Friday, August 23, 2013

Tomato Crostata with Honey Thyme Glaze

First it was a Panzanella, now it's a Tomato Crostata with Honey Thyme Glaze. I guess you could say I am keeping a bit of a tomato theme this month. But even though this is the second recipe using tomatoes this month, the two could not be more completely different from one another. The Panzanella being a salad dish while the crostata can be a main course, a dish to serve before dinner or all its' own with cocktails. It is versatile, it has an incredible flavor and it is beautiful to look at. This is the trifecta of all crostatas! And as Ina Garten might say 'Does it get any better than that?'. But this recipe does not come from the Barefoot Contessa, instead it comes from the equally amazing Melissa Clark, cookbook author and food writer for the New York Times. It is she who is responsible for creating and sharing this incredible recipe.

It is one of those recipes I came across by chance as I was not looking for another tomato or another savory crostata recipe. But once I read it I knew that I had to make it now, while tomatoes are in season. And I promise, really promise, that if you serve this crostata to your family and friends it will disappear quickly. It is so good that you might almost wish you had made two of them (because you might not even get a slice). And maybe depending on how many people you are serving, you probably should. The recipe said it could be served warm or at room temperature. It tasted absolutely divine room temperature and unless I was making it for a lunch, I think that is how I would serve it again.

A few weeks back I switched out an ingredient without success so it was with a little trepidation that I switched out an ingredient in the dough recipe. However, in switching out the fine cornmeal with corn flour I could not have been happier with the outcome (not to mention having the added benefit of a boost of confidence). Not only is the crust incredibly delicious, the layers of garlic, cheese, thyme and tomatoes make this a rather sinful savory crostata.

The look of the crostata will vary depending on the colors of tomatoes you use. Whether you use all of one color or a combination of colors, it will still be a feast for the eyes. There were some beautiful locally grown tomatoes at the farm stand I go to and I couldn't resist getting them. And since I have rather monochromatic tendencies anyway, it really wasn't that surprising that I made this crostata with all red tomatoes.

The tomatoes are sliced to a 1/4 inch thickness and placed on a baking sheet lined with two layers of paper towels. A teaspoon of Kosher salt is sprinkled over the tomatoes and they are let to sit for at least one hour or up to three hours. I let them to for two hours as this was the same amount of time the dough needed to be refrigerated. The sliced tomatoes will be brushed with a honey-thyme mixture right before the crostata is assembled.

Awhile back I shared my aversion to making dough, however, it seems I have now gotten (or as still getting) past this unfounded reluctance. I am not sure whether I have just come across some really great dough recipes, ones that help to boost one's dough making confidence or if I am just getting better working with dough. I think its' probably a combination of both. What makes this dough just a little different or a little more savory is the infusion of grated New York extra sharp cheddar cheese. It is a d dough made in a food processor and once made, it is rolled into a ball, flattened, covered in plastic wrap and allowed to chill for at least two hours.

Once chilled the dough it is rolled out on a floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness. You should end up with a 12 inch circle, not a perfect circle as this crostata is meant to be just a little bit rustic. After it is rolled out, it is placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerated for 20 minutes.

The recipe calls for both a honey-thyme as well as an extra-virgin olive oil-garlic mixture. Both are easy to make and each takes less than 5 minutes. For the honey-thyme mixture, you put the cider vinegar, honey and sprigs of thyme into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once made the mixture is placed in a bowl and set aside. Using the same saucepan (wiped out), the extra virgin olive oil and garlic are placed on stove cooking only until the garlic is golden and lightly caramelized. The garlic cloves are removed from the olive oil, chopped and set aside. The remaining garlic infused olive oil is also reserved.

When the crostata is ready to assemble, you will begin by placing one cup of shredded New York extra sharp cheese (I bought a block of cheese and shredded it myself), one tablespoon of chopped thyme and the chopped garlic on the dough, making sure you leave a 3 inch border. Before layering the tomatoes, you will sprinkle some freshly ground pepper over the cheese layer. After layering the tomatoes, the remaining one tablespoon of thyme and the reserved garlic infused olive oil is drizzled over the top.

The crust is gently folded up and brushed with an egg wash. Before placing in a 425 degree preheated oven, the crostata is sprinkled with sea salt. Oh, and don't forget to place the sprigs of thyme that were cooked with cider vinegar and honey on top.

