fig & blackberry tartlets

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More summer, please! I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I have a maxi dress hanging in the closet that’s never been worn. And I could really, really use a proper beach day. And a few more bottles of rosé (aka summer drank). Can’t we keep the barbecues going for just a bit longer?

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We spent last weekend camping in Big Sur. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. My love for Big Sur runs deep. It’s been an entire decade since my very first trip down there. And just as long since the last time I camped. I almost forgot how much I love sleeping in a tent and lazy afternoons by the river and a good ole fashion s’more and cocktails by the campfire. I had such an amazing time. I can’t wait to get back there. I think this needs to happen every summer.

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Guess what else needs to happen every summer? If your guess had anything to do with these tartlets, you are correct. I get super excited when the late season figs come rolling into town. And they are abundant at the moment. There’s nothing like a super ripe fig, sweet and jammy and practically bursting at the seams. They are perfect as is, and they are equally wonderful baked with blackberries and hazelnuts in a sweet, buttery pastry. Make it happen.

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fig & blackberry tartlets

from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater

makes 4 tartlets

for the pastry: 

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar , plus more for dusting 

1 large egg yolk 

Put the flour in a medium mixing bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour. Add the powdered sugar and egg yolk and mix until combined. Bring the dough together and squeeze it into a round. Roll it into a short log, fat log. Wrap the dough in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for 30 minutes.

for the filling:

8 ounces blackberries, about 1-3/4 cups 

4 large figs, coarsely chopped  

4 tablespoons blackberry or red currant jelly, melted

juice of half a lemon 

1/2 cup ground hazelnuts 

Place the blackberries, figs, and chopped hazelnuts in a bowl. Add the melted jelly and lemon juice and toss.

to assemble:

4  3-1/2 inch tartlet pans

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Divide the pastry into four equal pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the dough. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each piece on a floured board. Line each pan with a round of dough, leaving the excess hanging over the edges. Don’t worry if the dough cracks – just patch it together. Divide the filling between the four tart shells, then loosely fold over the pastry, leaving the fruit in the center visible.

Place the tarts on a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm or cool.

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chocolate mascarpone cake with berries

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This cake is for the summer babies. I’ve accumulated quite a few Leos in my life over the years, not to mention both of my siblings, so July and August are always full of birthday celebrations. And cake. If I love you, and it’s your birthday, I can almost guarantee there will be cake.

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Since I only see my friend Ash once or twice a year, I really wanted to do it right for his birthday. This man is my idol. I don’t know anyone who hosts a dinner party with more grace or whimsy. We’re talking proper place settings and multiple courses. And party favors. And the most glorious tablescapes ever (and not in that Sandra Lee kind of way). Anyway, a birthday cake was in order and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

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This cake. Now this cake really takes the cake. I may be partial to chocolate cake, but I know a good one when I see one. First of all, who can say no to a chocolate mascarpone frosting? It’s an excellent alternative to your everyday buttercream, with just the perfect level of sweetness but still incredibly decadent. And then there’s all the gorgeous summer berries. I love the combination of rich, creamy, chocolatey and bright, juicy berries. Plus, they really make this little cake quite stunning.

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What really makes this cake a winner is how simple it is to throw together. It’s just a matter of layering and building. I ended up making this beauty two weekends in a row because it was such a hit. The first time I made it, I put my cake pans in the oven without realizing the oven had been turned off, sending me into a panic because I was due in the City in less than two hours. But by some miracle I was able to bake, cool, frost and finish this cake in record time and disaster was averted. I wasn’t even late to dinner.  That’s how quickly this cake comes together. Pretty and easy. Need I say more?

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chocolate mascarpone cake with berries 

adapted just barely from call me cupcake

makes 1 6-inch cake

for the cake: 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1/4 cup cocoa powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 cup butter, softened 

3/4 cup light brown sugar 

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

3 ounces semisweet or bitter sweet chocolate, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 cup whole milk 

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 6-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Repeat with the egg yolk. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla to the milk. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack and continue to cool completely.

for the mascarpone frosting: 

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Beat on low speed and slowly increase to medium, beating until the mixture just comes together. Keep an eye on the mixture and beat for just a few more seconds until the mixture begins to thicken. Be extremely careful not to over-beat as this will result in a grainy frosting.

to assemble:

12 ounces fresh berries, I chose a combination of red raspberries, blackberries, and sunburst raspberries 

2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Place the first cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Add half of the mascarpone frosting to the center of the cake. Using a spatula, gently spread the frosting over the cake layer until it just reaches the edges. Scatter half of the berries over the frosting. Add a dusting of powdered sugar over the fruit. Place the second cake layer on top of the fruit and repeat.

