Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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Spicy, sweet, moist and fragrant, Pumpkin Coffee Cake says autumn bliss in every bite. Warming cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup. With toasted pecans in a streusel topping covered with just the right amount of sweet, vanilla icing. Can you smell how it perfumes the whole house?

I can easily resist the siren call of “pumpkin spice latte” and “pumpkin spice” scented candles and room sprays. Don’t even get me started! However, I am a sucker for the real thing. And this lovely coffee cake actually contains real pumpkin and not merely “pumpkin” spices.

When I was searching for a recipe for a pumpkin cake or muffin, I came across this from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Initially I meant to make the recipe exactly as written – truly, I did. However, I immediately started thinking of ways to make it more my own. It’s safe to say that my version of Pumpkin Coffee Cake is only “inspired” by Sally’s.

My Pumpkin Coffee Cake gets its spicing from my Pumpkin Pie. I like a really well-spiced pie. It means adding a few cracks of fresh black pepper to my spice mix. This is a trick I learned a number of years ago. It isn’t enough to notice on its own. But it just enhances the spicy nature of the ginger, allspice and cloves.

I’m not sure why using the word “moist” to describe a cake has become a dirty word. For me, it means that the cake will melt in your mouth and the crumbs will stick together on the fork. It also means that the cake will likely be delicious even after a couple of days. So, yes, this Pumpkin Coffee Cake is beautifully and unashamedly moist! This, of course, also means that you can slice off mere slivers of the cake every time you happen to pass on by. No crumbling here.

Lately, I’ve noticed a curious correlation between bad news and my sweet tooth. The worse things are in the world, the more I crave quality sweets. So for me, the amount of icing was the perfect balance for the spiced cake and the streusel topping. But if you prefer the Jackson Pollack look of lacy lines or even no icing at all, that’s okay too. This is a humble coffee cake – not a fancy pastry.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

The coffee cake was baked in a 9-inch springform pan. However, it could easily have been baked in an 8-inch springform or a 9-inch square pan or loaf pan. It just means that the baking time will need to be adjusted depending on how deep the cake is.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake uses ingredients that most of us have in our pantry. It’s always nice when my urge to bake doesn’t require an extra trip to the grocery store. But using fresh spices is always important for optimal flavor. So don’t get seduced into buying spices in bulk. Unless you are running a bakery or restaurant, most of us cannot use up these bulk spices quickly enough before the flavors are lost. Of course, the more whole spices you buy and grind yourself, the longer the spices will last. And the flavors will be more intense.

As with most coffee cakes, you can eat this from breakfast until dessert following dinner. And the cake can be frozen. I simply wouldn’t add the glaze until just before you are ready to use it.

But enough talk – let’s bake!

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (4 T or 59g) unsalted cold butter

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Batter

2 cups (250g) all-purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each: ground allspice, nutmeg and cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 good cracks of freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (230g) pumpkin puree

1 large room temperature egg

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (120ml) canola or other neutral vegetable oil

1/4 cup (82g) pure maple syrup

1/4 cup (60ml) dairy or non-dairy milk

Vanilla Icing

1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar

2 to 3 Tablespoons of milk or half & half

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch non-stick springform or square baking pan. If you are using a square pan, you can line it with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang. This will make it easy to remove the cake from the pan. You could also choose to serve it directly from the pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the streusel ingredients using your fingers, a fork or pastry blender. Mix just to create clumps and large crumbs. Set aside.

Place all of the dry ingredients (flour and spices) in a large bowl and whisk them together. Then add in the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, oil and milk. Stir just until everything is smooth and combined. Do not over mix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Add the streusel topping across the batter, gently pressing it in slightly.

Ovens vary as do the pans used. I baked mine in the springform pan for 40 minutes. I then turned the oven off, cracked open the door and left the cake in the oven for 10 more minutes. The center didn’t sink and the cake was perfectly baked. You can also check with a toothpick in the center to see if it comes out dry with a few crumbs attached. I find that less reliable. I go by smell and how the cake looks. By turning off the oven and keeping the cake in there for a few additional minutes, I know the cake will be just done without risk of over-baking.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool. If necessary, run a thin knife or spatula around the inside edge of the pan before releasing the outer ring of the springform pan.

Once the cake has cooled to warm, you can prepare the icing, if using. Depending on how thick you like the consistency of the icing, will determine how much liquid you use. You can always add a little more sugar if you went too far with the liquid. How you choose to ice the cake is up to your inner artist. You can also choose to spread it across the top and allow it to run down the sides. This is a cake that can be eaten warm.

Italian Apple Cake

Italian Apple Cake

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Autumn and the Jewish New Year always mean sweet/tart/crisp, juicy apples and cinnamon to me. I can’t get enough of them in every and any iteration. My blog has several apple cake examples and you could be excused in thinking that are many more really needed.

