cardamom fan, but somehow here the combo really works.

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While I can’t call this recipe “super easy,” as I’m often inclined to do, it’s really not complicated, and yet your dinner guests will definitely think you’re an amazing pastry chef. However, it’s not quick. I made this particular tart last Sunday to bring to a birthday dinner, started it early-afternoon, thinking I would have plenty of time, and alas, I was pretty late to the party. Luckily I showed up with a beautiful dessert in hand, so no one seemed to mind too much.  You probably already have almost all of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry, which will save some time. The only two items I didn’t have on hand were the strawberries and rhubarb, which I picked up at the farmers market – no trip to the grocery store needed.

The recipe can basically be divided into two parts: the shortbread crust and the rhubarb curd.  Once you’ve prepared the crust dough, it takes over an hour to chill and bake, so you’ll have time to worry about the curd once the crust is in the refrigerator. Simply pulse the shortbread ingredients in the food processor and then press the dough into the pan and chill. So easy, it makes me want to make shortbread more often! The orange and cardamom is a lovely flavor combination, but I think this would be really amazing with lemon or lime zest too (see above re: not usually an orange fan).

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The second part is the curd. Don’t be intimidated – I had never made curd before I first made this recipe, but it’s not hard at all, just a little more involved. Squeeze the rhubarb juice from the purée (my four stalks of rhubarb yielded twice the amount of juice I needed – they may have been particularly juicy but I think you would be fine with 2 or 3 stalks) and combine with the sugar, eggs, yolks, and salt. [Note: I don’t know if I would attempt this recipe if you don’t have a food processor – you would probably be ok making the shortbread with a pastry cutter but you definitely need the food processor for the rhubarb.]  The time consuming part is the constant stirring – the recipe says 18-20 minutes, and although mine looked plenty thick after about 10 minutes, I kept stirring away until my timer went off, just in case. Melissa encourages the straining step to get that silky texture – there were definitely chunks of what I believe to be cooked egg that I strained out so I’m inclined to agree with her.

Once your crust is baked and your curd is finished, you get to put it all together (the fun part).  You could definitely make this ahead of time – either the crust or the curd, or both.  I’m not sure how long the tart would last once it’s assembled (whenever I’ve made it it gets devoured on day one), so if you wanted to make both in advance I would perhaps still keep the crust and curd separate until the day you want to serve the tart. Just bake the shortbread as directed in step 3, below, and then let it cool and store it in an air-tight container. Let the strained curd cool, place a layer of saran wrap directly on the surface of the curd, and store in the refrigerator. Once you’re ready to put it all together, pour the curd into the tart shell and bake for 10-15 minutes (Melissa says 10, mine didn’t look too set after 10 and so I gave it an extra 5, and even then I was still a little nervous it wasn’t done – but I was in a hurry).  Let the tart cool for at least an hour – see, I told you it was time consuming! – and then decorate with the strawberries.  I just hulled my berries and placed them cut side down on top of the curd, but you could cut them in half or slice them, and then arrange them any way you want. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (definitely don’t do this until the very last minute as the powdered sugar will kind of “melt” into the strawberries), pop the outer ring off of your tart pan, and place the tart on a serving platter.  People will tell you you’re amazing, and forgive you for being late to dinner.

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For the shortbread crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (approx. the zest of one large orange)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

For the rhubarb curd filling:

10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut into one inch pieces (about 3 cups chopped, I used 4 large stalks and had plenty)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the topping:

2 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

To make tart:

1. To make the crust, place the flour, powdered sugar, orange zest, salt, and cardamom in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment and pulse to combine. Add the butter and run the motor just until a crumbly dough forms.

2. Scrape the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into and up the sides of the pan. Use a spatula to smooth the bottom, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the tart dough with a sheet of foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until light golden brown, 35-40 minutes.

