Tuscan Ricotta Tart with Peaches

Tuscan Ricotta Tart with Peaches. I’ve met so many incredibly talented and lovely people through Instagram. That’s where I first found Giulia Scarpaleggia (and her website Jul’s Kitchen), who lives and cooks in Tuscany. Her food is gorgeous and when she told me she had a cookbook coming out, I couldn’t wait to see it. The book is a beautiful guide to the Markets of Tuscany and the recipes they inspire, including this fresh ricotta tart (I added the peaches for a summer twist). The flavors are a classic combination from this region. I adore the food, the people, the terrain, the wine and the sweets of Tuscany. I’ve often fantasized about moving abroad and the Italian countryside is always first on the list.

This ricotta tart, caught my eye when I was flipping through the pages of Giulia’s book. Her tart, which she calls, Torta Squisita “exquisite cake”, is made with ricotta (I made it from scratch, which is so easy), chocolate, candied orange peel and a star anise flavored liqueur. It is quintessentially Italian. I happen to have some juicy, perfectly ripe peaches sitting on the counter, so I decided to top the tart with them. It is super tasty and an ode to summer, but it would be just as good without the peaches, served with a strong cup of coffee.

I made homemade ricotta for this tart and you can watch me make the super simple cheese and the whole tart in my instagram videos.

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Corn Bread and Peaches Baked on the Grill

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Last Friday our electricity went out. It wasn’t out long, thanks to an incredible effort by the electric company, but it really made me appreciate how attached I am to the grid. No lights, no AC, not even fans, but the worst of all, no refrigeration. The lack of refrigeration had me in a slight panic, since I have 3 very full refrigerators. As I type that number, it sounds completely ridiculous. Now I feel compelled to justify them…one is for the family, one for my dough buckets (I’m testing recipes for a new book) and the other is a beer fridge that houses more butter, than beer.  Once we realized there was no storm damage to our house, it was kind of romantic to be in the dark. Our home was built in 1902 and I imagine there were many, if not most, nights spent in the glow of candlelight back then. For one night there were no computers, no TV, not even the radio, which is my constant companion, just quiet.

storm

The next morning my husband and I walked for 3 hours around our neighborhood with our jaws dropped. The storm, which was being called a “rain event” by the weather types, didn’t seem that violent, but there were trees down all over town and most of the city was without power. Our neighbors, who just moved into their house, had a 60-foot tree laying in their driveway. Thank goodness it missed the house, but it was mind bending to see it stretched out in their yard. That rain event left cars crushed, roofs damaged, basements flooded and roads closed. A week later the city has power again and life, for most of us, is back to normal, but it still takes my breath away to drive through my neighborhood and see all of the old trees knocked to the ground. Nature is quite something.

During the storm a friend and fellow MN food blogger, Shaina of Food For My Family, tweeted that she was going to empty her powerless refrigerator and have a giant BBQ. The grill was to be the salvation for all those meat filled freezers. As some of you know, I rarely have anything but carbs in my house, so I wasn’t in fear of losing lots of grill-ables. Instead the grill was my saving grace when there was no electricity to crank my oven on, because I could still bake. Grill baking. Even when there is no storm, it is my oven of choice in the summer, so as not to heat up my house.

I’ve baked everything on the grill from bread, buns, pita, pizza, fruit crisps, galettes and this week corn bread and peaches. This is a sweet corn bread, almost a cake, which is perfectly suited for breakfast or dessert, but could certainly match up with a rich, savory meat you’ve just grilled up. (more…)

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Citrus Angel Food Cake with Peaches

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I have a child who doesn’t have a sweet tooth. He’s clearly missing one of my genes. He can walk past cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream, even chocolate, especially chocolate. I don’t pretend to understand, but I try, and just hope he’ll grow out of it. The only type of desserts he will eat, without guilting him into it, are the fruity ones. He even baked a gorgeous rhubarb pie. So, when we celebrated his birthday, I made a traditional marble cake, with lots of sweet frosting for the rest of us, and this light angel food cake with fresh peaches for him. He had seconds, then thirds of the angel food and left the the sticky, gooey birthday cake untouched.  The rest of us took care of it for him.

Although we are finally experiencing spring, we are far from peach season in Minnesota. They must be growing well in CA, because my local co-op had a bin full of the most beautiful, fragrant and juicy peaches. I may just be desperate for a sign of summer, but I think this may be the best crop I’ve had in years. I cooked them with just a touch of honey and a vanilla bean. The angel food has a healthy dose of citrus zest, which is a great balance to the sweet peaches, especially for people without the sugar gene.

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Peach Upside-down Cake

There is nothing sexier than a perfectly ripe peach and nothing more disappointing than one that is subpar. I find the former more difficult to lay my hands on than the latter, but it is worth the hunt and the wait to get one. It seems that peaches have good seasons and bad ones, it is the entire crop that is either smooth, juicy, sweet and floral or they are mealy and have no discernible taste or smell. Folks, this seems, at first examination, to be one of those prized peach years. I admit mine were not local, just a seductive flat from costco. I even bought it when the peaches were still too firm to know what they would amount to. After a couple of days on the counter I could smell them from across the room and they begged to be eaten. My son dove in first and I immediately sent him out the back door to finish up the slurping in the yard because my kitchen floor was getting sticky from peach juice. Eureka, it is going to be a good summer! The entire case ripened at once and we were eating them as fast as we could. I put them in cereal, in salads, in yogurt, on ice cream and sliced them up and tossed them in this ginger spiked upside-down cake. I’ve made 3 of these cakes since the first one came out of the oven, it is THAT good! (more…)

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