But when I came across this recipe for an Italian Apple Cake, I knew I would try it right away. Of course, I tweaked it a bit! The result is a beautiful, fragrant, appley cake that is even better the second day. Every time I lift the lid on the cake plate, I am hit with a waft of apple scent. It’s delicious before I even taste a bite!

Most of the ingredients are always on hand so I was able to pull it together without a trip to the grocery store. There is nothing fancy here or cloyingly sweet. Every bite is chock full of apple chunks and the flavor is clean and apple-forward with a hint of lemon and cinnamon.

While I did use a hand mixer for beating the eggs with the sugar until airy and light, this cake can be made by hand if you have a strong arm. Other than that one task, no special equipment is required. And while I chose to lay some additional apples on top, dotted with butter and sprinkled with Demerara sugar, you could opt to leave that off and simply dust the cooled cake with confectioner’s sugar for presentation. I did also brush the finished cake top with a light coating of apple jelly for a bit of shine.

Italian Apple Cake

With so many varieties of apples available, choose one (or a variety) that is tart/sweet and will hold its shape when baked. No applesauce here!

The holiday of Sukkot begins Sunday night and lasts all week. This is a perfect treat for the coming 8 days. But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this Italian Apple Cake. Perfect as is, a dollop of freshly whipped cream or crème fraîche would not go amiss, however. And the cake cuts beautifully.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of apples, consider some of these other delicious recipes:

Italian Apple Cake

Apple Cake – Take 2

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

Apple Bread Pudding

Tarte Aux Pommes – Apple Tart

Apple Walnut Bread with Rum-Soaked Raisins

Caramelized Apple Pancake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Spiced Apple Cake

Amish Apple Pie

Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Crumble

Apple pie with cheddar cheese crust and hard sauce

Recipe

Italian Apple Cake

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Italian Apple Cake

2.5 to 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks (I used 2.5, but I could have even had a few more chunks)

1 large apple if using the decorative topping, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Zest of one small lemon

2 cups (240 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons (14 g) double acting baking powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (245 g) whole milk plain yogurt

1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for dotting apples on decorative top, if using

A light sprinkling of Demerara or sanding sugar for decorative top, if using

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a non-stick 9-inch spring form pan with a vegetable spray.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar and set aside while you measure out your other ingredients.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the lemon/sugar and eggs until they are light in color and VERY fluffy. This takes between 5 and 8 minutes.

Stir in the yogurt, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Do this by hand with a spatula. Do NOT use the hand mixer.

Add the dry ingredients and stir through gently until everything is well combined. Then add in the apples and gently stir through.

If you are using the optional decorative topping, layer the apple slices in an attractive over-lapping pattern. Then sprinkle the apple slices with the sugar and dot with the butter.

Place the spring form pan on top of a baking pan to catch any oozing from the bottom of the pan. Bake until nicely browned. Ovens vary as do apples. So start checking after 45 minutes but don’t be surprised if the cake takes at least an hour. I always then turn off my oven, leaving the door ajar with the cake inside. This will ensure that the cake really is done and won’t sink. The apples and yogurt will keep the cake moist.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully run it around the inside of the pan’s rim to make sure that nothing stuck anywhere. Then you can open the ring and remove it. Cool the cake fully. The cake should easily come off of the bottom of the spring form pan. However, you could also leave it on it and serve from there, just being careful not to cut into your pan.

Place the cooled cake in a covered cake plate. Italian Apple Cake is even better the next day, making it a great do-ahead recipe. Now enjoy!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

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If you are a fan of bold citrus in a melt-in-your-mouth cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries is for you. What this cake lacks in ‘curb appeal’ it more than makes up for in flavor. After all, isn’t that what crème fraîche or whipped cream are for? And this humble cake requires no equipment more complicated than a whisk. Oh my goodness this cake is wonderful!

As I often do, I was clicking through recipes when I came across a recipe for yogurt cake by the well-known author, Claudia Roden. I was about to make it for Shabbat when I decided to read the comments. They were very, very mixed leaning towards the negative. By that time, however, I had it in my head that I had to make a yogurt cake – so I kept on clicking. I came across one titled French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. It looked simple and the reviews were universally positive.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Now I meant to make it exactly as written – really I did. However, my husband, who recently has gotten into cooking and baking, said “Why don’t we add blueberries?” So I figured, why not? But then he said “What if we zest lemon into some sugar and roll the blueberries in that like for the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake?” Trying to be encouraging in his nascent dive into cooking, I said “Sure, why not?”

