An Anniversary and an Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu

PeachMelba7BHi Everyone! I hope that your last couple of months (yes, two months almost!) have been lovely. All is well here. My time has been spent helping family get through some surgery and recovery, traveling, work, hiking, birthdays…you know, life in general. But all is good, I’m back online and ready to share more trails leading to good food.

I’ll start off by mentioning that not only is this my 200th post, but today is the 4 year anniversary of this blog! That first post, Ode to Red Speckled Grits, was all about testing the waters of websites and blogging…and once I started, I was hooked. Thanks to all of you who found me, encouraged me and joined me in this adventure. And thanks for sharing your own blogs while giving me informative and fun dialog along the way. Please join me for the beginning of the next 4 years!

Celebrations require some dessert, and with all of the lovely fruits available in this almost summer season, I want to share a quick and easy celebratory recipe where fresh fruit is the star. I’ve always loved tiramisu…the little “pick me up” from Italy. The traditional recipe involves a rich and delicious combo of ladyfingers, cream, mascarpone, coffee, marsala wine, chocolate and sometimes egg yolks. Nothing wrong with that.

This version, however, is a little lighter take on the original and can be quite versatile in terms of changing out seasonal fruits and whatever booze strikes your fancy. Filled with juicy berries and peaches, creamy mascarpone cheese lightened with yogurt and a bit of fresh citrus zest for some zing—along with the traditional ladyfingers and liquor—this satisfying dessert keeps much of the texture and feel of the original tiramisu with about half the calories. It’s a “pick me up” that comes together quickly, resulting in a cool, light and elegant dessert, just perfect for the hot weather season or whenever you need a delicious finish to a meal. Try my two variations below and then have some fun experimenting on your own.

BlueberryPeach1

Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu for 2
(can be doubled or quadrupled as needed)

For Blueberry-Peach-Almond Tiramisu:
3/4 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and sliced, with their juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
3 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 generous tablespoon plain greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
3 teaspoons of amaretto, divided
4 hard italian ladyfingers (can use the soft kind if you prefer, but hard holds up better)
1 generous tablespoon of toasted, slivered almonds

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, mascarpone, yogurt, powdered sugar and one teaspoon of Amaretto, until smooth. Break two ladyfingers into four pieces each and place four pieces (one ladyfinger for each glass) into the bottom of two pretty glasses…low ball, brandy snifter or wine glasses work perfectly. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of Amaretto per glass over the ladyfingers. Spoon 1/4 of the peaches and some juice over the ladyfingers in each glass, then top with 1/4 of the blueberries per glass. Layer 1 generous Tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture on top of the fruit in each glass. Sprinkle 1/4 of the toasted almonds into each glass. Repeat the layers with the remaining ladyfingers broken into 4 pieces each, the Amaretto, peaches, blueberries and mascarpone mixture evenly divided, and finish with the remaining toasted almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Serve and enjoy.

Peachmelba1For Peach “Melba” Tiramisu:
Substitute 3/4 cup fresh raspberries for the blueberries, orange zest for the lemon and Grand Marnier for the Amaretto. Omit almonds and proceed the same as for Blueberry-Peach-Almond, garnishing the top with a raspberry and some fresh mint, if desired.

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A few scenes from our latest adventures in North Carolina.

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Time to Catch Up with Some Recipes New and Old

Potsdecreme1I’m in denial that February is almost over. It seems like this year is flying by even faster than the last. Although for those of you in the northern U.S. and Canada who have had weeks upon weeks of tremendous snow, I’m sure Spring can’t arrive fast enough!

So what’s been happening here? Well, we’ve tried to get back into our wonderful hiking schedule every Saturday, but winter weather—even here in the deep south—can be daunting. We’ve managed a few nice, long hikes so far this year, but will probably  have to wait until March or so to get back to our routine. Here are a few scenes from some those hikes and as you can see, even winter forest is quite lovely. Enjoy these moments of peace and solitude along with the myriad of textures and pattern that a winter forest reveals. Continue reading

The Busy Season: Some Food, Some Fun, Some Pots

I’ve been cooking, I’ve been hiking, I’ve been working…a lot, I’ve been making clay pots, and I’ve been traveling some. And then suddenly, it’s NOVEMBER!!!

