Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: July 2015

Ode to the Fruits of Summer

sweet cherriesraspberriesThe past few days, my cooking and baking has been at a minimum.  With all the fresh produce available this time of year, we have been eating lots of salads and raw fruits, because when food is this fresh, it tastes so good in its most natural state.  Raspberries, blueberries, and cherries are in season right now, and they are some of the most flavorful fruits! This is the time of year to be outside as much as possible, and to let go of the schedule as much as possible.  Sometimes the best recipe is no recipe at all, but just eating raspberries right from the bush, or stopping along the road at a stand that says “washed sweet cherries,” and eating the sweet, juicy cherries right there in the car.

water reflectionsSometimes the best photo is the one you didn’t take, the one that shimmers in your memory like water in a lake.

sunset along the pierSometimes you just want to laugh a little longer and hug your loved ones a little tighter,  stay up a little later, and drink a strong cup of coffee in the morning.

sunset at the beachSometimes the best stories are the ones you cannot possibly put into words, but remain in your heart forever.

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer, and I will be back soon with a recipe to share! I have been working on my favorite pico de gallo recipe, but it still needs some work, much to my son’s and husband’s pleasure in testing each batch.

Summer Garden Vichyssoise

This light and refreshing soup is a delicious way to use summer vegetables.  Packed with nutrients from all the greens and protein from the Greek yogurt, it’s a healthy soup too.  Vichyssoise is a French word, and though some sources say this type of soup originated in France, some say it began in the United States.  In any case, Vichyssoise is usually served cold, though it can also be served warm.  It typically consists of potatoes, leeks or some type of onions, and some kind of creamy ingredient, such as milk, cream, or yogurt.  There are countless variations, and it’s fun to experiment with it.

chopped vegetablesThe recipe I am sharing below is based on one I found in my latest (and ever-evolving) cookbook obsession, Cranbrook Reflections: A Culinary Collection.  It features potatoes, green onions, and cucumbers.  However, I substituted garden-fresh spinach and Swiss chard for the lettuce, and Greek yogurt for sour cream.  Chilled and blended to a creamy smoothness, it is truly delicious and energizing.  With the muggy weather we have been having here, it feels good to have a cold soup packed with rejuvenating greens. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few days, and I know I will be enjoying it for the next couple of lunches.

summer vichyssoise 2Today, I believe we will finally have a reprieve from the mosquitoes.  The air feels less humid, there is a fresh breeze, and the sun is bright.  It has been quite a couple of weeks for mosquitoes here.  Maybe this afternoon we can pick our black raspberries and work in the garden, without being attacked!  The fresh breeze and warm sun of today make me think of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson excerpts:  “Inebriate of Air–am I–/And Debauchee of Dew–/Reeling through endless summer days–/From inns of Molten Blue.” Hope you all have a nice end of the week and weekend!chopped vegetables 2summer vichyssoise in sun garden vichyssoise in red bowl

Summer Garden Vichyssoise

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: approximately 25 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup unpeeled potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups shredded greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped (leaves only)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if want to make it vegetarian)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or salt to taste
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Add the potato and green onion and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.  Add the cucumber, greens, dill, broth, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and allow the soup to cool.  Stir in the Greek yogurt.  Puree the mixture in a blender in batches until smooth.  Refrigerate the soup until cold, or you may serve it warm if desired.  Garnish with fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, or chives. Enjoy!

Lavender Whipped Cream

This luxurious whipped cream is infused with a subtle hint of lavender.  It turns a serving of fresh fruit into a wonderfully indulgent treat.  Lavender seems to be all the rage this summer, so I have been inspired to make something with it too.  We have lots of lavender flourishing in our garden, and I like to pick the flowers and put them in vases to make the house smell good, but I had never used it in food until I made this whipped cream.  I am so happy I tried this recipe, because I absolutely love it.  Sometimes it feels so good to make something special and delicious, even if (or especially if) it is impractical and not completely necessary.  I often get bogged down in the necessary duties of life, and need to be reminded to lighten up!  Making this whipped cream did that–it was just for fun and pleasure.  I felt like I was stepping back in time a bit to make this, back to when people took the time to soak the lavender flowers in whipping cream overnight, and then whipped the cream by hand until it fluffed up into delicate peaks of sweetness.

lavender on plate 2The lavender makes this a special whipped cream, and I was happy my making of this coincided with a visit from some special friends I don’t get to see very often.  A very dear college friend (and former cross country teammate) and her sister visited our house yesterday.  One of them lives in Spain and the other lives in Senegal, so it was such a treat to have them and one of their daughters at our table, taste-testing the whipped cream for me (they liked it a lot).  I loved visiting with them, talking about old times, and hearing about the different cultures and food traditions in the countries they now call home.

lavender whipped cream and fruit on railingI stumbled upon this recipe for lavender whipped cream in a wonderful cookbook, called Cranbrook Reflections: A Culinary Collection.  I say stumbled upon because my kids and I happened to be at a library that was having a used book sale, and because I love collecting cookbooks, I gravitated to the cookbook section and found it.  In any case, I will be making this whipped cream again, since we have a great supply of lavender and I want to try it with all the upcoming seasonal fruits.