And, thus was born the Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

This unpretentious cake can be eaten for breakfast, coffee or tea break or as dessert. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat. And the cake will only get more flavorful and moister as the days go on. Assuming, of course, that it isn’t all eaten up in one go! Serve just as is or with a little crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Recipe

Yield: About 8

Ingredients

For the Cake

1/2 cup whole milk plain natural yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar plus 3 teaspoons, divided

3 large eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

Grated zest of one medium to large lemon, divided

1/2 cup of a neutral oil (I used canola)

1/2 cup of blueberries

For the syrup

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup powdered, icing or confectioners sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray an 8-inch springform or round cake pan with a neutral spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and lightly spray that. Set the pan aside.

Using your fingers, rub about 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest into the 3 teaspoons of sugar. Add the blueberries and toss through. Set aside.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar and the eggs. Stir or whisk until well blended.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Add the oil to the egg mixture and stir through.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture. Now add the lemon zest and stir just to combine. Add the blueberries and gently fold through.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is nicely browned and the cake feels springy to the touch. Depending on the oven, this can take 40 to 50 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is baking, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. This should be more of a runny syrup than a sugar glaze. Set aside.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Then, if you are using a springform pan, just run a thin knife or spatula around the cake and release the outer ring. If you are using a cake pan, turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack. Don’t worry if the cake sinks a bit in the center. Place a pan or some newspaper under the rack to brush on the syrup.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is still warm, use a pastry brush with the syrup. Generously brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake. You may have some extra glaze which you could use when serving the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh)

Libyan-Style Fish

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Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) is to Libyan Jews – and many Israelis – what gefilte fish is to Eastern European Jews. And while my family origins are strictly the Pale of Settlement, I am a bigger fan of chraimeh than gefilte fish. This sweet and savory (sometimes fiery) dish is bound to become a tradition in your house too.

Normally made with a firm-fleshed non-oily white fish such as sea bass or amberjack, salmon steaks are more readily available where I live and also more affordable. You can also make this with thicker fillets of a white fish with the skin still on. I have even eaten made from catfish.

There are as many recipes for Libyan-Style Fish as there are people who originated from Libya. And each family prides itself on its version. While comparing recipes (and I must have looked at at least 6) it seems that all have in common: garlic; paprika, caraway seeds, cumin and chiles. The recipe I finally landed on comes from Jerusalem a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. But, of course, with a few tweaks by me.

Whether you choose to use this recipe or some other, just be sure to have plenty of good bread on hand for dipping into the sauce. The sauce is what this dish is all about! While normally served as a starter to the Shabbat or holiday meal, my husband and I ate it as our main course on Shabbat.

Serve Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) warm or at room temperature. I did tone down the heat a bit to suit our tastes. This can get pretty fiery in some versions. But the beauty of making these foods at home is that you are the boss. YOU control the heat. Because the spices make the dish, I encourage you to only use the freshest dried spices. Better yet – grind your own. And the end product should be a perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) is a great make-ahead dish and can easily be doubled or tripled to serve a crowd. Fish cooked in a sweet or savory tomato-based sauce is ubiquitous across the Mediterranean and North Africa. The Moroccan version is a bit more subtle in its flavorings but not terribly dissimilar. While served year-round, it is a perfect summer make-ahead meal. Add some rice or couscous and you have dinner!

For another great Shabbat and holiday fish starter, try my Egyptian Ground Fish Balls in a tomato-based sauce. My family loves these for Passover. And if you truly cannot live without gefilte fish (And who says you have to choose?!) try my Gefilte Fish Loaf.

Recipe

Yield: 3 to 4 servings as dinner. About 6 servings as a starter

Ingredients

Libyan-Style Fish

About 5 Tablespoons of neutral oil (I use canola)

2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped OR 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

3 to 4 salmon steaks (about 1.5 to 2 pounds), rinsed and patted dry

6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 Tablespoon of caraway seeds, dry toasted in a pan and then ground

rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.5 teaspoons of ground cumin

rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon)

1 green chile, coarsely chopped with or without seeds depending on the level of heat you are looking for

About 2/3 cup of water

3 Tablespoons of tomato paste

2 teaspoons of granulated sugar (I actually used Demerara)

1/3 cup diced roasted peppers ( I had homemade, but jarred are fine)

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon plus 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leafed parsley

kosher salt and Aleppo pepper (or freshly cracked black pepper) to taste

Directions

Place the garlic, spices, 2 Tablespoons of oil and chile in a blender or food processor (Mortar and pestle would also work) and blitz to a thick paste. I needed to add another Tablespoon of oil to get the right consistency.

