Best and Easiest Carrot Cake

No cake is homier or more casual than a carrot cake, especially a carrot cake with a filling or topping of cream cheese frosting. This is loosely adapted from a recipe by Maida Heatter in her landmark Book of Great American Desserts.

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Cialedda - Bread and Tomato Salad from Apulia

Any tomato salad depends on one thing: perfectly ripe, height of summer tomatoes. Cherry or grape tomatoes might be fine in a tossed salad during the winter, but just don’t have either the strength of flavor or the moisture for a salad like this. Like the famous Tuscan bread salad, panzanella, the bread here is moistened with a little water first. Letting the salad stand for an hour or so both develops the flavor and further moistens the bread, so it’s perfect to prepare in advance to serve to guests.

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All-Purpose Muffins

I love a recipe, like this one, that can be varied in infinite ways. Here the basic muffin batter can be altered to make a dozen different types of easy-to-prepare muffins. Thanks to my dear friend Cara Tannenbaum for sharing her recipe.

REAL STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Here’s a recipe you can literally have on the table less than an hour after you start making it. I love to use really sweet height-of-the-season strawberries for this, but don’t hesitate to try it with other fruit or berries such as peaches, mixed berries, or even fresh figs.

Turkish Pistachio Pastry (Katmer)

My friend Cenk Sönmeszoy first told me about katmer— a square pastry that contains several layers of dough as well as clotted Turkish cream, sugar, and finely chopped pistachios —and sent me links to videos of some very skilled bakers who throw the dough around like a bedsheet to make it larger and thinner. The method here is simplified but gives excellent results.

Pa Amb Tomàquet - Catalan Grilled Bread Rubbed with Tomato

Food is central in Catalan life. Tapas bars and casual cafés serve pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) already assembled, but some restaurants merely deliver the components to the table: a piece of chewy bread grilled over a wood fire, a perfectly ripe tomato, fine salt, and local extra-virgin olive oil. Such a simple combination depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients—they have to be perfect. The instructions here are adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Paula Wolfert’s World of Food, with her permission. This is the perfect appetizer for a casual late summer meal. Eat with a knife and fork!

Easy Strawberry Jam

As soon as the weather starts to warm up I start thinking about the upcoming preserving and pickling season.  I already picked up a couple of gallons of distilled white vinegar at the supermarket a few weeks ago, and yesterday I saw that strawberries were on sale, so I bought a couple of pounds.  What you see above is the result of those 2 pounds of strawberries and a little more than a pound of sugar:  almost a quart of really fresh tasting strawberry jam.  I've been making jam and preserves of different kinds for almost 50 years but I have to admit that I've really refined my methods for sweet preserves like these only in the past couple of years.

ORANGE BABAS MARCELLA

A baba should be a buttery, yeast-risen cake, low in sugar, soaked in a seasoned syrup to flavor it and make it moist. Unfortunately, what most pastry shops prepare are rather large, fine-textured babas that develop an unattractively sodden texture after they are soaked, in what is usually a syrup flavored with inferior liqueurs or fruit juices. So, most people look at a baba and flee.

These babas are quite different from those described above. They are tiny, so their rich sweetness is a pleasant mouthful; they are a bit coarse-textured, so they don’t become soggy after being soaked; and the syrup is flavored with orange liqueur and orange juice, which contributes a fresher taste than the usual rum and spices.

Almond Lace Cookies

Fragile and delicate in the extreme, these cookies are a labor of love to make because you need to bake them one pan at a time on the middle rack of the oven. If you have a double oven, start to bake another pan a couple of minutes before the first pan is ready to come out. These spread best on a bare buttered pan; brush the pans with very soft but not melted butter. If you don’t mind cookies that are a little thicker, you may use silicon mats to bake them.

Battenberg

Celebrate the Queen’s birthday with this very British cake. It bears the original German name of the family now known in Britain as Mountbatten. The batter is divided in half and cocoa is added to one portion of it. After baking, the two cakes are cut into even bars and stacked up checkerboard-style. Thanks to Kyra Effren for sharing her expert knowledge of British baking.

Mexican Chicken Pie

My friend Roberto Santibañez, chef owner of Fonda restaurants in New York City, suggested this combination when I asked him about a chicken pie with Mexican flair. Chicken and vegetables are cooked in a tomato and chile salsa from the Yucatan called chiltomate, then topped with a cornmeal and cheese dough before baking. Though the habanero is a classic for this, serrano or jalapeño could be substituted. Sour cream harmonizes well served alongside.

Leek and Mushroom Quiche

The sweet flavor of slow-cooked leeks complements the woodsy scent of mushrooms especially well in the creamy custard of this quiche. Although it might be delicious to use some fancy wild mushrooms in this, I’ve crafted the recipe with the white cultivated mushrooms available everywhere. I would definitely prepare the leeks and mushrooms the day before to cut down on the last-minute rush. Since they both need to cook slowly for maximum flavor, cooking them separately actually saves you time. This is a perfect appetizer for an elegant dinner.