buttery vanilla brownie recipe | writes4food.com

Buttery vanilla brownies.

On weekends at Findlay Market, you’ll find a new vendor this summer: The Cottage Bakery. Alice Dunn makes the most ridiculously good homemade cinnamon rolls in her home kitchen. Alice’s cinnamon rolls taste like a leisurely Sunday morning.

For The Findlay Market Cookbook, Alice shared this vanilla brownie recipe, one of her favorites. She says her friends often call them “butter brownies” because they melt in your mouth like a bit of sweet butter. (Get a sneak peek at a few other recipes from the cookbook.)

I tinkered with the glaze slightly when I made the recipe this weekend, because it’s so dang hot, and I feared that a buttery glaze would melt into a hot mess. I had about 3 tablespoons of white chocolate chips left from making the brownies, so I melted them, added about a tablespoon of cream and a splash of vanilla, then whisked in as much powdered sugar as I needed to make a glaze. (The glaze layer is thinner on the brownies in the photo than what Alice recommends, but it’s a little more stable on a hot day.) If warm weather isn’t an obstacle, then by all means go with the double recipe for the vanilla glaze, as Alice advises.

buttery vanilla brownie recipe

makes 16–20 brownies

For the brownies:
1 package (10 oz.) vanilla milk or white chocolate chips (1 2/3 cups)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°; grease and flour a 9-in. x 13-in. baking pan (or quarter sheet pan). 
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, melt the vanilla chips and butter over low heat, stirring frequently, just until melted (the mixture may appear curdled). Remove from heat; cool. 
Stir in the flour, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. 
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30–35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a wire rack; let the brownies cool.

For the vanilla glaze (can be doubled):
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter until it’s smooth. 
Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and heavy cream (add enough cream to create a spreadable glaze). 
Spread the glaze over the brownies.

peach bourbon crumb-top pie recipe | writes4food.com

Bourbon peach crumb-top pie.

Recently, I came into about 12 pounds of peaches. Do you know how many peaches that is? A lot.

And they were delicious. Right off the truck from a Georgia farm—via The Peach Truck, which makes 1 trip per summer to Cincinnati to deliver just-picked fruit in 25-pound boxes. A friend mentioned on Facebook that The Peach Truck was destined for a neighborhood near ours, and since the local peach crop this year is thin (thanks to an April freeze), I was sort of jonesin’ for some peaches. So I recruited someone to split a box with me.

I’ve been eating a peach every day for the past 10 days, and I can’t get enough. I put about 2 quarts of sliced peaches in the freezer yesterday. And I made a peach pie. With bourbon.

This recipe for bourbon-glazed peach pie with a crumble topping is beyond easy. It’s based on a Dutch apple pie recipe from the forthcoming “Findlay Market Cookbook“—with a no-roll pie crust that doubles as the crumb topping. You could make this pie recipe with any tree fruit: apples, nectarines, plums, peaches, even cherries. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!

bourbon peach crumb-top pie recipe

makes 8 servings

for the crust and topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup quick oats

In a large bowl, stir the ingredients together; reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside for the topping. 
Press the remaining mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.

for the filling:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups water
5 cups fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. bourbon

Preheat oven to 350°. 
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the water until smooth. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil; cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes very thick and translucent. Whisk in the bourbon. Stir in the peaches. 
Transfer the filling mixture to the pie plate; top with the reserved crumb mixture. 
Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until the crust and topping are deeply golden brown.

best summer vegetable recipes

Quick fixes for summer produce.

This growing season has been glorious for local produce, with gentle temperatures and enough rain to keep things plush. In my garden, the tomato plants are over 7 feet tall and abundantly productive (though some hot weather would certainly spark quicker ripening of the fruit), and I can’t harvest green beans fast enough.

In the middle of summer, we find ourselves in a very improvisational style of cooking and eating: whatever’s fresh, whatever needs to be used up quickly, whatever’s easy to make without much fussing or standing over a hot stove. [For a food writer who develops and shares recipes, this can be a challenge: It's hard to experiment with recipes when so much of my cooking right now is recipe-less.]