Libyan-Style Fish

In a large, heavy, flat-bottomed pan with a cover, add remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil and heat to shimmering. Add in the garlic spice mixture and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Garlic Spice Mixture

Immediately add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, roasted peppers, fresh lemon juice, water and sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook partially covered for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and the sauce has thickened some. Taste and add more salt as needed and Aleppo or black pepper.

In the meantime, rinse and dry your fish. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the fish and set aside.

When the sauce has melded, add the fish steaks, pushing them gently into the sauce. The sauce will not cover them. My salmon steaks were quite thick, so I simmered them for 9 minutes on the first side, spooning sauce over them occasionally and then turned them over to cook for another 8 to 9 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your fish you may not need to turn the pieces over. You want to cook the fish to the flake stage. Spoon sauce over the fish.

Allow the fish and sauce to cool down to warm before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs. Libyan-Style Fish can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve over rice or with LOTS of delicious bread like fresh challah. Left-overs can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

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Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

This Upside Down Nectarine Pancake makes the most of these luscious stone-fruits. The delightful, juicy nectarines are enhanced by the melding of cardamom, nutmeg and caramelly jaggery. Of course, if you don’t have jaggery available, Muscovado, light brown sugar or even plain old granulated sugar will do.

We are at the height now of stone-fruit season. It doesn’t last long enough for me. So I have a tendency to get a bit carried away when I see beautiful nectarines, peaches and plums at the store or farmer’s market. And unfortunately, they all seem to achieve their peak eating at exactly the same moment. That’s what happened with these gorgeous nectarines. Thankfully, my husband had the brilliant suggestion of taking my absolute favorite Upside Down Blueberry Pancake and tweaking it to use up the nectarines. The photos don’t quite do it justice.

You could also substitute or even mix ripe peaches or plums here. And of course, nectarines and blueberries also make for a great combination. The beauty of nectarines is that they have no fuzzy skin like peaches that needs to be peeled. In fact, the peel in the Upside Down Nectarine Pancake seems to absorb so much of the flavor and is so tender that it was an integral part of the dish. The liquid in the pan is all syrupy deliciousness which also means that there is no need for maple or any other syrup. I soak up every drop with the spongey pancake. And if there is any leftover, I eat it up with my finger.

Be sure to check out the the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Ingredients

For the nectarine filling:

    1/3 cup jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    26 ozs. of whole nectarines or other stone-fruit (A bit more is fine), cut into slices/wedges about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. (If using jaggery, the sugar will melt into almost a paste.) If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the nectarine. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the nectarines into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the nectarines.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the nectarines, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Savory Asparagus Tart

Savory Asparagus Tart

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This fabulous Savory Asparagus Tart is ready in under an hour, but looks like you slaved all day. I served it for our Shavuot dinner with a salad and Lemon Almond Semolina Cake for dessert. Our drink of choice was a beautiful Vermentino from Ryme Wine Cellars. But this easy-to-prepare savory tart would also make a beautiful brunch meal or a perfect Meatless Monday option.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Believe it or not but I came across this recipe in a folio sent by my grocery store a couple of months back. I made a couple of changes and my presentation was a simple change that just made this tart a visual stunner.

This Savory Asparagus Tart comes together so quickly because you use a prepared frozen puff pastry. It was even quicker because this time I bought cheese that was already grated and crumbled. Something this pretty AND delicious doesn’t have to be difficult. My husband and I were able to spend the entire day outside enjoying the gorgeous weather and we still sat down to a beautiful and delicious meal. Give it a try. And if you don’t wish to use puff pastry, a regular tart or unsweetened pie pastry or phyllo dough would also work.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Recipe

Yield: 6 generous servings

Ingredients

1 full package of frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions

2 teaspoons EVOO

1 pound (1 bunch) fresh asparagus, trimmed

8 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper or to taste

4 green onions (scallions), trimmed and thinly sliced

5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a combo of asiago, parmesan and fontina, but any one of those would also work)

4 ounces of goat cheese crumbles

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped (or snipped) fresh chives. (You can use other fresh herbs if these are unavailable or to suit your preferences.)

Savory Asparagus Tart

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 1/4-sheet pan (9 x 13) with parchment or lightly brush with oil

Flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to fit the pan so that it will go up the sides. Place it in the pan. You can trim any excess or fold it under. Prick the pastry all over and place it in the fridge while yo prepare the filling.

Set aside 5 asparagus spears that are about the same size and that have straight stems. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the stems and trim off the woody bottoms of the asparagus.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Trim off the woody bottoms of the remaining asparagus and cut the spears into pieces that are 2 to 3-inches long. Place the cut pieces in a large sauté pan with the EVOO and cook on medium high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Whisk the eggs, ricotta, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Remove the sheet pan from the fridge and scatter the cut, sautéed asparagus and the sliced green onions evenly across the bottom of the pastry.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Top with the shredded cheese.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Pour the egg mixture over the top and spread it evenly. Then top with the goat cheese crumbles. Carefully lay the asparagus spears that you set aside across the top on a slight angle. Press them gently into the cheese. Sprinkle the entire top of the tart with the fresh herbs.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Bake for 10 minutes in the middle of the oven and then lower the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking until the edges are puffed and golden and the eggs are set and beautifully browned – about 25 minutes.