4. While the crust is baking, prepare the curd. Puree the rhubarb in a food processor until smooth, about 2-3 minutes (add a few teaspoons of water if necessary to help the rhubarb move, though try to keep this to a minimum so it doesn’t dilute the juice). Pour into a bowl lined with cheesecloth. Tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice with your hands, discarding the pulp. You should get about 2/3 cup juice.

5. In a double boiler or a stainless steel medium bowl set on top of a medium heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of simmering water, combine the rhubarb juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt. Stir constantly, with a whisk, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides, while the liquid thickens, about 18-20 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until dissolved.

6. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve.

7. When the crust is ready, take it out of the oven, remove the foil and pie weights, and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Spread the rhubarb curd into the tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd is just set (mine needed 15). Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool completely, for at least one hour.

8. Just before serving, arrange the strawberries on top of the curd and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve at once.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Variations: as I mentioned above, I think the crust would be great with lemon or lime zest in place of the orange, perhaps without the cardamom (but it might be fun to experiment with different spices?). While the point of this recipe is kind of the strawberry/rhubarb combo, Melissa says rasperries work great too.  I also think this tart can serve as an example for other fun and simple curds you could try – I’m thinking about lemon curd with raspberries or blueberries, lime curd with strawberries, mango curd with…..what goes with mango? Anything really, but I imagine strawberries would be delicious. If you’re inspired to make up your own variation, let me know in the comments how it turns out!

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Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing

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As much as I love September, it’s a hard month for blog recipes because it’s not exactly clear what season we’re in. Technically, it’s still summer. It’s generally still pretty hot outside (at least most days). I’m still living in tank tops and flip flops. Yet the word “September” connotes back to school clothes, leaves changing, colder mornings, and basically all things fall. Peaches and tomatoes are on their way out, but I can’t bring myself to post (or even make) apple or pumpkin recipes until after the autumn equinox, which is a whole six days away.  So in the meantime, I just haven’t posted anything.  But then I had my friend Julie’s “cole slaw” the other night, and I was newly inspired.  If this salad had to pick a season, it’s definitely fresh enough to pick summer – but it’s not trying too hard to be seasonal. It’s perfect for a mid-September barbecue, but truthfully you could make it anytime.

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Julie is one of those people who, anytime she makes something you know it’s going to be good. You know this because she is good at everything she does. My mom always says Julie would have been the perfect pioneer woman (as opposed to herself, or either of her daughters, who wouldn’t have lasted a week on the Oregon Trail – we can barely go camping). Julie has five kids (and three adorable grandsons!), and still goes to Barre five days a week and makes dinner for her husband every night. How many people do you know that make an actual meal every night? I can count them on one hand. For those of us who need a little inspiration to make dinner even a few nights a week, however, this is the perfect salad – serve it alongside grilled chicken or fish (double the dressing recipe and use it as a marinade or glaze) and tell yourself you could have been a pioneer woman after all.

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Although the veggies take a little time to chop, this salad could not be easier. I say “salad” rather than “cole slaw” (which might be it’s technical name) because I detest cole slaw – or at least what I think of when I think of cole slaw, which is limp, soggy cabbage with disgusting, mayonnaise-y dressing, usually out of a bag or from a BBQ place (some other things I hate: mayonnaise, salad from a bag, BBQ). This salad could not be further from that, though – all the veggies are crisp and fresh and the dressing is made up of delicious things like peanut butter and soy sauce (using tamari makes it gluten free) and fresh ginger – and not a drop of mayonnaise. So, I’m calling it a salad, and like I said, it’s super easy. Whisk together all dressing ingredients, chop and toss the veggies, and that’s it.