In the spirit of simple summer cooking, here are a few non-recipe recipes for using the season’s finest produce:

Toss 4 sliced fresh peaches (peeled, if you’d like) with 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Let sit while you’re having dinner. Serve over vanilla ice cream, salted caramel gelato or shortcakes. Leftovers are delicious for breakfast spooned over homemade granola or pancakes.

Slice perfectly ripe tomatoes; halve big handful of cherry tomatoes in assorted colors. Sprinkle liberally with Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

In a wok or heavy skillet, heat a couple of teaspoons of neutral oil (grapeseed or canola) over medium-high heat, until it shimmers. Toss in a quart of trimmed slender green beans and stir-fry until the beans are charred in spots and almost wilted. Season with kosher salt, stir in a spoonful of Asian chile-garlic paste to taste and a splash of soy sauce.

Cut the kernels off 4–6 ears of fresh sweet corn (I stand the ears up in a wooden salad bowl to catch the escaping kernels); use the back of the knife to scrape out all the milky juice. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of sweet butter; add the corn and cook, stirring often, until the corn is completely soft and almost broken down. Add more butter if you want. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Mash a pint of red raspberries with a teaspoon of superfine sugar, until you have a chunky, jammy mixture. Stir into pancake batter, over ice cream or into yogurt (topped with homemade granola, of course).

mini blueberry streusel breads | writes4food.com

Mini blueberry streusel loaves.

This fun and easy blueberry quick bread recipe has its origins in two recent food writing projects: first, an assignment to develop quick bread recipes for a client, and second, a recipe for blueberry streusel coffee cake that Renee Schuler of Eat Well Catering & Feasts shared for “The Findlay Market Cookbook.”

It doesn’t always work out that recipes I tinker with come out right the first time, but these little mini quick breads were just so delicious and cute. (Yay!)

It’s the tail end of blueberry season around here, so I had a cupful to spare for these little treats. (The rest are bagged and waiting in my freezer, to be enjoyed on a bowl of granola or oatmeal in the dead of winter.) The base recipe (sans fruit) is super flexible: You could stir in a mashed-up overripe banana, or some diced ripe peaches or nuts and chocolate chips. Note that the ingredients below include a note on substituting lowfat or fat-free yogurt for half the shortening. You could also bake off the batter in muffin tins (decrease baking time by 5–10 minutes), or in a full-sized loaf pan (increase the baking time by 5–10 minutes). These mini blueberry streusel loaves are great for breakfast, for snacking, even as a before-bed nibble. (Not that I’d know about that …)

mini blueberry streusel quick breads recipe

makes 3 mini loaves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (or 1/4 cup shortening + 1/4 cup + 2 TB lowfat/fatfree yogurt)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries

for the streusel:
3 Tbsp. cold butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray three mini loaf pans with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), blend the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well; add half the buttermilk and mix. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining buttermilk and, finally, the remaining dry ingredients, stirring well with each addition. Gently stir in the blueberries. In a small bowl, use your fingers to combine the streusel ingredients, creating peanut-sized clumps. Divide the batter among the 3 pans; scatter the streusel on top of the batter. Place the mini loaf pans on a rimmed baking sheet; bake for 45–50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (free of batter or moist crumbs) and the streusel is golden. Cool for 30 minutes, remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Summer tomato recipe roundup.

Ahhhhhhhhh … August. It’s tomato time, folks.

As a food writer and blogger, one of my biggest challenges is keeping room in my lineup for old favorites when I’m also scouting new recipes to share here. With tomato season in full swing, here are a few of my favorite tomato recipes that I’ll be revisiting again (and again … and again) this summer.

easy lemon salad dressing recipe | writes4food.com

The best lemony vinaigrette.