Savory Asparagus Tart

Remove from the oven and allow everything to set for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serve with a beautiful salad, crusty bread and a crisp white wine. Leftovers can be wrapped in parchment and reheated in the oven, preferably on a pizza steel or stone.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Due to the unprovoked, brutal and merciless war on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose.

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If I had to choose a last meal on earth, it would be this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake. My husband created this incredible skillet pancake over many months of trial and error. It would be too cruel of me not to share it.

Breakfast foods are a favorite of mine – but only when I eat them for dinner. I just can’t consume that much first thing in the morning. About once a week, I ask my husband to make this Upside Down Blueberry Pancake for dinner. And as soon as I have devoured it, I begin counting the days until he makes it again.

Without any shame, I eat half of the pan with vegan sausage patties in one sitting. There are 18 ounces of blueberries in this pancake! My tongue and teeth are purple when I finish – but that is what baking soda is for!

The gorgeous, fat purply blueberries burst in your mouth and the delicious tang of fresh lemon – zest and juice – enhances the fruitiness. This is AMAZING! The pancake part of this dish is spongey and lofty, perfect for absorbing all of the fruity, blueberry, lemony juices. And if there is anything – and I mean anything – left on my plate, I use my finger and tongue to lap up every delicious bit.

For a lot of people, this dish would serve 4. But I have never felt uncomfortably stuffed or heavy after eating half of the pan. Upside Down Blueberry Skillet Pancake is neither overly sweet nor heavy. This will knock any other skillet or griddle pancake right out of the running. And because it bakes up in the oven, there is no standing over a griddle or fussily flipping pancakes. Everything is done in one pan.

Other than a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, there are no special tools or skills needed for this recipe. This is dinner AND dessert in one go. If you don’t make this right away – well, I can’t be held responsible.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

For the blueberry filling:

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    18 ozs. of blueberries, rinsed and well drained

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Upside Down Blueberry Pancake

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the blueberries. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the blueberries into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the blueberries.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the berries, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Duck Bacon Spinach Quiche

Duck Bacon Spinach Quiche

Dear Friends, I initially wrote this post about 10 days ago. Before the world had spun on its axis and Putin had invaded – without any provocation – the free and independent country of Ukraine. It was scheduled to go live this Sunday morning Chicago time. However, I pulled it, thinking it was just too frivolous. Like most of you, I have been glued to the TV and internet, watching in disbelief as the Russian Military has brought in every horrible weapon but one in its arsenal in an attempt to drag Ukraine back under the Russian boot. I have watched as the incredibly brave and resourceful people of Ukraine have stood their ground and defended their homeland against incredible odds. And I have watched as they have held back the might of the Russian Military – not ceding territory and not giving Putin the easy win he had expected.

Just as we appear to be emerging from the pandemic of the past two years, we are again thrust into a very stressful time with a crazed Putin threatening the use of nuclear weapons. I am old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. We children were sent home from school to be with our families on the very real possibility of a Russian strike and possible death. Thankfully that disaster was averted and we were brought back from the brink of a nuclear war.

When I am stressed (as well as when I am happy, if I am honest) I turn to family and food for comfort and celebration. For me, if I have a big pot of soup on the stove and a bread and pie coming out of the oven, I feel just a little bit safer. It’s that warm hug that we all need at times. With that in mind, as well as hopefully providing a very brief distraction, I decided to have this post go live after all. Read this as my poke in the eye to Putin – that he will not destroy Ukraine or democracy. Let them eat quiche!

Custardy, comforting Duck Bacon Spinach Quiche is easy to make and even easier to eat. The flavor is a well-balanced blend of creamy custard with a gently savory duck bacon, gruyere and spinach filling with a hint of nutmeg all in a flaky crust. A crisp green salad is the only accompaniment needed to round out the perfect meal.

Foods and their popularity tend to go in and out of fashion. There was a time when quiche was EVERYWHERE. And then it was nowhere. When I was growing up, it was not uncommon for my parents to invite teachers to our home for a Sunday lunch or dinner. I couldn’t imagine doing that with my son’s teachers. Does anyone do that anymore?? Nevertheless, my mother’s go to teacher’s meal was a beautiful Quiche Lorraine. It was considered very avant garde at the time and the teachers were always delighted to experience it. My mother was a wonderful cook and hostess.