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One year ago: oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies

Salad, previously: couscouskale, soba noodle, arugula, cucumber melon, green bean

Cabbage Salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing, from my friend Julie

For the dressing:
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

For the salad:
5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (one large head will yield at least 5 cups)
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 cups shredded napa cabbage (I had to search for this at the grocery store – it looks more like a head of lettuce)
2-3 bell peppers (I used one red, one orange and one yellow but you could use any color(s) you like), cut into matchstick-sized strips
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-sized strips
8 large green onions, cut into matchstick-sized strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

To make:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Let sit at room temperature for thirty minutes (or while you chop your veggies, which will take about that long). Add all sliced and chopped veggies into a large bowl and toss to combine. You’ll need to use the biggest bowl you have, as this makes a ton (you might want to cut the recipe in half if you aren’t feeding a crowd or don’t want leftovers).  Toss salad with dressing just before serving (only dress what you plan to use immediately; veggies and dressing will keep well in the fridge for a few days if you store them separately).

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Ombré Tomato Bruschetta

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Happy September, everyone! Can you believe Labor Day has come and gone? It felt so early to me this year. I hope everyone had lovely and relaxing long weekends. And now we’re back in the grind, ugh. But on the bright side, in the words of the funniest person I follow on Instagram, “I was sad that summer was over. But I was happy that it was over for my enemies, too.” That made me laugh when I read that “chapter” in his book, and I laughed even harder when I saw it in my Instagram feed this morning (in between the seemingly endless “first day of preschool” pictures – not that we don’t all love the first day of preschool pictures!!).

Luckily, summer isn’t actually over quite yet, and we still have a few weeks of tomato season left.  This “recipe” (if you can even call it that) was on the cover of my Martha Stewart Living last July, and has literally been on my “to make” list since then. I’m not sure how or why it took me fourteen months to make it, as bruschetta is one of my summer staples, but for whatever reason (probably because I never had all of the right color tomatoes) it did.  I finally made it for a Labor Day BBQ last night and it was sooooooo delicious that I had to post it, even though it’s less of a “recipe” and more of exactly what it sounds like – tomatoes on grilled bread.  But with fresh ciabatta, ripe heirlooms, and good olive oil and salt, this is literally better than birthday cake.  

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There’s not much else I can tell you about this, except that I really hope you make it. My only notes would be: (1) I really do think quality of ingredients makes a difference here – fresh bread, ripe tomatoes, good olive oil and sea salt; and (2) don’t be scared of the raw garlic – I’m usually not a fan, but I’ve read so many recipes telling me to rub toast with garlic cloves that I just went for it and I feel like it added a necessary kick.  Aside from that, it’s all pretty self-explanitory.  This whole thing literally took me ten minutes, including toasting and slicing (and photographing!). It would be delicious with fresh mozzarella, although it doesn’t need it at all.  I thought the basil made it look pretty, but it would be fine without it – and that is saying something, as I think everything is better with basil. You don’t even need to do the ombré part if you don’t have the right colored tomatoes (except then it would just be plain bruschetta, which isn’t quite as fun). Basically what I’m saying is, we only have a few short weeks of summer left, let’s take advantage of them with ombré bruschetta, whatever way you want to do it. Just don’t wait fourteen months like me.

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Tomato Ombré on Grilled Bread, from Martha Stewart Living

1 loaf good rustic bread, such as Ciabatta
2 cloves garlic, split in half crosswise (I only needed one)
2-3 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, in a variety of colors
Good olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, for garnish (optional)

Slice loaf of bread in half lengthwise, and either grill on the barbecue (like Martha) or place under the broiler until toasty (like me). Rub the toasted (cut) side of the bread all over with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Slice tomatoes as thin as possible. Drizzle any accumulated juices over the bread, and then arrange the tomatoes on top of the bread according to color.  Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper (Martha gives you amounts of oil and salt and pepper to use, I just kind of eyeballed it).  Garnish with basil, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie

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I had a lot of things on my to do list this summer, and as per usual most of them (namely, my golf game, my tan, and my trip to the Hamptons) didn’t happen. But a few did, and happily one of those was to finally make Martha Stewart’s peach and crème fraîche pie. I saw this pie in her magazine years ago but never really had an excuse to make it – who makes pies, after all, besides grandmothers? Crisps and cobblers and just plain peaches with ice cream are so much easier. But the peach dumplings I made last year were such a hit that I thought maybe this summer I should try the pie.  And since we only have a few days left in August, which we all know is the month for peaches, I made it this past weekend. 

