Fig & Brie Grilled Cheese

Fig & Brie Grilled Cheese
Quick trips to the grocery are a thing of the past now that I am shopping with a baby. Just getting out the door is no small feat. There have been times in my sleep-deprived, new parent state that I have thought about going back inside even before we have reached the car, but once we get to the store, W. and I are in our own world. Wearing my baby boy close to me in his carrier, I talk to him about the things we are going to cook together.

I always get excited when I see fresh figs at the grocery, but this year it was even more special sharing that moment with W. If only we lived in California or the Mediterranean, this wouldn’t be such a big deal I told him. When we got home, I made a fig & Brie grilled cheese sandwich. Before I finished off the figs myself, I cut a tiny piece for W. to try. He looked puzzled by the texture, but I know one day he will love fresh figs as much as I do.

Fig & Brie Grilled Cheese
Fig & Brie Grilled Cheese

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
6 fresh mission figs, trimmed and sliced
4 ounces Brie, rind removed and sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 handful arugula

To assemble the sandwiches, drizzle both sides of the bread with olive oil. Spread the honey on one side of each of the bread slices. Arrange the Brie, figs and arugula on two of the slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before topping with the remaining bread.

Place the sandwiches on a grill pan or in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until both sides are browned and toasted and the cheese has melted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

Dutch Apple Pancake

Dutch Apple Pancake
I know I wasn’t the only one who dashed out of the house yesterday morning without a jacket and was surprised by the first chilly day of the season. The night before I watched the weather forecast on the evening news, but clearly it didn’t register. Despite that, the crisp air along with daydreams of pumpkin, chai and the rest of the autumn classics had me over being a little cold.

While I can’t say I am wishing away the warm temperatures, I always get excited transitioning from the tastes of summer to the flavors of fall. Last weekend, I baked a Dutch apple pancake. Slices of apple were sautéed in butter and cinnamon sugar and then tucked into the batter. The pancake puffed up in the cast iron skillet and was finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Dutch Apple Pancake
Dutch Apple Pancake

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Serves 2-4

4 tablespoons (half stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with butter.

Heat half the melted butter in a separate large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the apples with the cinnamon and sugar until the apples soften and turn light brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and remaining melted butter. Stir in the flour and salt. Transfer the batter to the prepared skillet and top with the apple slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and puffed up. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Fresh Tomato Sauce
Canned tomatoes are my absolute go-to pantry item. A few years ago I spent an entire weekend canning 20 pounds of Roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market. It was quite an undertaking peeling, deseeding, crushing and canning over a hot stove during a muggy September. All that work seemed worth it when I first popped open a homemade jar of tomatoes on a frigid winter evening.

With baby, blog and everything else, I can’t devote an entire weekend to canning. I realized that I rarely make sauce during tomato season, so I whipped up a batch of fresh tomato sauce using 2 pounds of ripe Romas. The final result was a sauce lighter in color and more delicate in flavor than one made from canned tomatoes. It seemed very appropriate for these lingering warm days.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds Roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Score an X into the bottom end of each tomato. Boil the tomatoes for 1 minute and then transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. Peel the tomatoes before roughly chopping them.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the onions until they start to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer the tomatoes for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
It’s hard for me to put into words how much I love chocolate. After every meal when I crave dessert I want something rich and decadent, either dark or milk—it doesn’t matter. During spring, summer and early fall, I find myself torn. I know I should be basking in berries, stone fruit and other sweet produce, but I have to make an effort to bake non-chocolate desserts.

Rather than fighting my tendencies, I baked a chocolate zucchini cake. While not fruit, I felt like a square of this cake was a celebration of the season and even better that it involved a veggie in dessert form—far more challenging to pull off. The deep brown cake was dotted with tiny green flecks of zucchini. I finished it off with a thick layer of ganache icing.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 13-inch by 9-inch cake

For cake
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature plus more for pan
1/2 cup canola oil
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
3 cups shredded zucchini

For icing
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan with butter.

For the cake, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Using an electric mixer, whisk together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla extract and yogurt. Beat in the eggs until fully combined. Stir in the zucchini. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack.

For the icing, warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes before gently stirring until smooth and fully combined. Let the icing cool and thicken for 20 minutes. Pour over the cake spreading to cover the top. Refrigerate the cake until the icing is set. Cut into pieces before serving.

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