Quiche also went through a phase of being super-sized – the higher the filling, the better. I’m afraid that it became lost to the American tendency to make everything bigger, but rarely better. Real quiche, though, is a delightful dish that doesn’t over-power.

A word about duck bacon. Of course, you can make this with regular, thick-cut bacon. However, duck bacon is worth a try. It is meatier, with half the fat of traditional bacon. It cooks up easily and even when crisped, it retains a lovely chew for a great mouthfeel. As my readers know by now, we eat very little meat these days. So when I do eat some, I want something where a little bit goes a long way for flavor and satisfaction.

Recently I bought some duck bacon, but I didn’t actually have anything in mind to make with it at the time. My husband, however, was getting concerned that it would go to waste, so I started to think of how to use it in a way that would show it off. I almost always have cream, eggs, good cheese and either spinach or kale floating around my refrigerator, so quiche seemed like a natural solution. It had been off my rotation of foods for years and I honestly couldn’t think why.

After checking out a number of recipes, I came up with this one. My crust is from Cook’s Illustrated minus the sugar. You, however, can use any basic pie crust that you like, including one from the grocery. The only change I might make next time would be to blind bake my pie dough first. I did use a metal pie plate on top of a baking steel, so it was fine, but it could have been a bit crisper on the bottom. On the other hand, the ease of not blind baking my crust first kind of out-weighed doing it!

If you haven’t made a quiche in a long time – or ever – now is the time to do it.

Recipe

Duck Bacon Quiche

Yield: 4 to 6 generous portions

Ingredients

1 unbaked 9-inch pie dough

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup of heavy cream at room temperature

1/2 cup of 1% or 2% milk at room temperature

4 slices of cooked duck bacon, cut into dice

1 cup of loosely packed, grated gruyere, Comte, Emmenthaler or aged Swiss cheese

2.5 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Duck Bacon Spinach Quiche

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Then add in the cream, milk salt and pepper.

Stir in half of the duck bacon and cheese. Pour this mixture into the pie crust. Place the spinach on top of the mixture and using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently submerge the spinach with some still peaking out.

Sprinkle the remaining duck bacon and cheese over the top,

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F. Then turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees F. and continue baking for about another 55 minutes. There should be a slight wobble to the filling. The filling will puff up during the baking process and then settles down as it cools. Do not over bake! I then turned off my oven, left the door open with the quiche inside for another 10 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least one hour before serving. This can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Serve a crisp salad alongside.

Chocolate Marble Cake

Chocolate Marble Cake

Growing up I had a very Manichean approach to dessert. My favorite cookie was a Black & White. My favorite ice cream was a soft-serve twist of chocolate and vanilla from Carvel. And my favorite cake was Chocolate Marble Cake from our local bakery. In New York, where I lived until I was fourteen, these desserts were ubiquitous. Every good deli and bakery carried the cookie and cake of my dreams. And in those days, a Carvel sign could be seen at most off-ramps all over New York. The truth is, I have never outgrown these loves, although finding really good versions of them in the Midwest is more challenging. So I was VERY excited when I came across this recipe for Black & White Pound Cake using black cocoa powder.

Black Cocoa Powder is what gives Oreos (or Hydrox Cookies, which is what I ate growing up and believe to be superior) their color and unique almost dry chocolate flavor. I had only used Dutch cocoa before. That will work here but the look and flavor will be different. The recipe comes from Sohla El-Waylly, a Food 52 star baker. She is very fun to watch and has several YouTube offerings. Sohla has a slightly funky vibe and a natural charm. I’ve made a few things of hers and the results have always been successful.

Now the one part of this recipe that caused a lot of debate in the comments section was the so-called streusel, which is used in both the middle of the cake and on top. I say so-called because it isn’t really like any other streusel I’ve eaten. It’s quite dry and the whole cake when it comes out of the pan, kind of looks as if it had been rescued from a fire and was covered in coal dust. I know, I know – this doesn’t sound as if I am making a case for the topping. But the funny thing is that as I ate the cake, the not-very-sweet topping grew on me. The part that went in the middle just melted into the cake and was delicious. The stuff on top crumbled off these dark, deep Oreo-like bits which were not overly sweet, but had a certain somethin/somethin.

It would be completely understandable if you chose to leave it off of the top and the cake would be AMAZING. But if you are open to giving it a chance, I would encourage you to do so. Either way, I would definitely use it in the middle of the cake as given in the recipe.