The crostata is baked for 30 to 35 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown. I took my crostata out of the oven after 30 minutes. If serving warm, allow the crostata to set for at least 15 minutes before cutting.  To cut the crostata into wedges, a pizza cutter worked perfectly.

Tomato Crostata with Honey-Thyme Glaze (very slight adaptation to the recipe created by Melissa Clark)

1 cup all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
1/2 cup corn flour (or 1/2 cup fine cornmeal)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
4 to 6 Tablespoons ice water

1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds of tomatoes (can use a variety or all of the same), sliced to 1/4 inch thickness. Note: If using cherry or grape tomatoes need only 3/4 pounds.
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (divided)
4 to 6 sprigs of thyme
Black pepper
1 large egg plus 1 teaspoon water
Maldon sea salt

1. Add flour, corn flour and salt to food processor. Pulse to blend.
2. Add butter and cheese pulsing until mixture forms chick-pea size pieces.
3. Add ice water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture is just moist enough to hold together.
4. Form dough into a ball and flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

1. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels. Place tomato slices and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Let sit for at least 1 or up to 3 hours (I let sit for 2 hours).
2. In small sauce pan, mix cider vinegar, honey and thyme springs. Bring to a simmer. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Wiping out the saucepan, add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and caramelized. Remove garlic and chop. Reserve the garlic oil.

1. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. The dough should form a 12 inch circle. Place rolled dough on a parchment lined baking pan and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
2. On the chilled dough, sprinkle cheese, chopped garlic and half of the chopped thyme leaving a 3 inch border of dough. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel and brush each slice with the honey thyme glaze.
4. Layer tomatoes over cheese/garlic/thyme mixture in an overlapping pattern (leaving a 3 inch border of dough). 
5. Over the tomatoes, sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme and drizzle with reserved garlic flavored olive oil.
6. Gently fold crust up around tomatoes, leaving a inch border.
7. In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash over the dough. Season top of crostata with sea salt and the reserved sprigs of thyme (the ones cooked with the cider vinegar and honey).
8. In a preheated 425 degree oven, bake crostata for 30 to 35 minutes or until pastry in deeply golden brown.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature. Recommend serving at room temperature.

I have always loved finding gifts for family and friends, not just birthday and holiday gifts, but you know those impromptu, just for the fun of it gifts. I can be at an antique show, in a store or browsing online and think 'that would be a perfect present for.......'. There is something about sending (as well as receiving) an unexpected gift that is just fun. More fun than sending the sometimes expected birthday or holiday gifts. Sometimes I have sent a gift to someone to let them know I have been thinking about them or because their words or actions made me smile or laugh or even to strengthen a connection.

But regardless of the reason, truth be told, the fun for me is not just in the purchase of the gift but in the reaction of the recipient. Seeing my niece or nephew wear clothes or jewelry I have bought them or having someone listen to a CD, read a book or watch a DVD sent to them are the best kind of reactions one could hope for or that I could hope for. Because when I send a gift to someone I am sharing with them a part of myself. And sometimes just a little validation is the best kind of gift to receive in return.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Everywhere I go I hear 'the tomatoes are late this year' (makes you wonder what social circles I am traveling in these days). Hearing this tomato chatter made me realize I guess I have not been paying attention all these years to the arrival date of summer tomatoes (or my social circles were ones not having the status of tomato ripeness on the tips of their tongues). So yes, according to my in the know sources, tomatoes indeed have been a little late this year. But as they say 'some things are worth the wait' because the heirloom, cherry and beefsteak tomatoes now at the farm stands are absolutely beautiful and oh so good.

However, in spite of the proliferation of those tomatoes, I was on the hunt for plum tomatoes. Yet I could only find them in the grocery store (they must be making their debut at the farm stands a little later). But I was more than okay with my grocery store plum tomatoes for a panzanella salad, for a very different panzanella that is. And after making it with really, really good results, I can hardly wait to making an even greater one when I can get plum tomatoes that have been picked fresh. I think I have convinced myself that tomatoes fresh from the farm stand or farmer's markets are better than the ones from the grocery store. It could be my imagination, but other than grape or cherry tomatoes I generally don't eat tomatoes in the winter or early spring as they are sort of flavorless.