Here’s what’s been going on (click the red links for more info and recipes:

RibollitaThere was a batch Ina Garten’s fantastic Ribolitta pictured above, to warm up the cold evenings.

There was a lovely hike to Raven Cliffs Falls in the North GA mountains. Spectacular leaves that weekend.

spooktacularchiliThere was some Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili made for Halloween!

And Punkitties were carved for the big event!

There was a lovely gathering of cousins in town that called for an early batch of my most favorite gratin and holiday potato dish, Potato and Fennel Gratin. It takes a little effort, but the flavor is show stopping.

And this week I’ve been carving some clay pots for a friend’s new lifestyle website…more on that later.

And then there was work…happily lots and lots of it! So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you? Are you having a fun autumn so far? Happy Weekend!

Happenings, Fresh Corn Frittata and Some Potent Cherries

Cornfrittataslice1Work has continued to be brisk for me this summer…a very good thing. I don’t have as much time in the kitchen as I would normally, and when I’m in there, I’m not really experimenting on creating anything new. But I have been trying some new recipes…new to me, at least, from various sources. Here’s one of my favorites, especially since we’re in corn season—a fresh corn frittata.

This is such a brilliant idea from the June edition of Cooking Light magazine…and I wish I had thought of it! I can’t tell you how pleased this dish made me. This frittata utilizes a slightly better technique than I have used in the past, resulting in a perfect looking and perfectly textured slice of goodness. The fresh corn paired with egg, cheese, shallot and herby, fresh Italian parsley, just sings. It’s also very easy to make! We enjoyed this dish with the Fruited Farro Salad from my last post, also inspired by this particular jam-packed issue of the magazine. Don’t miss out on trying this frittata while corn is in season, you won’t be sorry! You can find the recipe at the end of this post.

In addition to this lovely frittata, I want to share another recipe that I’m so excited about. It’s for Bourbon Cherries from Greg and Katherine over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. (Click on the titles to see for yourself.) This year we’ve had an amazing amount of cherries at a decent price in our markets…the first time I can remember this, so it must have been a very good year for them. I saw this recipe on their blog and happened to already have a huge bag of cherries in the fridge, waiting to be dispatched…et voilà! I followed their recipe exactly except for the fact that I have a cherry pitter, so I left mine whole instead of halving them. I’m so excited about these potent babies, that I’m going to make another batch. We have particularly enjoyed the cherries and the liqueur mixed with rye and a couple of drops of bitters for a delicious spin on a Manhattan. My mind is reeling at the possibility of the new cocktails and quick breads or cakes that I could make with these cherries, and the liqueur they produce. Thanks Greg and Katherine, we’re all smiles over here!

We've polished off half of these so I'm making some more tonight!

We’ve polished off half of these so I’m making some more tonight!

We’re still having fun hiking this summer on our mission to do a new hike once a week, and these hikes almost always involve walking in woods and forests. It’s a fact that walking in the woods lifts spirits and makes you feel good, but did you know that it can lower blood pressure and pulse rate, decrease fatigue and tension, increase the number of anticancer proteins and encourage the growth and activity of disease fighting white blood cells? I have read that in Japan, this has developed into a new form of therapy and preventative medicine called shirin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which involves taking a relaxing stroll among the trees, breathing it all in. Who knew? We love it and I think you will, too, if you give it a try.

There are some books and websites available that have been our inspiration for these hikes and you can check them out for yourself by clicking on these three links—Atlanta’s Best Hiking Trails, Top Ten within 40 miles of Atlanta, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta, and the book Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests-Intown and Out. So far, we’ve hiked 7 of the Top 10 trails and in the last few weeks, all of them beautiful and quite diverse. What we’ve found is that each place even has trails within the trails, so some of these we’ll be returning to and will hike at a later date. We’ve been at this since June 8, and I’m a little late in sharing due to delayed posting, so today I’ll highlight of a couple of them with you to get caught up.

