Caramel-Lime Blueberry Pudding Cake

Blueberry Lime Pudding Cake

I’ve had pudding cakes on my mind for quite a while now, so when I was leafing through old issues of Gourmet Magazine recently and saw the fabulous Blueberry Pudding Cake on the cover of the July 2005 issue, I knew the time had come. I had fresh blueberries and the other ingredients are kitchen staples. Of course I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding a good hit of lime and a caramel note to the sauce. And then my blueberry sauce didn’t sink through the batter as the original recipe said it should, so I tweaked the procedure for the sauce as well. The result was a hit with all four tasters. The only grumbling I heard was over the lack of ice cream accompaniment. Next time, I’ll make sure to have that on hand.

Sweet Corn & Black Bean Salsa

With chips

I look forward to making Sweet Corn & Black Bean Salsa each August when the first ears of fresh corn hit Northwest farmers markets. The corn is the star here, and it really must be fresh, sweet, and in season locally.

Blueberry Cobbler with Maple, Lemon & Sour Cream Cornmeal Biscuits

Blueberry Cobbler with Maple, Lemon & Sour Cream Cornmeal Biscuits

This Blueberry Cobbler is from a different universe than the soggy, ho-hum cobblers encountered in many restaurants these days. The berries are evocatively enhanced with maple syrup, lemon, and cinnamon. The biscuits are crisp on the top and tender on the interior, with a subtle tang from the addition of sour cream and lemon. And the whole dessert goes together in under 20 minutes.

Cold Green Pea Soup (Green Pea Gazpacho)

Chilled green Pea Soup (Green Pea Gazpacho)

The vibrant green color is perhaps enough incentive to make this gazpacho-like soup during the height of sweet pea season, but the fresh, bright pea flavor with a chile kick and a hint of mint and lime will convince you too.

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The Perfect Vichyssoise (Cold Potato Leek Soup)

Vichyssoise Serving 1

If there is one soup that is an absolute must for me in the summer (in addition to Gazpacho of course), it is the cold, silky, incredibly reviving amalgam called Vichyssoise (vih-she-swaz). I have been known to make a gallon at a time and polish it off easily in a week. (Luckily, one can actually survive healthily on a diet of only potatoes supplemented with dairy.)

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce & Gingersnap Crumble

Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.

Tuscan Melon & Blackberry Salad with Prosciutto & Yogurt Chevre Dressing

Tuscan Melon & Blackberry Salad with Yogurt Chevre Dressing & Pancetta

Like most of the baby boom generation, I grew up on the ubiquitous American iceberg lettuce salad with the usual assortment of dreary bottled dressings. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that fruit could be used to good effect in a salad—beyond those ghastly sweet coconut and marshmallow concoctions that sat high and proud on every family buffet of my youth.

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise Over Lemon Sorbet

This sweet-tart sauce is the essence of late summer. It transports me back to the country roads and beaches of Vashon Island, where I spent so many Septembers foraging for blackberries, baking for hours in the wilting sun, trying to get enough ripe berries for JUST ONE PIE.

Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.

So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.

Baby Red Potato Salad with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Oregon Blue

Baby Red Potato Salad with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Oregon Bleu

The 4th of July is coming up fast, and on Independence Day, you will find me (as usual) at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival on the balmy banks of the Willamette River.

Hood Canal Manila Clams with Spicy Orange Cilantro Butter

Hood Canal Manila Clams with Spicy Orange Cilantro Butter

There is nothing I love more in the summer than exploring the hundreds of farmers markets that blanket the Northwest. They pop up everywhere, along roadsides, in parking lots, in front yards, in small towns, and in big cities.

My Tabouleh

My Tabouleh

On a recent lazy Sunday, fired up by a surprising desire to eat healthy, my thoughts wandered to Tabouleh, that Middle Eastern salad of whole grain bulgur wheat, cucumber, tomato, red onion, copious quantities of fresh parsley and mint, and a lemony vinaigrette.

Mexican Tortilla Soup with Frizzled Tortillas

Mexican Tortilla Soup with Frizzled Tortillas

Over the years, I have eaten this much-lauded soup in every restaurant and café I could find it. I love the concept—toasted chiles, tomatoes, garlic, corn tortillas, and cumin soup base with fried tortillas, avocado, and sour cream embellishments—but not always the execution. Restaurant renditions vary considerably, as do recipes in American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks.