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Aside from the crust, this pie is so easy to throw together (although come to think of it, aside from the crust, so is every pie). I actually planned to use a store bought crust, but if you can believe it Whole Foods appears to only sell puff pastry, no frozen pie dough. Ugh. So my “quick dessert” that I planned to throw together in twenty minutes ended up taking the better part of an afternoon, but it was so yummy it was worth it. Simply peel and quarter your peaches and toss them with sugar and a little salt, mix together a quick crumble topping and then (once your crust is ready) you can assemble the pie in about five minutes.  When I searched google for this recipe, I found that Smitten Kitchen had beat me to it (even when I don’t intentionally blog her recipes, I still end up blogging her recipes – sorry Deb!).  In her notes she mentioned that the pie could use a little additional sugar, so when Martha told me to toss my peaches with two tablespoons granulated sugar, I added two tablespoons brown sugar as well.  I also added a little cinnamon to both the peaches and the crumble – not enough to detract from the simplicity of the pie, but just a pinch to spice it up a bit (literally, hehe).  There’s just something about the peach-brown sugar-cinnamon combo that is hard to beat.

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My only note to this recipe (aside from the brown sugar and cinnamon, and my subtle hint to use frozen pie crust) would be to use a “pie shield” to keep the crust from getting too dark.  I’ve seen these in the baking section at Met Market a hundred times and thought they must be a total gimmick – but I made the mistake of walking to the coffee shop while my pie was in the oven and came back to a VERY toasty looking crust.  I tried to cover the edges with tin foil for the last few minutes of baking time, but it was too late.  It still tasted fine, but I was pretty sad – at least, until I noticed that Deb’s and even Martha’s crusts looked pretty dang brown (and Martha even tells you to cover your crust).  This might be less of an issue if you didn’t par bake, but just FYI.

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Yum yummy yum.  The peaches and cream bake together into such a delicious custard, with the crumble adding a little crunch.  I served this on Sunday night after a long wedding weekend, and it was met with unanimously rave reviews. Everyone gobbled it up so fast I didn’t even have time to take a picture once it was all sliced up (it looked so pretty on the inside), which I think gives me an excuse to make it again – only this time, with a frozen crust. Just call me Grandma! 

Peaches, previously: dumplings with bourbon hard sauce, shortcakes

One year ago: pesto, two ways (and one is kale!)

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie, from Martha Stewart Living

For the crust (you could use any crust you like, including store bought, but I’m going to give you Martha’s pâte sucrée recipe):
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

For the streusel: 
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into pieces

For the filling: 
4-5 medium ripe yellow peaches, pitted and quartered (I peeled mine)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons crème fraîche (I used a little more)

Directions:

Crust: pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add egg yolk, and pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to two days.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to one inch, fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the crust is baking, prepare streusel and filling.

Streusel: sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (if using) in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

Filling: put peach quarters in a medium bowl and sprinkle with sugars and salt; gently toss to coat.

Put pie together: once the crust has cooled a bit, spread two tablespoons crème fraîche onto the bottom of the crust and sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining three (or more) tablespoons crème fraîche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

Bake pie: at 375 degrees until bubbling and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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Dark Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread

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Happy stormy Wednesday, friends! Can you believe this weather? The cool(er) temps were a nice reprieve for a day, but two days (or three, per the forecast) is just too much! Although it’s hard to complain about the weather when (a) we’ve had such a gorgeous summer so far, and (b) we have way more important things to talk about, like zucchini bread with chocolate chunks, or my new baby nephew.

When we last met, I was impatiently waiting for Baby P’s arrival.  Anticipating that things might be a little busy once he got here, I had a week’s worth of blog posts drafted and ready to go – all I had to do was hit publish.  But then he was born, and I fell head over heels in love and forgot I had a blog. Or a gym membership, or a blow dryer, for that matter.  All I want to do is hang out with Cooper. But since I would hate for those blog posts to go to waste, there are a lot of B&B treats heading to your inbox in the coming weeks: lentil salad, tomato tart, peach pie…..get excited.