Following are the Top 2 out of the Top Ten Atlanta Trails that we’ve hiked so far, along with links to more details about the trails. I would encourage you to read the links before visiting, as there is much more information about the areas and the history that I can detail here without making this post even longer than it already is. I hope you enjoy hiking along with us for a spell!

#1 Sweetwater Creek State ParkWe could certainly see why this one was ranked number 1 out of the Atlanta trails. It’s about a 30 minute drive west of Atlanta and the scenery is stunning, spanning over 2500 acres of creekside landscape. A wooded trail follows the stream to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill burned during the Civil War. Sweetwater Creek provides a North Georgia outdoor adventure – without the drive. We trekked a 5.1 mile loop next to the creek, which involves some elevation changes and a small amount of the trail is over rock. Once you reach the end of the creek trail, you turn into forest for the next couple of miles, then come out into flat pasture land to make your way back to the trail head at the LEED Platinum Visitor’s Center, which is well worth taking a few minutes to tour. As another hiker recommended, we stayed to the left on our hike, walking next to the creek and meandering back to the main trail. The trails are easy to see, but the blazes are not well marked. Staying to the left along the creek makes it easy not to get lost and it’s very pretty, too.

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#2 Arabia Mountain Trails: To say that you’d never guess this exposed granite field landscape was in Georgia, much less half an hour from Midtown Atlanta, is an understatement. This barren, moon-like and almost surreal landscape is quite otherworldly. On our first trip, we chose to hike the Mile Rock Trail (but I like to call it Moon Rock Trail) over a mile long and stone cairn-marked granite face to Lake Arabia, then headed back through the forest trail leading to the bike trail, and out from there. It was early afternoon and 98 degrees the first day we went, so we kept our hike to about 4 miles and did not go up the mountain. Our second trip was this weekend. This time we did hike to Arabia Mountain and the summit, which commands a beautiful view of the surrounding area. From the summit you can see that there is another forest trail at the base of the mountain which will take you to Arabia Lake (yes, there are two lakes apparently with similar names.) Both granite trails feature many interesting ecosystems unique to the area, the granite itself is very beautiful with molten patterns. When we hiked this past weekend, we’d just had torrential rains the night before, so there were small ponds in the granite, teeming with life. I can just imagine how magnificent these ecosystems must be in Spring, and we’ll have to check that out. The are also some 30 miles or more of connected bike trails through this general area, known as the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, and we’ll be back there with our bikes in the Fall.

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Extreme panoramic view from the summit of Arabia Mountain.

Extreme panoramic view from the summit of Arabia Mountain.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone for their very kind comments about my header. While it does look quite tropical—and that’s what I was going for, being Summer—you might be interested to know that it is actually an un-retouched image of a cardinal flower in bloom in my front yard…next to a pine tree! Pretty cool, eh?

This is the most perfect looking frittata I've made to date!

This is the most perfect looking frittata I’ve made to date!

Corn Frittata with Pecorino-Romano Cheese (but I used Parmesan instead!)
Ever so slightly adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 4 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels and their milk* (about 3 ears)
1/2 cup diced shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat a medium oven proof skillet over medium high heat, I use my 10 inch cast iron skillet. Add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the corn and the shallots to the pan and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, 14/ teaspoon of the pepper and the smoked paprika. Place the corn mixture into a small bowl and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Wipe our your skillet with a paper towel, and set aside for a moment.

Place the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, milk and eggs in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the corn mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Preheat the broiler to high.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add butter to the pan. Swirl until the butter melts. Add the egg mixture to the pan. Cook 1 minute without stirring. Gently slide the pan back and forth to keep eggs from sticking. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 4 minutes longer or until eggs are set and golden on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese evenly over eggs. Broil 1 minute or until eggs are are just set on top and the cheese browns. Remove from the oven, slice into four pieces and serve with parsley sprinkled over and a little more paprika for garnish, if desired.

*After you have used the sharp side of your knife to cut fresh corn off the cob, use the flat side to scrape down the cob and get the sweet corn “milk” liquid to add to the kernels and cook as outlined. Very tasty.