I won’t tell you that storebought salad dressing is just such a bad idea. Instead, I will tell you that homemade salad dressing is super easy, inexpensive and far more delicious than you could imagine.

This lemon vinaigrette recipe is my new favorite salad dressing: I usually have the ingredients on hand, it’s quick to assemble, it keeps in the refrigerator for a week or two, and it’s just so versatile. I’ve been using this lemon dressing with a simple salad of fresh lettuce. I’ve drizzled it over steamed summer green beans. I’ve tossed it with cooked rice, grilled shrimp and cherry tomatoes for the best hot-weather dinner ever. (I’ll post that recipe soon, promise!) It would make amazing potato salad. It’s the ideal dressing for the French Picnic Salad in a Jar.

If you’re a bottled dressing person (no hard feelings!), give this a try. If you’re a salad dressing maker, put this recipe in your regular rotation.

perfect lemon vinaigrette dressing recipe

makes about 1 1/4 cups
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, smashed

1/2 cup olive oil

In a lidded glass jar or mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, lemon zest, salt and pepper, until the salt dissolves. Add the smashed garlic clove and whisk well. Very slowly drizzle a thin stream of olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify. Let the dressing sit for an hour at room temperature, then remove the garlic clove.


recipe for summer corn and tomato pie

Improved summer tomato-corn pie.

I had (HAD!) to re-publish this recipe for improved tomato-corn pie, one of my absolute all-time summer favorites. I discovered Deb Perelman’s recipe at Smitten Kitchen, which she republished from the August 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. But the recipe has even earlier origins: Gourmet’s version is a kind of mashup between a tomato pie developed by the late food writer Laurie Colwin for the magazine in 1992 and a tomato-cheese quiche recipe in James Beard’s 1972 “American Cookery.”

My significant hack to the Gourmet tomato-corn pie recipe—and, if I daresay, its improvement—is baking it in a no-roll pie crust flavored with olive oil and crunchy with cornmeal. In my book, a double-crust pastry does this pie a disservice, making it watery and soggy. The savory no-roll pie crust stays light and crisp, even with all those juicy summer tomatoes.

Trust me: You’ll want to make this soon.

summer corn and tomato pie recipe

(serves 6 ... who are we kidding? Rob and I ate half of this in one sitting)

for the no-roll pie crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup olive oil

for the corn-tomato filling:
3 ears corn, kernels removed
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch pie plate, whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt. Combine milk and oils, and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork to combine, then use your fingers to work the mixture together until large clumps form and no loose flour remains. Use your fingers to press the crust into place, beginning with the sides and finishing with the bottom; make sure there are no holes or cracks. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes; remove from oven and let cool.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Scatter 1/3 cup of the grated cheddar in the bottom of the pie shell, lay 1/2 of the tomato slices on top of the cheese, then scatter 1/2 of corn kernels over the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and 1/2 of the thyme. Repeat with another layer of cheese and vegetables, ending with cheese on top. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream; pour this mixture gently over the vegetables.

Transfer the pie to the preheated oven (lay a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack to catch any drips), and bake until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes to set the filling before serving.

low-fat Green Goddess salad dressing recipe | writes4food.com

Perfect Green Goddess dressing.

File this under: Decades-old food trends that have come back around again. (Along with homemade butter, canning and charcuterie.)

I remember Green Goddess dressing from my childhood [mind you, at that age I positively hated salad of all kinds]. Green Goddess dressing had kind of a groovy, late ’70s sort of vibe to it: break out the mod Danish-designed salad bowl.

According to American Food Roots, the dressing originated in 1923 at San Francisco’s Palace hotel. The original recipe had a mayonnaise-sour cream base, tons of green herbs and the kick of anchovy. I recently spotted a recipe for Green Goddess in Bon Appétit‘s June issue. And among the recipes I gathered from Cincinnati chefs for “The Findlay Market Cookbook” was Julie Francis’s winter salad with Green Goddess dressing.

The Goddess—she’s back.