The Green Goddess (Salad Dressing)

The Green Goddess (Dressing)

Suddenly, Green Goddess Dressing is showing up everywhere. I’ve encountered it on four menus in the past month. And I can’t stop ordering it, even though restaurant versions pale by comparison to what you can make in your own kitchen. Restaurants invariably hold back on the herbs, perhaps to control cost or to appeal to the less adventurous diner. This is a mistake, because this dressing is supposed to be all about the herbs and bold rather than timid.

Sweet Corn Grilled in the Husk

Northwest Corn Fresh from the Market

I read about this method of cooking fresh corn some time ago, but the idea really took hold when one of my personal culinary goddesses, Cindy Pawlcyn, of Mustard’s Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen fame (both in Napa, California), described the process in her truly wonderful book, Big Small Plates.

Cindy’s version of this dish is called Grilled Street Corn. She brushes the hot grilled corn (the husk pulled back and corn silk removed) with a garlic mayonnaise, dusts with cayenne, rolls in parmesan cheese, and serves with lime wedges. Wow!

Risotto of Sweet Corn with Corn Coulis, Zucchini, Chevre & Green Chile Oil

Risotto of Sweet Corn with Corn Coulis, Zucchini, Chevre & Green Chile Oil

If there is an easier, quicker, more elegant, more economical, more versatile, more satisfying dish in the world than risotto, I can’t think of what it might be.

As long as you keep a premium-quality risotto rice on hand, you will almost certainly have something in the frig to complete the dish. That something can be any thoughtful combination of fresh or cooked vegetables, meats, seafood, fresh herbs, and cheese.

Crostone with Basil Mint Pesto & Roasted Ratatouille


I used to make ratatouille (an aromatic vegetable mélange of eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs) the classic way (AKA the Julia Child way), sautéing each vegetable separately in copious amounts of olive oil. Julia says that her recipe is the only one she knows in which each vegetable retains its own shape and character.

Summer Tomato, Sweet Onion & Blackberry Salad with Basil Mint Crema

Summer Tomato, Sweet Onion & Blackberry Salad with Basil Mint Crema

This salad is the happy result of a recent early morning meander through the Portland Farmers Market. In mid-August, the market is full to bursting and the choices are almost overwhelming.

A huge variety of sweet and chile peppers overflow baskets onto large bunches of just picked basil and mint. Plump sweet onions nestle next to mountains of green and purple beans. Tomatoes are either as small as a marble or as large as your fist and range in color from green, to yellow, to orange, to red. Blackberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries all vie for attention.

Sweet Carrot Bisque with Umami Pesto

Sweet Carrot Soup with Umami Pesto

When I was a wee bonnie lass, I tolerated raw carrots, but cooked carrots were the kiss of death to my usually robust appetite. In fact, since MauiJim shares my aversion, I began to experiment tenuously with cooked carrots only recently. I usually saute them quickly or add them at the last minute to preserve their crunchy texture.

However, carrot bisque is an exception. The carrots need to be fully tender in order to liquefy them in a blender. And because they are quite sweet by nature, especially when they are young and freshly dug, I treat them in a similar fashion to yams, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.

Sweet Cherry & Pea Vine Salad with Basil & Mint

Bing Cherry & Pea Vine Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

This past Saturday, I walked through the Seattle University District Farmers Market with–gasp–no goal. I let the season’s bounty and the culinary muses set the agenda. The muses, aroused by my atypical lack of planning, whispered sweet nothings in my ear: “cherries, cherries, cherries.”

Luckily, several growers’ tables were piled high with sweet cherries (Bings, Rainiers, and Chelans) and one grower had oh-so-hard-to-find Montmorency pie cherries as well. But at $10 a pound, I will plan what to make with these, perhaps next week.

Fourth of July Independence Day Roundup

Fourth of July festivites are just a few days away, so for this roundup, I selected nine dishes most suitable for an All-American summertime barbecue. These are tried-and-true recipes that I have made again and again to rave reviews. I hope they will become your faves as well.

Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Northwest Strawberries

To kick off Northwest strawberry season, here are the tried-and-true recipes from past seasons. Check out the Strawberry Primer first for a wide range of other flavors that partner beautifully with the inestimable Northwest strawberry.

Fresh Blueberry Roundup

Blueberries Closeup

Every summer, I work up a few new blueberry dishes and share the best of them with you. To prime your creative juices, here are some of my favorite ways to eat this super juicy, distinctively flavored berry. Check out the Fresh Blueberry Primer first to see the wide range of other ingredients that partner beautifully with blueberries. Maybe try a combination you’ve never tried before.

