Peach and Plum Crisp

My second favorite dessert, after ice cream, is fruit crisp. I realize that there is something matronly about expressing an adoration for fruit crisp, but I'm not ashamed. It helps that it tastes best when served warm with a  scoop of vanilla ice cream. This crisp isn't a particularly sweet, and can be eaten for breakfast if you're feeling indulgent. The sweetness of the peaches is balanced by the tartness of the plums. The topping of the crisp settles into the sweetened juices of the fruit, so that it has the moistness of a cobbler, while retaining the delicacy of a crisp on its surface.

As much as I love crisp, I don't remember the last time I made it. But now, I know that this crisp is one of the things I'll remember about this summer. Even though summer is only halfway over, and our much anticipated trip is on the horizon, a part of me realizes that soon I'll have to come to terms with summer ending. But it helps to have wonderful memories, and the anticipation of looking forward to another summer, filled with warm days, long walks, ice cream, and crisp, in the not too distant future.

Peach and Plum Crisp

Fruit Base
3-4 cups Italian prune plums (regular plums would also work)
4 ripe peaches
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour

Crisp Topping
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces) butter, melted
6 tablespoons turbinado or regular sugar
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
¼ cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare fruit: Preheat oven to 400°F. Pull apart plums at their seam, remove pit and place them in a baking dish (8x8 inches or a little larger). Use a paring knife to cut the peaches into about 8 slices per peach. Add the peaches to the baking dish. Stir in sugar and flour.

Make topping: Melt butter and stir in sugar, then oats, then flour, salt and almonds until large clumps form. Sprinkle mixture over the fruit. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold, as leftovers.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

Wilson and I went strawberry picking a couple of weeks back and came home with a whole bucket full of tiny, flavorful berries. We ate as many as we could, but not wanting to run the risk of watching them go bad, we decided to wash, trim, and freeze the remainder. 
We decided that we needed to be judicious with the use of our berries. Smoothies would swallow them up, and be unworthy. We talked about making a pie or cobbler, but we were out of ice cream, and so (obviously) more needed to be made. As much as we love dessert, the only dessert we've eaten this summer is ice cream. No cake, no pie -- just ice cream. We are indefatigable. I have also discovered that the main location for Berthillion (the most revered ice cream shop in Paris) will be just around the corner from where we'll be staying. Here's to happy accidents!
Wilson in particular loves strawberry ice cream. I am usually more in favor of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, etc., and find fruit flavors to be far too refreshing to feel like dessert. But in the summer heat, it is rather pleasant to be refreshed. And truly, there is nothing that's not decadent about strawberries and cream.

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/4 quarts

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled  (ours were frozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vodka or kirsch
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Slice the strawberries and toss them in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch, if using. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve and all of the strawberries are coated. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
2. Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky.
3. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Recipe from The Perfect Scoop (as found on Two Peas & Their Pod)

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

I was going to start out this post by saying that I don't know anyone who doesn't like muffins. But then I remembered that once someone told me that they didn't like muffins... or pancakes. I was in total disbelief and I remember that I tried to reason with her, because it didn't make any sort of logical sense to me. It seemed that objectively speaking, muffins are thoroughly lovable. It makes sense to have a preference of one type of muffin over another, to maybe prefer the tops over the bottoms, but these preferences come about because people care deeply about muffins. I am still aghast to remember someone being so apathetic and dismissive. There's a whole muffin world out there!
Here are my muffin preferences: Blueberry is best (and lots of them), not too sweet, not too cakey, crunchy top, and I eat the whole muffin.. Like any food I am fond of, part of the fun is trying to find the perfect recipe. This is the perfect muffin recipe. I have made these over and over, and they are always wonderful.

Finally, I have a hard time eating a muffin and not thinking about this classic Seinfeld moment. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld: "You know, a muffin can be very filling." 

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly backed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups blueberries or other fruit

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, combine the streusel topping ingredients. Combine with your fingers to form a crumbly mixture. Place in the refrigerator. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients; set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, zest, and egg. Once combined, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Gently mix in the fruit. If the batter seems too liquidy, add a tiny bit more flour. The batter should be fairly stiff. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them right to the top. Divide the streusel evenly among the muffins.

Bake for 15 minutes, and then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake 12 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and continue cooling on a wire rack. The muffins will keep for several days stored in 
the refrigerator.

Notes: If you want to go really crazy, you can double the streusel topping. I have never regretted it. Also, I wrote this recipe down a long time ago and haven't found its original source, so am unable to give credit where it is due. 

Chocolate Sorbet

We have developed an ice cream habit. It is difficult to resist at any time of year, but in the summer ice cream feels like a necessity. I have been waiting to try out the beautiful ice cream machine we got as a wedding present. I think it took me so long because I find the idea of making ice cream a little intimidating, mostly due to inexperience. But David Lebovitz is the ice cream master, and always has fantastic recipes.

I'm sure we'll have many other homemade ice creams this summer, but this chocolate sorbet was a wonderful start. The benefit of this being sorbet versus ice cream is that there is nothing to dilute the flavor of the chocolate. We like to serve it in small portions, preferably with the addition of vanilla or coffee ice cream, so that as the chocolate sorbet begins to melt, it becomes like a chocolate sauce that coats the other flavors in its rich veneer.

Chocolate Sorbet
Makes 1 liter
Recipe by David Lebovitz via Food52

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled Vegetable Salad
Serves 2-4 as a main course

2 grilled ears of corn, kernels removed
2 grilled zucchini, chopped
1 grilled yellow pepper, chopped
1 grilled Portobello mushroom cap
1 large yellow tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime
2 ounces crumbed goat cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients together and serve.