Peaches and Cream

Ok, it’s not actually cream, it’s Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and a dash of vanilla extract. But that would be an awful title. I gotta be honest I’ve not always been the biggest peach fan. Maybe it’s the yankee in me (and by yankee I mean northerner, not the baseball team). But, when they are in season, super ripe, and sprinkled with a bit of maple sugar, they’re utterly divine.

I bought a bag of them at Trader Joe’s last week and forgot about them until just a few days ago. Nearing the overripe stage, I decided it would be best if I put them to use all at once. What better excuse to use butter. I took out my cast iron skillet, got it heating on the stove. I cored and sliced 4 medium peaches. Placed 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and let it get melted and hot. I got the peaches in a pan in an even layer,  sprinkled 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar evenly over the top and let them ride. Once they were brown and syrupy on the bottom, I used my spatula to flip them over and do the same on the other side. Then it was into my bowl and topped with the aforementioned yogurt. A splendid breakfast.

Obviously my peaches were still pretty hot, hence why the yogurt got a bit soupy. Next time I’ll let them cool a bit. Still super yummy, though.

Fresh Cherry Sauce over Frozen Pudding

Earlier this week I found that Trader Joe’s had a very good deal on fresh red cherries – $2.99 for a pound. So grabbed them, not entirely sure what I would do with them. As I was home later that evening I decided I was in the mood to make a cherry sauce and put it over vanilla ice cream… mmmm… of course I didn’t have any vanilla ice cream… But, I did have a box of Jell-O instant banana pudding mix (no idea why). I flashed back to my childhood when my grandmother would freeze pudding into popsicles for us during the summer. It was such a treat – I loved the texture. Creamier than a fruit popsicle but a little more sturdy than ice cream. Since I had milk in my fridge to make my banana pudding for the 4th of July, I thought, what the hell, I’ll make a separate batch for this dessert.

For the sauce, I stemmed and pitted 1 pound of fresh red cherries. I highly recommend getting a cherry pitter since I don’t have one. By the time I was finished there was cherry juice everywhere and my hands looked like I had murdered someone. Anyway, I placed the pitted cherries into a medium sauce pan, added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 a vanilla been (scrape the insides and put the whole pod in), 1 cinnamon stick, and a little bit of fresh grated nutmeg. I put it over medium high heat and let it rip until the cherries cooked down and a thick sauce was formed, about 15-20 minutes. I killed the heat and let it cool before placing it over my frozen pudding, which, by the way, I made according to the package directions, placed in a cup-sized container lined with plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer until solid, at least 2 hours. When ready I just pulled out the plastic wrap, turned the pudding over onto a plate, peeled the plastic wrap off, and it was ready for my warm cherry sauce. The warmth softens the pudding a bit, which I love. I like my cherry sauce chunky, but you can definitely puree it with a stick blender until nice and smooth. Either way it’s a tasty summery treat for less than $6.

Now, you’ve heard me say things like this before, but do NOT go out and buy a vanilla bean just to make this recipe. They are expensive, like $10 for 2. I threw it in because I happened to have it on my shelf. If you don’t have one, simply stir in some vanilla extract at the end of cooking. And don’t even buy a cinnamon stick for that matter – put a few pinches of ground in or just leave it out. Also if you happen to have some red wine laying around, you could use that instead of water for some real depth of flavor. And of course you can use any flavor and/or brand of pudding you like. Or you can just use vanilla ice cream. Or perhaps some biscuits and whipped cream. Mmm! Enjoy!

Rosemary Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese

Ok I know you’re all like wtf, the starving artist is roasting figs? What’s next? Lobster? Foie gras?!?! Well let me say that I am first and foremost all about the food. Whether it’s grilled cheese made with wonder bread and kraft singles or roasting figs with rosemary, nothing is out of range for the starving artist. And come on, do you think I would really undertake much less post a pretentious and/or obnoxious recipe? Fear not, dear readers.

There are lots of fresh fruit in season right now in SoCal and it just so happened that Trader Joe’s had some lovely fresh figs on sale. When I saw them I remember attending a party a few months back that had figs roasted with honey and rosemary… an unexpected and divine combination, which you’ll recall I had in some classed up rice krispie treats at my first summer cookout last weekend. So, I decided I would just do it. I sliced all the figs (about 12) in half, tossed them in a little olive oil followed by a few tablespoons of warmed honey. A light sprinkle of salt, few grinds of black pepper, the leaves of one sprig of fresh rosemary, and into the oven they went at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until they were soft and a bit caramelized from the honey. Yum. But I didn’t stop there. While they were still warm I topped them with a dollop of goat cheese, turning them into a delightfully sweet and creamy treat. A perfect party appetizer or bite-sized dessert to eat with coffee.

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post.  I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.