The finished cake when cut is an ever-changing work of art. Each slice is unique in it’s design and all are beautiful. It’s edible modern art, with dark beautiful veins of deliciousness. And while it may appear to be difficult to achieve, it really isn’t. I won’t lie. The cake is a bit fussy, takes a little time and uses several bowls, but there are no special techniques to making this. Just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY read the directions through several times before starting. And I also found that by measuring everything out before I began actually making the cake made things much easier. Yes, it does create more bowls and dishes to wash, but it also means that there is no scrambling to measure and possibly mis-reading things. Directions are crucial here.

I have mentioned it in other posts, but it’s worth saying again. I have become a BIG fan of weighing most of my ingredients when baking. It really is so much more accurate than simply measuring. Kitchen scales are readily available and cost around $25 – money well spent. I have included both measurements and weights where appropriate.

The other thing I learned when making this cake is how transformative long creaming of your butter and sugar can be. Until Sohla, I had never, ever creamed butter and sugar this long. However, I will now never, ever cream butter and sugar anything but this long again! Who knew how light and fluffy the mixture could become? And it is essential that ALL of your ingredients are at room temperature for best results.

Recipe

Chocolate Marble Cake

Yield: One 9 X 5-inch loaf

Ingredients

For the Streusel (Optional)

1 1/4 cup (156 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (20 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons (82 grams) cold butter, cut into cubes

For the Cake

14 tablespoons (196 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (187 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (15 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon milk or water

Chocolate Marble Cake

Directions

For the Streusel

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the cubed
butter and rub the mixture together with your fingers until it comes together into clumps; set aside. [Mine never quite formed clumps and I tend to agree with most of the comments that felt it needed more butter for this to happen. However, it did surprisingly stay together on the cake and when eaten was the texture of a thick Oreo dust. Not especially sweet.]

For the Cake

Set a rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and grease that as well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar,
baking powder, and kosher salt on medium-high speed until pale and very fluffy, stopping once during
mixing to scrape down the paddle and bowl, 6 to 8 minutes total. (You might think it’s done before that
time, but keep going all the way.)

Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. On medium-high speed, beat in the eggs and yolk one at a
time, scraping down the paddle and the bowl after each addition. The batter should look very fluffy,
creamy, and emulsified (if not, your eggs or butter may have been not at room temperature—let the
mixture come to room temperature then try mixing it again).

Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla
until lump-free and totally smooth.

Add half of the sour cream and mix on low until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add half of the flour
and mix until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining sour cream and flour. Using
a flexible rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle and the bowl and mix the batter a few times to make sure
everything is evenly combined.

Transfer about half the batter to a medium bowl. Sift over the cocoa powder and stir into the batter along
with the milk or water.

Sifting Black Cocoa

Add half the cocoa batter and half the vanilla batter to the pan in alternating dollops. Top with half the streusel and repeat dolloping the remaining batter.

With a butter knife or offset spatula, swirl the knife through the batter to make sure it is evenly distributed
into the pan with no big air pockets and give the pan a few swift taps against the counter. Wet a butter
knife and use it to slice down the center of the loaf cake (this ensures an even crack right down the middle
of the cake). Top with remaining streusel, lightly pressing it into the batter.

Chocolate Marble Cake

Bake until the crust is deeply browned, the loaf rises and splits, and the cake feels firm and set when you
gently press the top, 65 to 75 minutes. (This is a very moist cake and it is better to overbake rather than
underbake. If the crust is looking very dark partway through, set a wire rack just above the loaf pan and
place a rimmed baking sheet on it to provide a shield.)

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides to
loosen. Tip the cake into your hand, then place on a wire rack to fully cool before slicing.

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread is as pretty as it is delicious – and it’s riffable! Since my husband retired he has gotten into doing some cooking, much to my delight. He now bakes the best challah, using my recipe, and is branching out to pita, pizzas and other flatbreads, with the occasional curry or stir-fry. The Festive Flatbread is named for the myriad grilled vegetables with all of their beautiful rich colors and flavors. It makes full use of summer’s bounty.

This recipe evolved because I was trying to clean out my vegetable drawer, and has become a favorite dinner for the two of us. We use just a shmear of homemade pesto sauce on the base, but you could also just brush it with a flavored olive oil. There is just a dusting of cheese, which could be left off if you wanted to keep this vegan. However you choose to make this wonderful flatbread just remember that sometimes less is more. Make sure that each element has the best flavors and don’t overdo it.

The shaping is kind of freeform so don’t fret if it isn’t a perfect circle or rectangle. And while we eat this as a dinner for two, if cut into smaller squares, this flatbread would also be a lovely appetizer with a beer or nice glass of wine. The version shown uses zucchini, red pepper, Portobello mushroom, corn and grape tomatoes topped with arugula. It’s a great combination and the Portobello mushrooms give off less liquid than some other mushrooms. But if you have eggplant or other kinds of peppers, use them. Caramelized onion – yummmmm! Even thinly sliced potato would be great. Let your imagination and vegetable drawer rule the results!