First, though, zucchini bread.  August is the month for zucchini, and when you buy five at the farmers market and it turns out you only need one or two (for a galette or a tart or perhaps even something that doesn’t involve pie crust), zucchini bread is the perfect way to use up the rest. I had developed a nasty banana bread habit before zucchini season rolled around, but luckily this recipe has cured me of it.

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Zucchini bread always makes me think of two people, my uncle Rich and my friend Courteney. We have a “family cookbook” in my family, and the zucchini bread recipe in the cookbook is called “Uncle Rich’s Zucchini Bread.” I can’t remember if Uncle Rich actually makes zucchini bread, or if the cookbook publisher (yours truly) was in a rush to assign everyone a recipe and just put his name on something random (I’m pretty sure it’s the former, but I couldn’t swear to it). Regardless, zucchini bread now makes me think of Uncle Rich. And it also makes me think of Courteney, who is always asking me for the recipe for “Uncle Rich’s Zucchini Bread.”

This is one of those great recipes where you can literally just dump everything in one bowl and stir. Counting your food processor or grater, that’s only two dishes to wash. The cake comes out of the oven crunchy at the edges but with a delicate and not-too-sweet crumb, and then of course the dark chocolate chunks.  I had intended for this to be chocolate chip banana bread, but the Whole Foods baking aisle leaves a lot to be desired and I couldn’t find the chips I wanted – so I went with chunks and I’m so glad I did. It’s still a cake-y type bread, but the zucchini does a lot to alleviate the guilt (and there isn’t that much chocolate). The recipe yields two loaves (or in my case, one regular loaf and two mini loaves) and freezes well, so you can have one now and save one for later. I divided mine between a cousin who has a new baby and a friend recovering from surgery, and it was the perfect treat to wrap in foil and store in their freezers. But it would also be the perfect thing to make and eat yourself on a gray and thunderstorm-y August Wednesday, or to bring over as an excuse to visit your new baby nephew.  Lots of options for us. 

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Zucchini, previously: ricotta galette, carrot muffinssummer squash tart

One year ago: peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce (one of my top two most popular B&B recipes, at least in terms of how many people told me they made them and loved them), and can we just relive for a moment the best party I ever threw?

Dark Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread (adapted from a variety of zucchini bread recipes)

Yield: two loaves, or four mini loaves (or in this case, one regular loaf and two mini)

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (vegetable, olive, or coconut)
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 heaping cups grated, raw, unpeeled zucchini
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (or any chocolate chunk or chip of your choice)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans or four mini loaf pans (I like to spray with “PAM for baking“). Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add oil, sugar, and zucchini; mix well. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Fold in chocolate chunks (and nuts if using). Pour into loaf pans and bake for one hour (mini loaf pans will take about 45 minutes). Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

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Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

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I saw these on my favorite blog a couple weeks ago, and obviously had to make them asap (I should really start to think about unsubscribing from all of these food blogs, as they make it pretty hard to stick to my diet “healthy eating lifestyle”).  I waited until I had a summer BBQ to attend, thinking they would be the perfect thing to bring.  I bet you guys can already see the issue, right? It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t. As it turns out, ice cream + summer weather + car transport + rush hour = disaster (car transport alone was probably enough to seal their fate, but the 90 degree heat and traffic didn’t help).  Why didn’t I think to put them in a cooler? Unclear.

But here’s the thing, they were pretty melty to begin with. I debated even posting this recipe, because (a) do we really need a recipe for ice cream sandwiches? and also (b) because mine didn’t turn out that well. At least, at first. But as the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed….try, try again.  And while I may not apply that mantra to any important areas of my life, of course I’m going to try again at brownie ice cream sandwiches.