It tasted delicious with watermelon chunks and blueberries, though the watermelon made it a little watery at the bottom of the jar.  It also tasted wonderful with just blueberries, and as they are not as full of liquid, there was no water at the bottom.  I can imagine it would also be great with raspberries, peaches, and of course strawberries.  As long as you plan ahead a few hours to make time for the cream to absorb the flavor of the lavender flowers, this whipped cream is really easy and fun to make.  I am sharing this post over at Angie’s Fiesta Friday site with a bunch of inspiring bloggers. lavender whipped cream and fruit on porchlavender and whipped creamlavender whipped cream fruit jarslavender flowerscream and fruit on porch

Lavender Whipped Cream

  • Servings: about 2 cups of whipped cream
  • Time: about 8 hours for soaking and about 10-15 minutes of hands-on time
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lavender flowers, without the stems (or 1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

Directions:

Pour the cup of heavy cream into a small bowl.  Add the lavender flowers.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours so the cream absorbs the flavor of the lavender flowers.  Then pour through a wire mesh strainer (or if you don’t have one, you can also use a colander with small holes) to carefully remove the flowers from the cream.  Beat the cream in a bowl until it is almost stiff, and then add the sugar gradually.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to over-beat.  The first couple of times I made whipped cream by hand, I pretty much made butter because I beat it too much.  Keep an eye on the texture and stop when the peaks form.  Garnish with fresh lavender flowers if you wish.  Use this whipped cream to top any kind of fruit.  Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from Cranbrook Reflections: A Culinary Collection.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

strawberry rhubarb crisp in bowlThe combination of strawberries and rhubarb is one of my all-time favorites.  The sweetness of the strawberries mellows the tartness of the rhubarb, yet there is still enough tartness in this crisp to make it bright and lively.  I love this recipe because it is so simple, so easy, and it allows the fresh flavors of the fruits to really shine.  There is just enough brown sugar to sweeten the fruit filling without overpowering it.

It is lovely here in northern Michigan, and I am thankful to have the chance to spend a few days here at my family’s place, where we can walk to the beach and the town, with a beautiful view of the water in almost every direction.  After an extremely busy spring, it is so nice to have some time to recharge and slow down, soaking in the absolute beauty of this area.  Just like at home, I like to use food that is in season, and right now strawberries and rhubarb are easy to come by up here at farmers markets and produce stands.  WiFi is not so easy to come by here (and that is not always a bad thing), and we don’t have many cookbooks here, so I walked to the library in town to look for a recipe for a fruit crisp.  As I was browsing through cookbooks, one recipe caught my eye because of its simplicity.  It comes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, “My Father’s Daughter.”  It is a basic fruit crisp recipe that can be used with any type of seasonal fruit, and I like this recipe so much, I am going to use it for upcoming crisps with raspberries, blueberries, and peaches, as they come into season.  I will share an adaptation of it below, using strawberries and rhubarb.  I did make a couple of changes–I used all-purpose flour instead of spelt flour since that is what we had in the cupboard, and I added 2 tablespoons more of the brown sugar, since rhubarb is not as naturally sweet as other fruits.  Still, this recipe uses less overall sugar than many of the ones I have tried, and I like it that way.  You can adjust the sweetness to your own tastes.

strawberries in colanderPerhaps it is because the strawberries and rhubarb are late spring/early summer fruits, or perhaps it is because I am writing this post very near Lake Michigan, which always makes me feel inspired, but in any case, making this crisp reminded me that summer is still young and full of possibilities. The days are long and full of bright sunlight. I have been breathing in the clean, northern air, and it smells like pine trees and fresh water.  It is only just recently that our schedule has slowed down enough that we can have more leisurely dinners.   We have had time to eat outside, watching the boats go down the channel into Lake Michigan.  Tomorrow we head for home, where it will still be summer, and we will still be able to eat dinner outside.  The lakes close to my home are much smaller than Lake Michigan, but they are still beautiful.  And as much as I don’t want to leave here, I love to be home.  I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and savor it as much as possible. strawberries and rhubarb, choppedstrawberrt rhubarb crisp before bakingstrawberry rhubarb crisp, bakedstrawberry rhubarb crisp 4sunset on the channelRound Lakesunset over Lake Michigan

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: about 15 minutes of prep time and 45 minutes of baking time
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Ingredients for the fruit filling:

  • 2 cups of strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 2 cups of rhubarb, washed and diced
  • 1 tablespoon of flour (I used all-purpose flour, but you can use spelt flour or another type of flour)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (adjust the amount of sugar to your own tastes)

Ingredients for the crisp topping:

  • 1/4 cup flour (again, I used all-purpose flour, but you can use the type of flour you prefer)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (the old-fashioned kind, not instant or quick-cooking)
  • a pinch of salt (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the fruit and place it in a lightly greased 9 inch pie baking dish.  Stir in the tablespoon of flour and the brown sugar and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, stir together the 1/4 cup flour, the oats, and the salt.  Cut the butter in with a fork or a pastry cutter and gently stir/mash until the mixture forms balls about the size of peas.  Spread the mixture evenly over the fruit in the pie pan.  Bake in your oven for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the fruit starts to bubble.  Serve warm.  It tastes great by itself or with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

 

This recipe is adapted from “My Father’s Daughter” by Gwyneth Paltrow