We did use the same basic flatbread recipe with a red sauce, pepperoni and cheese for a very thin crust pizza. And while it was delicious, the veggie version remains our favorite.

For other thin crust pizza/flatbreads:

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza

I’m going to turn the blog over to my husband now since this is really his handiwork.

Festive Flatbread

In Andrew’s words

Hi! It’s me again, Lisa’s husband, the guy who just recently started learning how to bake and cook. The recipe I’m sharing with you I adapted from Laura Vitale’s Grilled Veggie Flatbread, and it’s a wonderful summer dish, fresh, light, and flavorful.

Interested in my thoughts about learning to cook? Then keep reading.

Not so much? Then skip to the next section. My feelings won’t be hurt.

But I also want to share with you how my attitude about recipes and cooking changed over time. Here’s the thing: I started out knowing almost nothing about cooking, so when I’d watch a YouTube video where the presenter talked about “options” or was vague about some of the details, I’d get really nervous. How exactly am I supposed to cook this dish? What’s being left out that everyone else apparently already knows how to do?

This flatbread recipe is a good example. After I made it a few times I started to understand that you could make it slightly differently, or with different ingredients, and it would still be good. Or the next time I made it I could adjust it to what Lisa and I liked better (e.g. less pesto). So I’ll do things both ways: I’ll highlight how the basic idea of the recipe is simple, allowing you to make changes based on what you like or what vegetables you have on hand that night. But in the photos and descriptions I’ll also describe exactly how I made it, trying to be as simple and specific as possible. OK, on to the recipe!

Recipe

Yield: Dinner for 2 or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

Festive Flatbread

For Flatbread dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    ½ tsp active dry yeast

    ½ tsp granulated sugar

    1 tsp kosher salt

    ½ cup warm water

    ½ tbsp olive oil

For the topping

    1 zucchini or 1/2 of a green and 1/2 of a yellow

    1 red/orange pepper

    1 ear of lightly-cooked corn

    1 large portobello mushroom

    7 cherry or grape tomatoes

    Parmigiano cheese, grated

    Mozzarella cheese, shredded

    baby arugula

    fresh basil leaves

Instructions for those who are more experienced cooks

1. You grill some summer vegetables you have on hand

(You slice them up, toss them in a bowl with some oil, salt, pepper and some thyme or oregano, then put them on a grill and cook them until they start showing some char marks. Then take them off the grill and set them aside.)

2. You partially bake a simple flatbread. The instructions are below.

3. You put some basil pesto (or maybe some flavored olive oil) on top and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano. You put on those delicious vegetables, some oil, some Mozzarella and then pop it back into the oven.

4. After about 5 minutes you take it out, top it with baby arugula and basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. You put it back in the oven for a minute, then take it out, cut it into pieces and serve.

Step by Step Instructions

Place the yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Mix, cover, then let sit for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast should look slightly foamy, showing that it is working. (If you instead used instant yeast you don’t need to proof the yeast.)

Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together. Add the yeast/water mixture and the oil, attach the dough hook and run at medium speed for about 4 minutes. The result should be a smooth, supple dough.

Take out the dough, knead it slightly into a ball. Place it into an oiled bowl and cover. Leave the bowl in a draft-free spot in the kitchen. I like to use the microwave. Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled. How quickly it rises will depend on how warm your kitchen is.

Now (or even earlier) prepare the vegetables: slice the zucchini into rounds about ¼” thick; slice open the pepper, discard the seeds and stem, chop into 1” pieces; slice the Portobello into strips about ½” thick; leave the corn on the cob; slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

Put all the vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, dried thyme or oregano, toss all together. Place the vegetables on a hot grill, or on a stove-top grill pan, one layer at a time. Turn them when you see char marks. (Alternatively the vegetables could be cooked in a skillet or even in a 425 degree F oven.)

Place your pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) into the oven.

Preheat oven to 485°F

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 3/8 to ¼” thick.

Transfer it to a parchment-covered pizza peel or upside-down baking sheet. Slide it onto the heated pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) and let it bake. Use a sharp knife to pop any large bubbles you see forming.

After 5 minutes take it out. It is partially baked.

Lightly brush the flatbread with pesto sauce or flavored EVOO, then sprinkle some grated Parmigiano cheese on top, if using.

Layer the grilled vegetables on top, but leave the cherry tomatoes for later. (Slice the corn kernels off of the cob first!)

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt, then top with shredded Mozzarella (see photos).

Put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, add the halved cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, fresh basil leaves, and fresh oregano.

Turn off the oven and put the flatbread back in just to warm up the topping. Keep an eye on it – the baby arugula wilts very fast. Then take it out and serve.