Lime-Marinated Steak Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce, Tomatoes, Onions, Feta & Mint

Lime-Marinated Steak Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce, Tomatoes, Onions, Feta & Mint

Can you say Tzatziki (za-ZEE-kee)? Honestly, it’s more difficult to say it than to make it. Which is a good thing, because it’s the magic potion that sends this Greek-inspired sandwich into the flavor stratosphere. And I promise, after one bite, no one will care if you bungle the pronunciation.

Grilled Prawn, Roasted Baby Tomato & Chipotle Mustard Bread Salad

Grilled Prawn, Roasted Baby Tomato & Chipotle Bread Salad

One fine day, as the song goes, I got a note from Colette Becker of Saucy Mama (@SaucyMamaCafe on Twitter). She invited me to participate in this year’s Saucy Mama food blogger contest. Well, it’s hard to say no when an invitation is extended so graciously and a promise of a heap of Saucy Mama products is part of the gig. So of course I said, “Count me in.”

When the package arrived a couple of weeks later, I ripped into all the bottles and tasted each one. I especially loved the Chipotle Mustard and the humongous Garlic Stuffed Olives, so decided to use them together in some sort of easy summer main course. This flavor packed Italian Panzanella is the result.

Fire & Spice Grilled Burgers with Chipotle Aioli

Fire & Spice Burgers with Chipotle Aioli

I’m on a grind-my-own-hamburger kick this summer, so thought I would share another sublime grilled burger that came out of the OtherWorldly Kitchen this past week.

This one is loaded with fire, spice, and smoke, and has got that essential aspect I call Big Taste. For the Summertime Beef & Brew Grilled Burgers posted earlier, I used beef chuck shoulder, but for my Fire & Spice Burgers, I was seduced by a mountain of well-marbled boneless beef short ribs in the butcher case. It was that luscious fat that got me all dreamy eyed.

Torta della Nonna for My Darling Lily

Lemon & Rose Petal Ricotta Tart (Torta della Nonna): Batter Method with Bottom Crust Only

I was pondering how to introduce the newest member of our family to you, dear readers, when my fabuloso sister-in-law, Mary-beth, suggested tying in Torta della Nonna, which truthfully, I knew nothing about. She fell in love with this simple and rich Italian tart in Italy, during a 5-day cooking course, at the beautiful Capezzana Wine and Culinary Center. Mary-beth says she ate a small slice of this tart every day during that stay and wishes she could continue that ritual indefinitely. This is her kind of tart. Let it be known that Mary-beth, former cooking instructor and continuing culinary maven is no slouch in the kitchen. If she says this cake is to die for, I believe it. And I must try it.

However, still unable to utter the “G” word without grimacing, I have been more preoccupied with what my darling granddaughter is going to call me than with announcing to the world that she has, at long last, ARRIVED. Even if that announcement involves a wonderful tart.

Kicky Tomato Strawberry Gazpacho

Kicky Tomato Strawberry Gazpacho

If you’ve been following along with me this summer, you know I am enthralled with the tomato and strawberry flavor pairing. Earlier, I created Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce to accompany Heavenly Parmesan Sour Cream Pound Cake. It was a surprise hit. I have to explore at least a couple more strawberry-tomato dishes before the summer season is over.

While pondering what to cook next and flagging from the 90+ degree heat wave that hit Seattle this week, the inevitable happened. I opened the oh-so-wonderfully-cold frig and saw, at eye level, a large bowl of strawberries alongside a large bowl of grape tomatoes, both of which were intended for salad.

Creamy Romaine Soup with Summer Herb Butter & Garlic Croutons

Creamy Romaine Soup with Herb Butter & Garlic Croutons

When we are in Portland, Oregon and heading out on foot to dinner in town, Wildwood in the Northwest district is always at the top of our list of fave destinations. It’s a lovely mile walk, or if we are feeling exceptionally lazy, we can hop the streetcar almost to the front door. (You might have seen my earlier article on Wildwood titled, Sweet Briar Farms Pork Chop with Bodacious Corn Hush Puppies. Just looking at the photo of that amazing dish makes me go weak at the knees.)

Italian Giardiniera: Summer in a Jar

Italian Giardiniera in the Jar

What a wonderful Saturday in cool, overcast Seattle. We started early with a 4-mile walk along the east side of Lake Washington and then shot over the 520 bridge to scope out the produce at the University District Farmers Market. By 10:00 A.M., the market was swarming with friendly but purposeful shoppers.

What struck me this week were all the “baby” veggies. One vendor had her large variety of summer squash tagged as “infant” zucchini and “youngster” patty pans. Another vendor had turnips the size of a marble. The carrots were so young and tender they were practically screaming, “Eat me now.” There were even baby shallots, as small and tender as green onions.