Regular readers know I love soups and I’m a big fan of chilled soups when hot summer days call for something light and refreshing for dinner. Gazpacho or even a fruit soup might be the first ones that come to mind but they are really just a jumping off point. In reality, the possibilities are endless. I came across this soup from William Sonoma’s Soup of the Day when I was looking for a first course for a recent dinner party but it can just as easily be served as a light dinner when accompanied by a loaf of crusty bread (which is actually how we ate the leftovers the next night).
Because I was serving a crowd and think soup only improves with age, I tripled this recipe which meant blending the cucumber in batches. Lacking fresh buttermilk I used rehydrated powder from King Arthur Flour with good results. To make the soup richer I used half milk and half water when rehydrating the buttermilk. I also substituted Greek style yogurt for the plan yogurt called for in the original recipe.
I’ll admit, I was initially a bit unsure about the combination of ingredients but realized that since I like them all individually I would probably enjoy them together. My guests shared my skepticism but in the end every drop of the soup was scraped from the bowls proving that this recipe is indeed a success and a tasty way to eat your veggies.
CHILLED CUCUMBER BUTTERMILK SOUP WITH DILLED SHRIMP
5 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 green onions, white and tender green parts, chopped
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups plain whole Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound bay shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
- Place the cucumbers, green onions, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Add the buttermilk, yogurt, and lemon juice and puree.
- Season with salt and pepper. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least a 1/2 hour.
- To make the shrimp, place the shrimp and dill in a small bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup topped with the dilled shrimp.
Muffins are the perfect foil for whatever fruit or vegetable is in season. I think of the batter as a blank slate and let my imagination, and market, dictate what goes into them. And this time of year the options really are unlimited as new seasonal fruits are appearing weekly. This week’s discovery was the first rhubarb of the season. While rhubarb itself is astringent and bitter, when cooked with a bit of sugar its flavors mellow into a unique and delicious. Add in juicy peaches (again, the first ones are appearing in the markets as well) and you have the perfect breakfast treat.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh peaches, diced (peels optional)
1 cup fresh rhubarb, diced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the insides of one 12-cup muffin pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using a rubber spatula, mix until just combined.
- Add the melted butter and mix again.
- Fold in the peaches, rhubarb and lemon zest until just combined.
- Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.
- Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl then top each with a sprinkling of the mixture.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.
Yields: 12 muffins
Sometimes it is the easiest dishes that are the best. This is often the case when it comes to appetizers. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat and make fancy bite-sized treats as much as the next person. There is something special about a treat that you know took a lot of work and tastes great to boot. But other times, simple is the way to go. I think this is especially true as we move into warmer weather and want to put lighter, fresher, and yes, less time-consuming food on our tables. And perhaps the easiest solution of all is good old-fashioned dip with vegetables.
But we’re not talking your grandmother’s rich dip laden with heavy sour cream and dried French onion soup mix. Thanks to a combination of Greek yogurt and low-fat sour cream my dip, adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe, is lighter and filled with plenty of fresh herbs. I used parsley, dill, and thyme but feel free to put together any combination that appeals to you. The dip should sit for at least half an hour before serving but that will give you plenty of time to cut up the fresh veggies that you need for dipping. Your results will be tasty with no stove required.
BUTTERMILK HERB DIP w/FRESH VEGETABLE CRUDITE
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Crudite vegetables of your choice for dipping
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until well mixed.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before serving.
Yields: 3 cups
A rich lemony cake is good but switch out the lemon with lime and your cake moves to a whole new level. I love the tanginess of lime so that is exactly what I did with this rich bundt cake recipe from Yankee Magazine. Thanks to the addition of both buttermilk and creme fraiche, the cake is rich, moist and tangy and the lime is a fun surprise. If you can’t find creme fraiche, substitute a full fat sour cream. But do take the time to find lime oil, it is available in speciality baking stores or available online from retailers like King Arthur Flour. (I happened to have some on hand which served as the inspiration for this cake). The lime oil gives the cake the flavor punch that makes this such a great treat. So celebrate the season by baking up this cake. Enjoy!
ZESTY LIME BUNDT CAKE
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄ 2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1⁄ 2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Juice of 2 limes
2 1⁄ 2 teaspoons pure lime oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1⁄ 2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup creme fraiche
For the glaze:
1 1⁄ 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a bundt pan by coating it with non-stick cooking spray and a dusting of flour; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
- In a large bowl, use a hand mixer set on medium-high speed to cream together the Crisco, butter, lime juice, lime oil, vanilla, sugar, and eggs. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add half of the flour mixture, 1⁄ 2 cup buttermilk, and 1⁄ 2 cup creme fraiche to the lime mixture. Mix on low to combine, then add the remaining flour mixture, 1⁄ 2 cup buttermilk, and 1⁄ 2 cup creme fraiche. Continue to mix on low until thoroughly combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the pan, making sure the cake batter is level.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack.