There are many versions of panzanella recipes with each of them made with at least bread, tomatoes, basil and capers. Some versions call for the addition of onions, cucumber, and/or peppers. Almost every version calls for the use of raw vegetables, except for the one Katie Quinn Davies, author of What Katie Atehas created. In her version the tomatoes are roasted until soft and slightly caramelized, the red peppers are grilled, and the bread (sourdough no less) is lightly drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and toasted in the oven. And if those changes are not enough to transform this salad, the panzanella is made with fresh mozzarella. No, this is not a modified caprese salad and it is not your ordinary panzanella salad. It is an extraordinary panzanella having flavors of roasted vegetables which take it to an OMG level of deliciousness. I seriously doubt I can ever eat a panzanella not made Katie's way.

You will be rewarded for the time and effort (and for enduring a warm kitchen on a warm summer day) that go into the making of this panzenella. While I have always loved the flavor of roasted red peppers, I can now say I absolutely love the flavor of roasted plum tomatoes. I wouldn't go so far as to say I will never eat a raw tomato again, but I don't know if the taste of a raw tomato can even come close to the sweetness of a roasted tomato. Not to mention the aroma of roasted tomatoes is a downright heavenly scent (Could this be what the kitchens in Italy smell like?).

This recipe calls eight plum tomatoes and three red peppers. The next time I make this panzanella I might add at least one or two additional plum tomatoes.

The plum tomatoes are halved lengthwise, placed on a baking sheet, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Now keep reading because when I share with you the length of time they roast for you might say "I am too busy for this". To that I would say "until you taste this panzanella these would not be two wasted hours". Yes, the plum tomatoes roast for 2 hours in a preheated 300 degree oven. But once they are in the oven you don't have to do anything to them, so you can go out for a run, a bike ride, read, or any number of things that make you happy (doing household chores don't make me happy so I didn't list them out here, but you could probably get quite a bit of housework done while these tomatoes are roasting).

The sourdough bread is placed in the oven for the last 30 minutes of the tomato roasting time. I like to cut my sourdough loaf into one inch slices before tearing into bite sized pieces as it just makes it easier. Once you have the bread torn, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and place in the 300 degree oven or bake until they lightly golden-brown and crispy (mine didn't get lightly golden brown but they did get crispy).

There are many ways to roast peppers. For me the easiest way is to place them on grill, rotating occasionally until the skins are blackened. You can also char the red peppers by placing them in a 425 degree oven and roasting for approximately one hour (remember to coat them with a little olive oil if you choose the oven roasting method). Once roasted, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until they have cooled. Remove the charred skins and seeds before cutting the red peppers into thin strips. Whatever you do, do not rinse the peppers under the faucet as you will remove some of the flavor of the peppers. The strips of red peppers are placed in a bowl and mixed with one tablespoon of olive oil. They are set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.

After roasting for two hours, the plum tomatoes become softened and slightly caramelized. They are allowed to come to room temperature before the salad is assembled.

The dressing for this panzanella is a simple balsamic one or should I say an incredibly simple flavorful one. Katie called for first drizzling the sourdough bread croutons with the dressing, however, I put all of the panzanella ingredients on a serving platter (except the torn basil leaves) and then drizzled the dressing over the top. I also doubled the amount of dressing as 4 tablespoons of dressing was not nearly enough to dress the salad. After the dressing was added and the salad lightly tossed, the basil leaves were sprinkled over the top.

Panzanella (slight adaptation of Katie Quinn Davies' recipe from What Katie Ate)

8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 red bell peppers
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, torn into bite sized pieces
3 Tablespoons of capers (rinsed)
14-16 basil leaves torn in half
1 small to medium sized loaf of sourdough bread (day old), torn into bite sized pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of sea salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place halved tomatoes on baking sheet, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 2 hours until softened and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Place torn sourdough bread pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Note: Add bread to the last 30 minutes of roasting time for the tomatoes.
4. Grill red bell peppers until charred. Remove from grill, place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to touch, remove charred skins and seeds. Slice thinly. Place in bowl and mix with 1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside.
5. For the dressing: Mix 6 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive with 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Whisk until combined.
6. Place tomatoes, peppers, capers, bread, and capers on serving platter. Drizzle dressing over top and mix.
7. Add torn basil leaves on top and serve.

