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Strawberry Cake and Blueberry Bars

July 9, 2010

This post clearly would have been perfect for the 4th of July – I mean, look at all that red, white and blue! But of course I don’t really have my act together, so… better late than never I guess.

I actually made this strawberry cake for Father’s Day. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been told this story about how my grandma won my grandfather over with her amazing strawberry shortcake recipe. Consequently, I’ve been obligated to make this favorite dessert for him every year. When I was younger, we would buy a boxed pound cake and a carton of strawberries at the supermarket, pretend like we “made” this awesome dessert and call it a day. But since I’ve gotten older and more particular about my baked goods in past years, I’ve wanted to make everything from scratch. So last year I made totally authentic strawberry shortcakes for everyone – the kind that are like biscuits, (like this) because apparently, that’s how it’s done traditionally (or so Martha says, and I would never cross her). So anyway, I go to all this trouble to make cute, individual little cakes, and I bring them out, and my whole family is like “What are these? biscuits? This is weird. We want regular cake.” So I’ve learned my lesson – I’m making exclusively plain, inauthentic cake for my family from here on out. (Consequently, do you think this whole strawberry shortcake deception means that my grandparents’ marriage was a fraud all these years?!)

recipe from Martha Stewart

The blueberry bars are from the 4th of July. Every year I visit my friend in Rhode Island for the 4th, because they get REALLY into the holiday there. It’s basically a town-wide, week-long party. Her parents cook really awesome authentic Mexican food for us the whole time we’re there, so I wanted to bring something so I didn’t feel like such a moocher. These are probably my favorite thing to bake in the summer, cause it’s blueberry season and they’re sturdy and portable – ready to go cross country partying!

recipe from SmittenKitchen

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Lemony Summer Panzanella

July 9, 2010

Being a vegetarian at a barbecue can be a tricky endeavor on its own. Unfortunately, I have also been sentenced to suffer the plight of a vegetarian who has a serious aversion to mayonnaise, consequently ruling out nearly all picnic fare for me. “Oh, you don’t eat hamburgers? Well we’ve got some pasta salad over here. No? Well why don’t you try the potato salad? Tuna salad? Alright, pickles it is then!” No. Mayo. Gross. Get it away from me. So I’ve always been looking for barbeque-type sides and salads that aren’t quite as lame as just lettuce, but also aren’t as (bleck!) mayo-infused as potato salad. This is where summer panzanella comes in.

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that is often referred to as a “leftover salad” because you can pretty much throw in anything that you want to use up. Traditionally, it’s mostly composed of toasted hunks of bread, tomatoes, olive oil, and other assorted vegetables. You can mix and match according to what you have lying around in your fridge.

Here’s a question: what is the ratio of bread to vegetables that determines a salad’s status as a panzanella vs. chopped salad with croutons? I may have crossed that boundary. Feel free to use more or less bread based on your preference.

Lemony Summer Panzanella

(makes 2 servings for one very hungry teenager/ probably about 3-4 servings for normal people)

2 cups day old bread, cut into approx. 1 in. cubes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup cucumber, chopped into 1 in. cubes

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp. Tavern on The Green Pepper and Lemon Olive Oil

juice and zest from 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° and arrange bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned (approx 15 min). Whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oli, and salt and pepper. Toss vegetables and beans together in a large bowl and pour lemon and oil mixture over. Stir together and let sit to allow tomatoes to release their juices. Stir in bread cubes and parmesan cheese. Leave in the refrigerator at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.