- Flip the cake onto the cooling rack and remove the pan. Allow to cool completely.
- To make the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar, lime juice and lime zest in a medium bowl; whisking thoroughly until combined.
- Pour the glaze over the cake and serve.
Think of this as a giant chocolate chip studded scone. With its crispy crust and cake like interior this is a quick bread that is just as nice for dessert as it is for a snack. And it is easy; very easy. The recipe comes from the kitchens of the Washington Post and the first time I baked this recipe the bread got eaten so quickly that I now make two (baked on two separate baking sheets). It is that good. The loaf is free formed so you can experiment with its shape–make two or four smaller loaves, make it round or rectangular–whatever you prefer. Just be sure to adjust the baking time if your loaves are smaller.
And because I am a fan of chocolate I prefer to use miniature chocolate chips since I think they give you more chocolate for your buck. You can also switch out the chocolate chips for diced dried fruit or use a combination of chocolate and fruit (sour cherries are particularly good).
RUSTIC CHOCOLATE CHIP TEA BREAD
3 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons, if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and 1/3 cup of the sugar.
- Drop in the chunks of butter pulse until pea sized dough balls form. Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, the 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and the vanilla extract.
- Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture, sprinkle with the chocolate chips. USe a wooden spoon or paddle to stir, forming a rough, cohesive, slightly sticky dough. If the dough seems a little dry, drizzle it with an extra tablespoon or two of buttermilk.
- Gather the dough into a rough mass with your hands, then knead lightly until it comes together completely, using firm strokes to gather it all cohesively. Form the dough into a 5 1/2-to-6-inch ball.
- Place the ball of dough at the center baking sheet. Use a sharp paring knife to score an 1/8-inch-deep cross in the top of the ball of dough, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the loaf is set, golden on top and baked through. It should sound hollow when you lightly tap the top or bottom with a wooden spoon.
- Cool, on the baking sheet, on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes.
- Slip a metal spatula under the loaf and transfer it to a separate rack to cool completely.
- Use a serrated knife to cut slices or wedges.
If there is one mantra I’ve developed over the years it is that pound cakes are your friend. Their concept is so simple: butter, sugar and flour are combined with your flavoring of choice and baked up in a loaf pan. They are essentially fool proof, are always a hit and come in so many varieties that you are never going to run out of options. They aren’t fussy yet can be dressed up or eaten as is. They have become my go-to baked item for last minute guests or whenever I crave something homemade. And this recipe is no exception.
I’ve been on a kick using them recently so here is another great recipe using blood oranges from White on Rice Couple. This pound cake comes together quickly, is super moist and is oh so flavorful. (Plus it has a pink hue that makes it pretty). The buttermilk gives it a slightly tangy flavor and even without the addition of the juice glaze each bite is bursting with orange flavor. But don’t skip the glaze because it does add an extra punch of flavor.
BLOOD ORANGE BUTTERMILK POUND CAKE
For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 blood oranges
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh blood orange juice
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons (45ml) fresh blood orange juice
1/2 cup (60g) confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat a 8.5 inch x 4.5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer and a medium sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and blood orange zest until light and fluffy.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time until blended.
- Mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined.
- Add in the buttermilk and blood orange juice until just combined.
- Mix in the remaining flour until just combined, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 1 hour or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
- Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes.
- Gently remove the pound cake from the pan and allow to cool completely.
- After the cake is completely cool, make the sauce.
- Whisk together the blood orange juice and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
- Spoon the sauce over the pound cake or serve alongside to dunk in.
As a rule, we aren’t weekday breakfast people. Between the rush to get up, lunches made and get to work and school on time, breakfast often falls by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a good breakfast when the opportunity arises. To satisfy the need for breakfast I’ve taken to making easy / on the go / can be eaten at your desk items. And this coffee cake has quickly become one of our favorites.
This recipe started out as one that I had inherited from a relative but then the tweaking came into play. The sour cream became yogurt which became buttermilk. Blueberries morphed into raspberries, apples then eventually cranberries. The nuts were originally almonds or walnuts but then we were gifted with a giant tin of Georgia pecans. The cake here has now become my favorite go to coffee cake. Sure I may substitute ingredients as needed but this version is by far the best.
CRANBERRY PECAN COFFEE CAKE
For the cranberry filling:
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
- Whirl cranberries in food processor fitted with a metal blade until coarsely chopped.
- Stir in the white and brown sugars then set aside.
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla.
- Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. The batter will be very thick.
- Spoon half the batter into a greased and floured 8 inch round baking pan.
- Top with cranberry and sugar mixture.
- Spoon the remaining batter over the cranberries.
- Sprinkle with the pecans.
- Bake at 350o F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
- During the cooling time, carefully run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen them.
For the icing
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small bowl, combine all of the icing ingredients.
- Drizzle over the coffee cake and serve.