Next to the ocean, mountains, flowers and landscapes in general, I have taken more than my share of sky photos. I love capturing the sky in its various shades of blue and clouds in their different formations. Sometimes I wonder if these sky photos are subliminally representing my every now and then 'head in the clouds' state. For the record, when my head is in the proverbial clouds, I can still separate reality from fantasy (but there are some I know who actually might debate this).

Cumulus clouds are my absolute favorites as they are breathtaking to look at and to photo. There is something magical about those big white puffy clouds when they hover over the sea or the mountains. As a kid (a young one and an older one) I loved to look for the shapes of things in the clouds. As recently evidenced when my niece was recently visiting, we all see different things in the clouds. Just like we often see different qualities to people. Where some see goodness others see a darker side, where some see generosity others see selfishness, where some see selflessness others see self-servingness, and where some see self-confidence others see a lack of confidence. Haven't you ever wondered how it is that we can look at the same person and see completely opposite things? Could our love for or familiarity or interactions with affect our levels of perceptiveness? Do we sometimes see only what others want us to see? While there may be many answers to those questions, one thing is for certain. Like the cumulus clouds in the sky, what we see in others is often a reflection of what we want to see.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marinated Flank Steak

Is there any better way to eat steak than having it grilled, medium rare of course? The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is no, but I realize that not everyone appreciates a medium-rare steak (this opinion is likely to offend those of you who grew up eating steak on the well-done side, but please don't take offense). I grew up in a house where most red meats were not cooked medium-rare, but rare which influenced greatly my doneness preference for red meat, particularly steak. And sometimes it on really rare side, causing some coming to dinner at our house to wonder if the meat was actually cooked (particularly those who grew up or lived in a house where everything was cooked well done or slightly beyond well done). My theory about those who eat ketchup with red meat and those who don't is that those who grew up with well done red meat needed to add flavor to it, while those of us growing up eating medium rare to rare red meat experienced all of the flavor in the meat. Most likely this theory will now further add insult to injury to those of you reading this blog. But before you decide to stop reading or completely give up reading this blog, for the record, I have nothing against ketchup and understand that everyone has their own personal taste preferences.

But maybe I really I want to convince you the medium to well-done meat eaters there is another way to experience red meat. A flank steak marinated in garlic, soy sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, honey and rosemary and then grilled to medium-rare is so flavorful that I think it will appeal to those with different doneness preferences as well as make the ketchup lovers abandon the need for it. Could there be any recipe that would cause anyone to give up a lifetime of eating preferences? Yes, there could be.

And as much as I love a great grilled ribeye or filet, I would choose a grilled marinaded flank steak if given the choice. Not only is it less expensive, when marinaded and cut across the grain, it is incredibly tender and flavorful. For a gathering of family or friends, this is a dish that is certain to make for a memorable meal. And it just might be the red meat doneness game changer.

The grilling time for the flank steak ranges from 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the flank steak. A smaller one pound flank steak might even get to the perfect medium rare level of doneness in 8 to 10 minutes (4 to 5 minutes per side).

Seriously, how could any steak marinating in garlic, soy sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, honey and rosemary (plus salt and pepper) not taste insanely delicious? With the exception of fresh rosemary, you most likely have all of the other marinade ingredients in your pantry. This marinade is so good that it might even want you to consider to growing rosemary in your garden or having a rosemary plant in a container on your patio or porch. There is enough marinade for up to 3 to 3 1/2 pounds of flank steak even though this recipe calls for a 2 to 2 1/2 pound flank steak.

I find the aroma of minced garlic and chopped rosemary intoxicating. As easy as it is to put the marinade together I find myself taking my time with its' preparation so I can take in its' scent. When the marinade is finished I like to put the flank steak and marinade in a ziploc bag (easy clean up, easier to flip in the refrigerator). The flank steak marinates for at least 2 hours, but I usually allow it to marinate for 4 to 6 hours.

On a grill heated to medium-high the flank steak is removed from the marinade and placed directly on the hot grill. The bits of garlic and rosemary add to grilling aroma. It is a good thing that the cook time on this steak is relatively short because once everyone inhales the aroma of the garlic and rosemary they will instantly become hungrier.