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While a recipe for ice cream sandwiches is a little superfluous, a recipe for brownies is not. Deb’s brownies are the best – and so easy. Seven ingredients, at least six of which you probably already have in your fridge/pantry (I never seem to have baker’s chocolate, aside from the odd ounce I always have leftover from when I made these brownies the last time).  To make these ice cream sandwich-friendly, you just spread the batter into two layers, either in two 8×8 pans (ideal) or one 9×13 pan (which would also be fine). Secret option number three is to bake two batches in one 8×8 pan, if you can only find one, like me. It’s not the end of the world but next time I’ll use a 9×13, or look harder for my other brownie pan.

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The brownie part is easy (although I would note that these layers are pretty thin, so make sure to let them completely cool before handling, and even then be very careful.  I had the best luck when they were completely frozen). The tricky part is getting the ice cream to stay frozen. I considered glossing over my first attempt, but what is this blog if not an attempt to help you learn from my mistakes?

Deb says you can spread the ice cream over the first brownie layer, top it with the second brownie layer, freeze it for 30 minutes, and you’re good to go.  Perhaps she used better ice cream than me, or has a colder freezer.  But the below photos show my attempt and the sad, melty results.

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Frozen.

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Still frozen.

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Appears frozen-ish.

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Melty mess.  And this is before I had to put them in the car.

Needless to say, they arrived at the party looking less like ice cream sandwiches, and more like 32 thin brownie squares floating in a pool of mint green and vanilla swirled milk.  Tragic. But I made them again, and this time froze the ice cream all by itself in the 8×8 pan (lined with parchment) for a full 24 hours.  I cut the brownies and the ice cream separately and then put the sandwiches together and it worked perfectly. (When I cut the sandwiches the first time the ice cream oozed out – it probably would have been ok if the ice cream had been more frozen but I was afraid to try it out the second time.  Also I think if the sandwich was put together in the pan the cutting would go better as the ice cream wouldn’t have anywhere to go. If you try these at home, experiment and let me know how it goes).

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches, from Smitten Kitchen

For the brownies:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling:
2 to 3 cups ice cream (one quart or two pints)

Heat your oven to 350°F. Line two 8×8-inch square baking pans with parchment paper.  Spray parchment with a nonstick cooking spray (I like to spray the bottom of the pan first so that the parchment sticks/stays in place, then spray the parchment and sides of pan generously as well).

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until almost melted (you can also do this in the microwave – heat in short increments, stirring every 20-30 seconds or so). Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar until fully combined, then eggs, one at a time and then vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour. Try not to over-mix.

Divide batter between two prepared pans and spread evenly — an offset spatula will make this easier. Bake on different racks for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free. Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

<<This is where my instructions will differ from Deb’s – but I would encourage you to try it her way first if you want.  Especially if you don’t have to transport yours, or if you have the time and energy to do a trial run.  But I think my way is a little more foolproof, albeit not quite as seamless.>>

For sandwiches:
Once brownies have cooled, remove one of the brownie layers from the pan and store on a cookie sheet or cooling rack (these layers are pretty thin so they’ll break easily if they aren’t completely cooled or frozen – be careful!).  Wipe down the 8×8 pan and re-line with parchment (no spray needed this time).  Scoop your ice cream out into the pan, and use a spatula to “smoosh” it into a smooth layer. Cover with parchment and use the second brownie pan to weigh the ice cream down (if you used a 9×13 or only have one 8×8, like me, you can skip this step). Return the ice cream to the freezer and freeze as long as possible. Deb said she only needed 20 minutes – I gave mine over 24 hours and it still started to melt pretty quickly.

When you’re ready to make your sandwiches, cut both brownie layers into 16 squares.  Remove ice cream from the freezer, lift it (using the parchment sling) onto a cutting board, and quickly cut it into 16 squares as well. Make the sandwiches and return to the freezer to let them re-freeze a bit. You’ll want a cookie sheet or a 9×13 pan if you don’t have two 8×8 pans, as it would be tricky to squeeze them all back into one 8×8.