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apricot cream pops

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It’s super late in the season for apricots, but so long as they’re at the markets, I’ll be buying. I’ve probably mentioned that I have a teensy obsession with apricots. It is what it is.

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Back in June, I made my annual batch of apricot jam. And I must say it is my favorite of all the jams I’ve made this summer. I seriously contemplated a second batch, but instead opted to go the route of frozen treats. I love the idea of extending the life of seasonal produce and I’ve recently come to the realization that freezing is a wonderful alternative to canning. Rather than just freezing sliced apricots, I decided a frozen fruit bar needed to happen before the end of the season.

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This recipe comes from the People’s Pops. I became a fan after having their rhubarb cayenne pop the last time I was in New York. Since then, they’ve released a book, which I made sure to add to my collection.

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While I most definitely enjoy an all-fruit frozen fruit bar, I think everything gets just a little more exciting with a swirl of cream. Lately, I’ve been crazy about Straus Creamery heavy cream – it is some rich, flavorful stuff. It turns a cup of mediocre coffee into an event.  And a little goes a long way. So I couldn’t help but throw a few splashes of that Straus goodness into the mix. Apricots + cream + orange blossom water = perfection. Life is short, treat yo self.

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apricot cream pops 

from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, & Joel Horowitz

makes 10 pops

1-1/2 pounds apricots, halved and pitted 

2/3 cup cane sugar 

2/3 cup water

1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water 

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Pour about 1/2 inch of water into a heavy, nonreactive saucepan and add the apricots. Stew the apricots over medium heat until the skins and flesh have softened, 20-25 minutes.

While the apricots are cooking, combine the cane sugar with 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn of the heat and let cool. This makes 1 cup of simple syrup.

Using an emersion blender or food processor, puree the apricots, skins and all. Feel free to leave the puree somewhat chunky. You should have about 2-1/4 cups of puree.

Transfer the apricot puree  to a bowl or measuring pitcher with a spout and add 3/4 cup of the simple syrup. Stir until the mixture is well incorporated. Taste the mixture – it should be sweet and slightly tart. Add the orange blossom water bit by bit, tasting as you go. It should be fragrant but not overpowering.

Pour 1 scant tablespoon of heavy cream into each of the ice pop molds, letting the cream run down the sides of the mold as you pour. Pour apricot mixture into the molds, leaving a little bit of room a the top for the mixture to expand. Inset sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. Unmold and transfer to plastic bags for storage or serve at once.

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elote con queso y mayonesa

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I’m no stranger to street food. I’ve been eating off the streets long before these decked out food trucks became the thing. This is one of the many perks of growing up in the Bay Area. East Oakland taco trucks. Churro carts that pump out spirals of dough into bubbling hot oil (and put those Disneyland churros to shame). Tamales straight from the hands of the Tamale Lady. Ziplock baggies filled with mango and jicama and watermelon and doused in lime juice and chili. And those damn late night bacon-wrapped hotdogs. These are all things dear to my heart.

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Elote is at the top of my list of all time favorite street foods. Hot, sweet corn on the cob slathered in mayo and coated with queso and a squirt of lime and a sprinkle of chili powder. It sounds insane and it is. Insanely delish. Some people can’t seem to wrap their heads around the mayonaise on corn concept, but you need to trust. It’s kind of life changing.

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One of my favorite Sunday morning activities is hitting up the flea market, grabbing a papusa for breakfast, followed by roasted elote with the works. There’s something terribly satisfying about grubbing on corn while perusing the aisles of flea market treasures. But that’s probably because eating and shopping are two of my most beloved pastimes. And it’s also multi-tasking.

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Brentwood corn is the best of the best. And I’ve been picking up a few ears from the farmers market every weekend since June. Though it is fantastic au naturel, it’s way too tempting to have corn on the cob at home and not eat it street style. So that’s what’s been happening over here. Street corn is in the house.

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elote con queso y mayonesa 

serves 4

4 ears of corn 

kosher salt

2 limes, cut into wedges 

1/2 cup mayonaise

1 cup crumbled cotija (mexican cheese) or grated parmesan

ancho or new mexico chili powder 

to roast the corn: 

Heat your grill to medium.

Pull the outer husks of the corn down to the base and remove the silk from each ear. Fold husks back into place, and place the corn in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes.

Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks.

**Alternatively, boiled corn works just as well. Remove husks and silk from corn. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the corn. When the pot comes back to a boil, turn off heat, and cover the pot. Remove corn from the pot after five minutes.

Squeeze lime juice over the surface of the corn. Using a pastry brush or spatula, brush each ear of corn with a generous coat of mayo. Place crumbled cotija on a plate and roll each corn in cheese.  Sprinkle with chili powder and extra lime juice if desired.

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