But once the flank steak is off the grill, you will have to make everyone wait just a little longer as it needs to rest for at least 5 minutes before it is cut across the grain into thin strips. The resting period allow the juices to remain in the steak when its' cut. So make sure you have wine, cocktails or appetizers to distract your guests (and temporarily curb their enthusiasm) while you preparing the platter of sliced medium rare strips of flank steak. In one bite of the marinated flank steak, their patience will be rewarded as in just one bite all of layers of flavors of the marinade and the steak itself can be tasted. And there is at least one other outcome of this dish. You just might not grill any other steaks for the rest of summer.

Marinated Flank Steak (slightly adapted version of recipe created by Chamberlain's Prime Chop House, Texas)

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons honey 
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 Tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Flank steak (at least 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)

1. Mix soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, honey, minced garlic, chopped rosemary, pepper and salt in medium sized bowl. Whisk until blended.
2. Place flank steak in a gallon size Ziploc baggie. Pour marinade in, seal baggie and place marinading flank steak in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (up to 6 hours). Turn baggie several times to ensure the flank steak is covered in marinade.
3. Heat grill to a medium-high heat. Remove flank steak from marinade and place on the grill. 
4. Cook to desired doneness. About 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare.
5. Remove cooked flank steak from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
6. Cut across grain into thin strips. Arrange on platter and serve.

In addition to the apple orchards, blueberry farms, pumpkin farms, and Christmas tree farms, the landscape here also is filled with cornfields. The farmers market and roadside stands usually sell out of native corn on a daily basis. So if by mid-afternoon you have not had the chance to buy some fresh native corn, you most likely will have a cornless meal. A catastrophe if everyone was looking forward to having grilled or steamed corn or if other than a salad you had not put together another vegetable. The old adage 'the early bird gets the worm' (or in this case the corn) seems to continue to be a timeless truism.

Whenever I have procrastinated on doing something I have generally wanted to kick myself as I make it harder on myself. On a lesser number of occasions, my delay has been a good thing, but this is more the exception than the rule. So if it is easier to not procrastinate I wonder why so many of us do it? Fear of conflict, fear of being too eager, waiting for someone else to do it or take the lead, fear of the unknown,  no sense of urgency, avoidance, disorganization or disinterest? The list of reasons is probably endless, but the outcomes of procrastinating are generally not, generally not positive. So if the outcomes are generally not positive, why would any of us intentionally procrastinate? I wish I could just answer that question for myself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake

The weather has been glorious the past few days. Sunny non-humid days, cool, perfect sleeping weather nights. It feels more like September than August, but I am not complaining as I love September weather (even if we get to experience it in August). It was the perfect baking in the summer morning day and I needed a reason to use some of the fresh blueberries picked from the blueberry farm yesterday. Thankfully the blueberry bushes here still have plenty of blueberries on them and hopefully there will be more ripened berries early next week (is there such a thing as too many frozen blueberries?). I was debating about whether to make a blueberry crostata flavored with orange and ginger or the blueberry lemon bundt cake and decided I would do both (of course); one this morning and the other tomorrow to bring as a hostess gift to a dinner gathering.

Before I made the bundt cake I had to find the bundt pan I bought a few months back. (I am slowly duplicating cooking tools here in the east coast house which at some point in time will not necessary be a good thing. But I suppose that happens when one lives in two places). I had wanted this Nordic Ware bundt pan as I love how a finished cake looks. To me it seems a cake is almost regal looking, but then maybe I have regal on the brain as I am in the midst of reading "The Game of Thrones" (an epic fantasy series). Only this was a 10 cup bundt pan and the recipe called for a 12 cup bundt pan. I made it work by increasing the baking time as I had my heart set on making this fresh blueberry lemon cake in this bundt pan. My other option would have been to remove some of the batter and bake it up in smaller bundt pans (but I haven't duplicated that baking tool, yet).

I don't know what it is about blueberries that I love so much. Their taste, color, shape, size, or versatility? Probably all of the aforementioned. I wish I lived in a climate where they grew twelve months of the year as I don't think I would ever tire of eating or picking fresh blueberries.

My blueberries were not from Maine, but I used unsalted butter and buttermilk from Maine. I had read somewhere about Kate's butter and thought I would try using in it (usually go between using Land O'Lakes or Kerrygold unsalted butter when baking). I loved how it creamed up when it was mixed with the sugar and I loved the taste of the finished cake. I suppose I would have to make two cakes using two different butters to discern if there was really a difference, but I think I prefer to convince myself there was a difference.

