It’s summer, which means that it’s time to make ice cream! I haven’t made ice cream in ages, but I had my annual Ice Cream Social coming up, which meant I needed to get going again!
The first recipe that really caught my eye this season was Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream. What intrigued me was the addition of peach preserves to the mix, which supposedly don’t affect the vanilla flavor but instead add a unique texture to the ice cream. I was eager to give it a try myself, but was mindful of the fact that plain vanilla wouldn’t necessarily tempt my guests when compared with the more exotic flavors that were sure to be on hand. So I gave the matter some thought and settled on the addition of bourbon-soaked cherries. And then chocolate, because why not?
My first try at pickled grapes was a few years ago– I’d come across a recipe from (you guessed it) Deb at Smitten Kitchen and was determined to give it a shot. I’d never tried pickling anything before, so it seemed like as good a reason as any to start! They turned out to be absolutely amazing– sweet, tangy, and refreshing, with a hint of spice to tweak the palate from being dessert-ish to savory cheese plate-ish. I vowed to make them again at some point… and promptly forgot about them.
Still, some vestige of memory must have remained, because when I volunteered to bring a cheese plate to a gathering of my best foodie friends, a little bell in my head went “ding!” and I knew I’d have to try making these again.
Summer’s here! And that means there’s an abundance of fabulous summer fruit everywhere… in the grocery stores, at the farmer’s markets, and (my favorite) in the “on sale now, must get rid of these!” section of my local store. At 99 cents/lb., I snapped up a bunch to bring home, figuring that even if they were mediocre they’d be worth a try.
After tasting them, I ended up coming back to the store and buying all of their remaining apricots… amounting to about 12 pounds. And while my daughter can eat half a dozen in a day (seriously, she just did, along with a pound of strawberries), I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat them all just straight out of hand, so I tried to think of other, more creative ways to use them up.
Roasted apricots seemed like a good idea– many recipes called for a drizzle of honey and butter to enrich things, and others used crumbled amaretti and/or nuts to top things off. I decided to throw some things together to see what would happen– and what happened? Magic. The streusel wasn’t even necessary (though it was a nice touch). Just the deep, tangy flavor of the roasted apricots was enough.
There are almost always bananas in my house– if not for eating out of hand (I like them best when there’s still a touch of green at the tips), then at least in the freezer, where I stash them when they get too brown for snacking on. There they sit until it’s time to make banana muffins for my daughter’s school snacks… unless, as happened this time, the freezer is full and there’s already a bag of blueberry muffins for her to eat, leaving no room for more!
What to do? What I always do, of course– make dessert.
Adding another dessert to the list of “summer BBQ contributions,” here’s a batch of dark chocolate brownies, topped with a layer of chocolate and a colorful surprise!
I shamelessly stole… er, adapted this idea from Ruthanne at EasyBaked, as it was so neat-looking I had to try it! Since I was going for fun and pretty rather than gourmet I subbed in a doctored-up boxed brownie mix for her brownie base, but I kept the topping recipes the same. I doubled the recipe to fit a 9×13″ pan, since I was going to be feeding a crowd, and changed up the stripe pattern to be sure that my brownie squares would be just as pretty as her tart slices.
As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.
I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.
The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.
I was going through my freezer the other day when I came across a small bag of chopped frozen rhubarb from last spring. Since it’s been a year and we are once again in the middle of rhubarb season, I figured I should finally use up my previous supply. As luck would have it, Smitten Kitchen recently posted a recipe for Rhubarb Crumb Cake, which sounded great and which (when doubled) conveniently called for just about as much rhubarb as I had on hand!
It also called for a whole bunch of butter, but that’s never been an issue for me…