Category Archives: Recipes (Sweet)

Time For Strawberry Sumac Cake — And A Very Special Cookbook

Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.
Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.

It still boggles my mind that more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, the state of Texas finally “learned” that all slaves were now free, becoming the last state in the Confederacy to recognize that action. Even then, some plantation owners refused to acknowledge the edict, and kept their slaves to work one more harvest.

A year later, though, Black Texans were finally able to rejoice in their freedom with food, music, and dance at the first Juneteenth celebrations.

Now comes the first cookbook to showcase Juneteenth. “Watermelon & Red Birds” (Simon & Schuster), of which I received a review copy, is by Nicole A. Taylor, a food writer who splits her time between New York City and Georgia, and produced the short documentary, “If We So Choose,” about the desegregation of an iconic southern fast-food joint.

The cookbook title refers not only to the native-born African fruit, but to the African American and Native American belief that red birds flying through the skies represent ancestors returning to spread luck.

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Gazpacho — Mexican-Style

Gaspacho -- done as a sweet, tangy, subtly spicy fruit salad instead.
Gaspacho — done as a sweet, tangy, subtly spicy fruit salad instead.

Rick Martinez says his mouth starts to water just thinking about this refreshing dish.

It’s easy to understand why, because his “Gaspacho Moreliano” is the antidote to the torrid heat of summer.

It’s quenching and cooling like Spanish gazpacho, but this Mexican version is far more substantial because it’s not a soup, but a sweet-tangy-spicy-savory fruit salad.

The recipe is from Martinez’s first cookbook, “Mi Cocina” (Penguin Random House), of which I received a review copy.

The host of the YouTube series, “Pruebalo,” and a contributor to Bon Appetit magazine and the New York Times, Martinez, he grew up in a small town outside of Austin, TX, where he was the first child of Mexican heritage to attend that then all-white elementary school.

It was his late mother who inspired his passion for cooking. Even though her own mother and aunties had passed away already, his mom decided to start anew the tradition of making tamales for the holidays, figuring out the exact recipe along the way through trial and error on her own. She hoped the practice would be passed down to her sons. For Martinez, it ignited a deep, unwavering love for his heritage, culture, and family.

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Two Scoops, Please, For Plum Crumble Ice Cream

Summer's juicy plums star in this homemade ice cream.
Summer’s juicy plums star in this homemade ice cream.

I am unabashedly a recovering freezer-space hoarder.

It didn’t take exactly a 12-step program to wean me off stuffing my freezer to the gills with meats, breads, veggies, stocks, cookies, and whatever else I could cram in.

All it took was a lessening of the ravages of the pandemic, and well, the ability to go to the grocery store regularly again (albeit masked up) without feeling as if I might run out of food any dire moment.

As a result, this is the first time in nearly three years that I’ve made my own ice cream at home.

What a triumph!

Because few things are as joyous as homemade ice cream, and in truth, sneaking that first spoonful out of the top of the ice cream canister even as it still spins. Yup, I do that. Not gonna lie.

My homemade ice cream fast was broken in grand style by “Plum Crumble Ice Cream,” a recipe from the new “Great Scoops” (Figure 1), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Marlene Haley and Amelia Ryan of The Merry Dairy, a scoop shop and ice cream truck in Ottawa, Canada. Haley, who grew up on a farm, gave up teaching in 2012 to start the first food truck in that city to specialize in frozen custard.

Because it’s not possible to duplicate the silkiness of frozen custard without a commercial machine, this book concentrates instead on the range of ice creams she also makes.

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Hand Pies — With the Best Peaches In the World

The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.
The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.

Once you try your first one, there’s no going back.

I’m talking about Sun Crest peaches, the heritage variety so poetically immortalized in farmer Mas Masumoto’s famed book, “Epitaph for a Peach” (Harper One).

A freestone, yellow peach, it explodes with juice. Not too sweet, not too acidic, but just right, it has a full, well-rounded, harmonious taste . It reminds me of the nostalgically of cling peaches in a can, but way more intense and vibrant, and devoid of any syrup to mask its natural flavor. In short, it is the quintessential peach.

The Masumoto Family Farm in Fresno County lets folks adopt a peach tree, giving them rights to pick to their heart’s delight from their designated one when in season. But it is a commitment, an undertaking, and more peaches, perhaps, than most folks’ can handle at once.

Luckily, I’ve also spotted them at retailers such as Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Last week, when I saw a half flat was available (20 peaches for $34.99) via GoodEggs delivery, I jumped at the chance to buy some.

Behold -- the Sun Crest.
Behold — the Sun Crest.

Nothing beats just eating them out of hand over the sink. However, I also wanted to do something a little more grand, too. I found the perfect vehicle in “Peach Hand Pies,” a recipe by the gifted Southern baker Cheryl Day of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery.

The recipe is included in “Black Food’ (Penguin Random House, 2021), of which I received a review copy, that was edited by James Beard Award-winning chef and educator, Bryant Terry, who is the chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

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Reem’s Chocolate Chip-Tahini Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies get an Arab twist with homemade halawa, sesame-like fudge, that gets folded into the dough and dotted on top.
Chocolate chip cookies get an Arab twist with homemade halawa, sesame-like fudge, that gets folded into the dough and dotted on top.

Growing up in Massachusetts with a mother forced to flee war in both Gaza and Lebanon, Reem Assil not only wears her fierce Palestinian and Syrian pride on her sleeve, but profoundly infuses it into her cooking and baking.

That’s why her new cookbook “Arabiyya” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is not merely a collection of more than 100 recipes that dive deeply into her Arab roots, but a testament to her hard-won battle to bring them to the forefront in all that she does.

The book’s title means “Arab woman.” And Assil exemplifies that inherent strength, never afraid to champion her Arab community at-large, starting in college, when she idealistically thought she could solve the issue of peace in the Middle East. When she realized that futility, she dropped out of school, and headed west to the Bay Area, were she became enthralled with its diversity and social consciousness.

It was here that she got the notion to start her own bakery, having grown up breaking bread at the table communally as the ultimate way to bring people together.

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