Sweet Cherry PieThey say nothing is as American as cherry pie. Or is it apple? I’ve been baking a lot of my pies in my kitchen as of late. I don’t know if it’s that I’m finally comfortable working with pie dough, or the abundance of gorgeous fruits available right now (finally starting to see some local peaches!). However, one filling I’d yet to tackle was cherry.

Most cherry pie recipes call for tart or sour cherries, which are impossible to find – fresh or frozen – in my rural area. I did find canned, but I couldn’t justify that with gorgeous fresh sweet cherries available in the produce department for under $3/lb. A quick internet search led to a recipe from Martha that utilized the gorgeous in-season beauties. Turned out wonderfully – cut beautifully, and the filling was absolutely delicious…not too sweet. Paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s the quintessential summer dessert.

I couldn’t think of a better way to say “Happy Birthday” to our country than this. Today we’re spending the day with our little family, heading to the beach by the rocket pads in a bit – then dinner with the parents. Looks like NASA will be launching two sounding rockets today – a couple of early candles for the old girl before the fireworks show on our little coastal island tonight…along with what I feel like is half the Eastern seaboard (holy tourons!). Ahh, a small price to pay for being able to call this place home. Happy Fourth, everyone!

Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce
It’s officially summertime here on the Eastern Shore, and our grill is almost always fired up. We do a lot of the classic stuff – steaks, burgers, dogs, chicken. But once in a while, I like to go all out and smoke a pork butt on the grill for hours on end. I don’t have a fancy smoker or anything, I just throw some soaked wood chips onto the grates of my gas grill. The smoke infuses the pork with delicious flavor, and it ends up falling off the bone and melting in your mouth. And for barbecue of that caliber, you need some awesome sauce to go along with it.

My strawberry-chipotle barbecue sauce is a favorite, takes less than 2 minutes (literally) to bring together and is absolutely delicious. But, I wanted something different. I’d never made a vinegar based sauce before. The weekend before we’d gone to our local homebrew shop, and stopped at a notorious local barbecue joint on the way for lunch. I’d debated the red sauce or the vinegar sauce…went for the red, then was craving Carolina style ‘cue all week long. So, that’s what I went with…

It turned out absolutely delicious. The sweet mustardy tang paired with the smoky saltiness of the pork was out of this world good. All the flavors mingled and married so well. I can’t wait to try it on grilled chicken or pork chops next!

If you’re looking for something a little different or special for your 4th cookouts, a homemade barbecue sauce is just the ticket. I hope that everyone has a safe & happy Fourth of July!

Caprese Pie

If you guys are anything like me, you have a “thing” for delicious mozzarella cheese. There’s nothing better than those salty little bites of chewy goodness, am I right? So, when I was asked to participate in the 2013 Galbani® Caprese Challenge, I couldn’t have been more honored or excited. Any chance to work with mozzarella, ripe red tomatoes, and fresh green herbs and you can count me in!

Galbani Mozzarella Fresca™ is made in the Italian tradition of fior di latte using fresh cow’s milk. The cheese is gently stretched and kneaded, then fresh-sealed, leading to a fresh mozzarella cheese that is unparalleled in texture and flavor. The cheese is slightly firm and salty–wonderful! They also offer other delicious varieties packaged in water, as well as a marinated variety, which would be a perfect addition to any antipasto platter.

The Mozzarella Fresca was recently named a favorite fresh mozzarella by the editors of Saveur Magazine, and for good reason. It melts beautifully but maintains its body–great chew factor! I also found that when melted, it released very little liquid. So often with other mozzarella cheeses I’ve tried, they released so much water–that’s no good for a pizza! Galbani Mozzarella Fresca is truly a superior product. Look for it in your local supermarket’s specialty cheese display.

So, without further adieu, here is my entry for the 2013 Galbani Caprese Challenge. A simple pie crust filled with layers of ripe tomatoes, Mozzarella Fresca, herb sautéed onions, and a splash of balsamic vinegar then baked to bubbly perfection. Paired with a green salad, it’s the perfect light summer meal. Such a great way to put all of those gorgeous summer tomatoes and fresh herbs to use!

Voting is open now, so go vote! To celebrate this fun challenge, Galbani is giving away all kinds of fun prizes to voters through August 9, with a grand prize of $500 given to a random voter at the end of the contest. You can enter once a day, so go check out the other blogger’s fun spins on the classic Italian dish Caprese, and vote for a chance to win some great prizes!

2013 Galbani Caprese Challenge

Disclaimer: I have been compensated for my time to create an original recipe for the Galbani Caprese Challenge. As always, all thoughts are my own.

Black Forest Tart

Cherries. Glorious cherries. It’s rare that I get to actually make anything with them, as they usually get eaten within hours of bringing them home from the grocery store. But on rare occasions it does happen, and the results that ensue are usually out of this world.

Case in point? This Black Forest Tart. A rich chocolate crust, a light fluffy whipped cream filling, and plenty of delicious roasted cherries. Roasting fruit is a great way to reduce the water content, and intensifying flavor at the same time. That way you don’t end up with a waterlogged tart!

For as decadent and over-the-top as it looks, it was surprisingly light to the palette. Which, is perfect for these hot summer evenings when you want something sweet – but don’t want something that’s sure to weigh you down. And, let me just advise to go ahead and make the homemade chocolate syrup. It’s pure perfection drizzled over this dessert. You won’t regret it, I promise.