Peach Mania Part Deux

Peach Hand Pies

I love this time of year when summer is still centerstage but you can feel everything edging towards fall. Basically, late August/early September tastes like a peach, a sweet, juicy, dripping peach that works so well in sweet and savory dishes (i.e. vanilla-peach chiffon cake and peaches with duck breast).

My latest peach experiment came courtesy of another blog, Smitten Kitchen, which recently posted a recipe for Bourbon Peach Hand Pies (check out this website – her photos are amazing). The recipe just sounded so adorable, for lack of a better word. These portable, individual pies seemed like the perfect treat for a dinner party I was planning on attending. Unfortunately, the party was cancelled but I had become so excited about making these pies that I decided to go ahead and do it anyways. Read more of this >>

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So-so Results with Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake

Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake

I’d been yearning to bake a cake. Why, I couldn’t say. So, using mainly what I could find in the house, I made my first attempt at a Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake. In short, the cake was tasty but could still use some work.

I had wanted to make a peach-flavored cake because it was seasonal, however, in the end I wound up using canned peaches (15 oz can of sliced peaches in 100% real fruit juice from concentrate) for the intense flavors of the juices. In addition to the juice, I also folded in 2 tablespoons minced peaches and used the rest of the slices to decorate the top of the cake. Unfortunately, the flavors weren’t strong enough and the cake itself only hinted at peach, although the sliced peach garnish did help. The vanilla was subtle but sufficient. Read more of this >>

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What is “Gourmet” Food?

Last week I was going to eat dinner with my sister and brother-in-law who wanted to go to Jerry’s Sandwiches in Wicker Park. I hedged as sandwiches aren’t my favorite meal. The response: “You’ll like Jerry’s – it’s gourmet/”

What does that mean? What constitutes gourmet food or gourmet dining these days? Is it the use of exotic or high-end ingredients? Is it making all food from scratch? Is it artful presentations? If those make a restaurant gourmet, then half the restaurants in Chicago are gourmet. For example, it’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t use truffle oil on at least one dish, even bars like Lux Bar and Rockit use this gourmet ingredient.

As always, I turned to the Food Lover’s Companion, the ultimate foodie resource: “Gourmet food is that which is of the highest quality, perfectly prepared and artfully presented. A gourmet restaurant is one that serves well-prepared, high-quality foods.” Read more of this >>

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Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Salad

Heirloom tomatoes & Avocado

Seeing as we’re in the midst of heirloom tomato season, I would be amiss if I didn’t discuss these delicious vegetables (or are they a fruit?) at least once. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of raw tomatoes – I prefer mine lightly cooked/heated through or pureed into a sauce or soup. The main exception being heirloom tomatoes which come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, textures and tastes. Some are sweet, some are acidic, but the one thing almost all heirloom tomatoes have in common is strong depth of flavor.

Before I go much further, I should answer the common question “what makes a vegetable heirloom?” The general rule is that it has to have been in existence for at least three generations and must have been open-pollinated, meaning non-hybrid or genetically-modified. Heirloom tomatoes are sometimes referred to as “heritage” and just like commercial tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamins A and C. Read more of this >>

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