The original recipe called for both the use of lemon zest and lemon extract, but having made the cake before I didn't like taste of the lemon extract so I used vanilla instead. But that's my personal preference.

The finished batter of the cake is very thick, like pound cake thick. So when stirring in the lightly floured blueberries, be certain to use a spatula or wooden spoon and carefully stir them in. The blueberries will burst when baking but you don't want your batter turning purple on you. Yes I know  purple cake might look regal, but maybe regally unappetizing.

Preparing the bundt pan is really important here if you want your cake to unmold perfectly. I just pour some canola oil into the pan and rub with a paper towel. Cake flour is sprinkled and swirled in the pan. The excess flour is removed by turning the pan upside-down over the sink and tapping the pan. I have not always had success with oil sprays when preparing bundt pans. Once I grabbed the olive oil spray and discovered a little too late my mistake. So I rely on the old-fashioned way of preparing the bundt pan.

Once the batter is transferred to the bundt pan, you will smooth the top with an offset spatula. If you don't have one, a spatula will work as well. Just know this batter is so delicious, that you will want to leave some on the spatula to enjoy once the cake is in the preheated 350 degree oven.

The baking time for this blueberry lemon bundt cake in a 12 cup capacity bundt pan is 55 to 60 minutes. You know it is finished when a toothpick or cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean. The baking time on the 10 cup bundt pan was 75 minutes, but I started checking every five minutes after the 60 minute mark.

The finished cake is set on a baking rack for 10 minutes before it is unmolded. Wait time here is important as the bundt pan itself is incredibly hot and cake needs a bit of resting period. Unmolded this cake is absolutely beautiful. Once the cake cools, dust with confectionary sugar and serve.

This cake can be made the day before so it is a perfect cake to bring to neighbor's house, to a meeting at work, to a book club, or to a long weekend stay at friend's house. The aroma of this cake is so incredible that your family or guests may not want to wait until it's cooled enough for the dusting of confectionary sugar.

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake (modified recipe from Abby Mandel, Chicago Tribune, 2005)

3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated rind from two lemons
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries and 3 Tablespoons cake flour
Confectionary sugar for dusting finished cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Prepare 12 cup capacity bundt pan (lightly oil and flour, shaking out excess flour)
3. Sift flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
4. Using a paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy.
5. Add eggs and vanilla, beating 3 minutes (mixture will become thick and smooth).
6. Add sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk. mix until well combined.
7. Toss blueberries with 3 tablespoons of cake flour before mixing into batter. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix in blueberries.
8. Transfer batter to prepared bundt pan. Smooth surface with a spatula or offset spatula.
9. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
10. Place cake on a wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes.
11. Unmold the cake onto a platter or cake stand.
12. When cooled completely, sprinkle with confectionary sugar.
Note: If not serving immediately, store at room temperature well covered or in an airtight container. Cake can be made a day ahead.

I was at the farm stand the other day and saw some native peaches. I couldn't help taking some photos of them before I bought some. When I am taking photos I sort of get in a zone and don't hear or see anyone else around me. It is the same sort of zone I get in (or used to get in more often) when I run. I have begun to return to running again, only this time I am even slower than I was before. (While I am not as young as I used to be, my competitive ego is still operating from years ago having not kept up with the aging of my body.) Not sure yet if another 5k or 10k is in my future, but this time the return to running is for a completely different reason.

I have yet to get 'in the zone' while running, but it is that place I hope to get to soon (right now I am focusing too much on my breathing, pace and distance). I came to running as an older adult and for several years was religious about it. But I let work and the need for sleep get in the way. Realizing in retrospect that I should have made running more of a priority as I felt so much better when I ran (no matter how long I spent at work or how little sleep I may have gotten).

But running for has always been a 'head' game. If I ever doubted myself on a run or focused too much on an injury, my runs were invariably cut short. But when I just let my mind wander as I ran, I would get into that 'zone' and running felt easier, a little more effortless. This time my return to running is to move from fantasizing about to again experiencing being 'in the zone' as this an energizing place, a place where I believe almost anything is possible.