My version is sort of stripped-down, so the herbs really come to the fore. I used non-fat Greek yogurt as the primary base, with a couple of tablespoons of mayo for richness. I skipped the anchovy because I wanted the tarragon and chives to really shine. You can either blend a small garlic clove into the dressing, or skip that and rub a smashed clove thoroughly on your salad bowl to give that pungent hit of super-fresh garlic.

low-fat Green Goddess dressing recipe

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon

lots of pepper
In a blender (or in a tall jar using an immersion blender), whirl together the Greek yogurt and mayo. Use the blade of a knife to smash the garlic clove on a cutting board, sprinkle it generously with kosher salt, and mash it into a paste. Add the garlic-salt paste, the lemon juice, vinegar, herbs and pepper to the yogurt. Whirl to combine well and create a smooth, evenly green mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
recipe for zucchini and bacon pie in savory no-roll pie crust | writes4food.com

Summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie.

I’m hooked on turning summer’s fresh vegetables into savory pies (I suppose there are worse vices). Think quiche—only packed with tons more vegetables and lighter on the eggy richness (and calories).

I recently shared my recipe for Improved Summer Corn & Tomato Pie with a friend on Facebook, as a way to convince him that it’s totally worth the very minimal effort to make your own crust for a savory vegetable pie. The trick is stirring together the dry and wet ingredients right in the pie plate and pressing the crumbly mixture into place. My super-easy and delicious savory no-roll pie crust recipe includes cornmeal for crunch and olive oil for flavor. My Facebook friend whipped up his own pie crust and loved how easy and tasty it was.

That no-roll pie crust is the base for this new recipe, which I adapted from a Saveur recipe that I spotted recently. I tinkered with the binding ingredients, and added bacon—well, because bacon makes any vegetable that much tastier.

Next week, I’ll be onto the corn and tomato pie—this week, I’m in love with this zucchini pie recipe!

summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie in no-roll crust recipe

serves 6

for the no-roll pie crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch pie plate, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil and olive oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a fork. When the mixture becomes crumbly and hard to stir, use your hands to completely combine the mixture so no loose flour remains. Press the crumbs into place, starting with the bottom and working up the sides. Bake the pie shell for 12 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

for the vegetable filling:
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
½ cup grated asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup ricotta
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it's crispy; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, and drain off any rendered fat from the pan. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 7 minutes. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet; add the garlic and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the zucchini begins to soften, about 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and let cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the asiago, ricotta, eggs and parsley. Stir into the vegetable mixture; season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to the pre-baked pie shell. Bake the zucchini pie for 40–45 minutes, until the filling is set and lightly browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

fruit and herb infused spa water | writes4food.com

Fruit and herb infused water.

I’m not one for gadgety kitchen things … but this summer, I’m loving an infusion water pitcher that I picked up recently. We all know (don’t we?) the importance of drinking 8 full (that’s 8-ounce) glasses of water every day to keep our bodies hydrated. Drinking infused water makes that goal so much more achievable. It’s deliciously refreshing, and it’s a great way to add potassium and vitamins to your diet without drinking those icky bottled “smart” waters. The added potassium gives fruit-infused water a double bonus: Potassium helps balance fluid and electrolyte intake in your body’s cells. Potassium helps the water you’re drinking go to better use.

The infusion pitcher is super handy: Just cut up some citrus wedges and grab a few herb sprigs from the garden and fill the infuser, then fill the pitcher with cold water. The longer the water sits in the fridge, the deeper the taste. Recently, I visited the delightful local food writer and educator Rita Heikenfeld, and she shared a pitcher of infused water with fruit, edible flowers and a bit of sweet stevia from her garden. It was beautiful.

I’ve been going through a pitcher of infused water every day. I change the fruit and herbs every 3 or 4 days. My favorite flavor combinations for infused spa water:

  • lemon and basil
  • lime and mint
  • strawberry and mint
  • strawberry and raspberry

Are you getting enough water on these hot summer days?