Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Endless Summer Jam

Summer’s winding down.  Days are getting shorter.  Nights becoming cooler.  Even the air smells different.  It’s around this time of year when everyone starts to smile sadly at what’s left of the warm sunny days, knowing the inescapable ‘F’ word is just around the corner.  It’s also around this time of year that I launch into a state of full-blown, vehement denial.  The flip flops will stay on my feet.  I will not need a jacket.  I will ignore those pesky baby pumpkins perched next to the last of the heirloom tomatoes.  They have no business being there yet, and they know it.

My denial takes many forms, though one of my favorites is to bottle up summer.  Literally.  Bottle it up in pretty glass jars, so on the coldest and dreariest of winter days when I’m craving sunshine on my face and freshly picked summer berries on my plate, I’ll have a secret weapon to bust out.  I will not be defeated.


Luckily, the beach across the street from our house provides the perfect ammunition for my secret weapon – row after row, after glorious row, of wild blackberry bushes.  During my parents most recent visit, we had a chance to head down and pick away to our heart’s content.  Pick one, eat one.  Pick one, eat two.  Admittedly, I’m not the most efficient harvester.  The goods are carefully carried home and prepped for my Endless Summer Jam.  It’s a jam that tastes like summer, looks like summer and smells like summer.  Denial can be a good thing, especially when it comes in a pretty jar.


Endless Summer Jam
Kiss My Spatula’s version of her favorite jam, yields about 1 pint

This jam is on the thicker, chunkier, and seedier side – just how I like it.  There’s nothing polite or demure about this one.

Music Pairing: Theme from Endless Summer


  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small apple, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lime


Place blackberries, sugar, lime juice and zest in a non-reactive, deep pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add diced apple and blueberries and continue to keep mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until thickened.  Gently mash fruit with a potato masher.  Spoon into favorite jam jars and allow to cool to room temperature.  Store covered in refrigerator for several weeks.

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Peaches and Meringue

I’m a dog person. Always have been, always will be. I’ve never known a dog person who’s also a cat person, and vice-versa. You are either one or the other. End of story. I’ve always wondered if the same applies to fruit. In particular, peaches and nectarines. Are you either a peach person or a nectarine person? Does the same intense camaraderie and worship exist for each side? I’m a nectarine person. When summer rolls around, nectarines make it into the kitchen often, but their fraternal siblings stay away. Well, because I keep them away. My main issue lies with the silly fur coat they like to wear. I’m not a fan of furry coats on fruit – except for kiwi, since we take theirs off.

But this year – this year I’m feeling adventurous. While strolling through the market, minding my own business, I see gorgeous, gigantic peaches, and though still skeptical, decide to pick one up, and immediately knew it was something special. Firm and only faintly mealy with the sweetest smell of summer. The time had come to give them a second chance. I was excited. And for good reason.

My first bite was crunchy, sweet and bursting with aroma. All the years I had shunned this poor fruit. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Then fate stepped in. As I was flipping through the new issue of Gourmet, distracted by the chomping of my renewed love, a recipe stopped me in my tracks. The chomping stopped, I quickly skimmed it, already knowing it was meant for me. And for my peaches. With only 4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes of cooking time, this was my type of dessert. The warm peach, barely caramelized at the edges, next to the fluffy, gooey-ness of the meringue is heavenly. The meringue reminds of the inside of a perfectly roasted s’more. Except better. A summer dessert that tastes guiltier than it actually is while showcasing the splendor of the peach. I love surprising myself – I’m a peach person after all (at least this year).


Peaches and Meringue
Tweaked from Gourmet, August 2009

Watch the meringue very, very, very carefully (I can’t emphasize this enough) once it goes in the oven. A few seconds too long and it will become a black, burnt mess. The original recipe called for crushed sesame candy or amaretti, but I usually don’t have either lying around the house, so the graham crackers worked perfectly. Also, please note the egg white in this recipe is not fully cooked.

Music Pairing: Peach, Prince


  • 2 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped graham crackers


Preheat broiler. Put peaches, cut side up, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sugar on each half. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until tops begin to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Beat egg white with a pinch of salt in a deep bowl using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoon sugar, beating until white holds stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in graham crackers.

Place a dollop of meringue on each peach half and broil 10-15 seconds. Turn off broiler and leave peaches in oven just until tips of meringue are browned, 20-30 seconds (watch carefully).


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Dessert bars and squares are like the middle children of the Sweet World.  I happen to know this world pretty well.  We’ve become very, very close over the years.  Which is why I get the sense that bars and squares feel they get the shaft.  They’re not quite like cake, with its fluffy and flirty ways, and yet, not quite like cookies either, who are always so cute and chewy – especially when dropped by the spoonful.  And even though brownies have similar curves (or lack thereof), their built-in chocolately, gooey, richness make them stand out.  But dessert bars and squares get ignored.  The folks at Merriam-Webster’s dictionary don’t even consider them an actual word.  (Go ahead, try to look them up.  I’ll wait).

See?  Definition-less.

All of this will change today.  I will spend all day, today doting on the dessert bar I love most.  Unfortunately, it’s also the same bar I’ve had many dubious encounters with.  Sometimes so sugary sweet that I can actually feel cavities forming with every chew, or so alien-yellow and slimy that I know it can’t be digestible.  Those days of needless disappointment are officially over for the infamous Lemon Bar.  I know everyone has a favorite version, so here’s mine to throw in the mix.


These Lemon Coconut Bars are the best I’ve ever eaten.  The coconut is key.  No, actually, toasting the coconut is key.  It provides such fantastic flavor and a bit of chewiness to the crust – something ordinary confectioner’s sugar can’t accomplish on its best day.  The filling is bright and light, with a harmonic blend of sweet to tart.  You know you’re eating real lemons, but not in an alarming pucker-your-lips type way.  Lastly, the ratio of filling to crust is always up for wild debate, but I prefer mine to be fairly equal – so each bite resembles a tiny symphony in my mouth – with conductor, musicians and audience all in tune.  I’m through doting on my favorite middle child….for today.

Duo Music Pairing: Gonna Make You Love Me, Ryan Adams and Lemonheads, If I Could Talk I’d Tell You

Lemon-Coconut Bars
Tweaked from Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated, yields about 16 bars

I only had evaporated milk lying around and I’m thinking it added an unexpected little somethin’ extra special to the bars.  To get nice, clean edges when cutting through bars, use a sharp knife and wipe clean between cuts.


  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted, cooled
  • 6 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

lemon filling:

  • 2 large eggs , beaten lightly
  • 1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice from 2 large lemons, strained
  • 2 1/2 tbsp evaporated milk
  • pinch of table salt

for crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Butter foil, being careful not to rip the foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add coconut and butter; process until mixture resembles fine meal and begins to clump together. Gather dough and press evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden at edges, about 20-25 minutes.

for lemon filling:

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Remove crust from oven.  Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Using foil as aid, transfer lemon coconut bars to work surface. Flatten foil edges. Cut into as many bars or squares as your little heart desires.  Top with sifted powdered sugar.  Any leftover bars can be sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days – though I recommend eating them the same day, at room temperature.  They’re never the same after they’ve been refrigerated – the crust becomes too hard and the filling too stiff.  And oh, only plan on topping with powdered sugar right before you eat.


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