Peaches and Meringue

I’m a dog person. Always have been, always will be. I’ve never known a dog person who’s also a cat person, and vice-versa. You are either one or the other. End of story. I’ve always wondered if the same applies to fruit. In particular, peaches and nectarines. Are you either a peach person or a nectarine person? Does the same intense camaraderie and worship exist for each side? I’m a nectarine person. When summer rolls around, nectarines make it into the kitchen often, but their fraternal siblings stay away. Well, because I keep them away. My main issue lies with the silly fur coat they like to wear. I’m not a fan of furry coats on fruit – except for kiwi, since we take theirs off.

But this year – this year I’m feeling adventurous. While strolling through the market, minding my own business, I see gorgeous, gigantic peaches, and though still skeptical, decide to pick one up, and immediately knew it was something special. Firm and only faintly mealy with the sweetest smell of summer. The time had come to give them a second chance. I was excited. And for good reason.

My first bite was crunchy, sweet and bursting with aroma. All the years I had shunned this poor fruit. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Then fate stepped in. As I was flipping through the new issue of Gourmet, distracted by the chomping of my renewed love, a recipe stopped me in my tracks. The chomping stopped, I quickly skimmed it, already knowing it was meant for me. And for my peaches. With only 4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes of cooking time, this was my type of dessert. The warm peach, barely caramelized at the edges, next to the fluffy, gooey-ness of the meringue is heavenly. The meringue reminds of the inside of a perfectly roasted s’more. Except better. A summer dessert that tastes guiltier than it actually is while showcasing the splendor of the peach. I love surprising myself – I’m a peach person after all (at least this year).


Peaches and Meringue
Tweaked from Gourmet, August 2009

Watch the meringue very, very, very carefully (I can’t emphasize this enough) once it goes in the oven. A few seconds too long and it will become a black, burnt mess. The original recipe called for crushed sesame candy or amaretti, but I usually don’t have either lying around the house, so the graham crackers worked perfectly. Also, please note the egg white in this recipe is not fully cooked.

Music Pairing: Peach, Prince


  • 2 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped graham crackers


Preheat broiler. Put peaches, cut side up, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sugar on each half. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until tops begin to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Beat egg white with a pinch of salt in a deep bowl using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoon sugar, beating until white holds stiff, glossy peaks. Fold in graham crackers.

Place a dollop of meringue on each peach half and broil 10-15 seconds. Turn off broiler and leave peaches in oven just until tips of meringue are browned, 20-30 seconds (watch carefully).


Heavenly Hummus

Who would have ever thought some simple mashed up beans could taste soooo good?  Hummus is my friend.  My buddy.  We met years ago in Chicago, at Reza’s, the best Persian restaurant in town.  God, I (sigh) miss that place.  When I moved to San Francisco, there was really nothing that compared to Reza’s – not even close.  So I started buying those little plastic tubs of hummus from the supermarket whenever I had a hankering for it, which basically meant I was buying a whole lot of hummus.  But something never felt quite right.  I missed my old buddy.

One day, I finally decided to make my own and discovered what a fool I had been.  Not only could I whip up a batch of hummus in 2.5 minutes flat, but I realized I’d spent a small fortune on those little tubs.  For the cost of a single tub, I could produce at least 5 humongous – more delicious – batches in the comfort of my own home.  Now, I normally buy beans dried, and in bulk, but for some reason, canned chickpeas work fabulously for hummus.


Speaking of chickpeas, did you know ground roasted chickpeas are sometimes brewed instead of coffee in parts of Germany?  I can’t decide if I find that fascinating or disgusting.  I digress.  In addition to the smokiness of the cumin, I add a tiny bit of tumeric to my hummus for an extra kick.  I also happen to love the color.  And like most things involving garlic and lemon – the more garlicky and lemony, the better for me.  I must say, though, the best part about this recipe is that it doesn’t require you to buy a $10 jar of tahini – a good thing when you’re trying to recoup years of wasted cash spent on mediocre hummus.  My old buddy is back – and here to stay.


Heavenly Hummus
Tweaked from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

If you don’t happen to have my penchant for garlic and lemon, start off with 1 clove and 1/2 of a lemon before you commit to the dark side.


  • 1 cup drained organic canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground tumeric
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
  • Paprika for sprinkling and garnish


Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the 2-3 tbsp chickpea liquid (or more as needed) to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of paprika and some parsley.


Lemon-Coconut Bars

Dessert bars and squares are like the middle children of the Sweet World.  I happen to know this world pretty well.  We’ve become very, very close over the years.  Which is why I get the sense that bars and squares feel they get the shaft.  They’re not quite like cake, with its fluffy and flirty ways, and yet, not quite like cookies either, who are always so cute and chewy – especially when dropped by the spoonful.  And even though brownies have similar curves (or lack thereof), their built-in chocolately, gooey, richness make them stand out.  But dessert bars and squares get ignored.  The folks at Merriam-Webster’s dictionary don’t even consider them an actual word.  (Go ahead, try to look them up.  I’ll wait).

See?  Definition-less.

All of this will change today.  I will spend all day, today doting on the dessert bar I love most.  Unfortunately, it’s also the same bar I’ve had many dubious encounters with.  Sometimes so sugary sweet that I can actually feel cavities forming with every chew, or so alien-yellow and slimy that I know it can’t be digestible.  Those days of needless disappointment are officially over for the infamous Lemon Bar.  I know everyone has a favorite version, so here’s mine to throw in the mix.


These Lemon Coconut Bars are the best I’ve ever eaten.  The coconut is key.  No, actually, toasting the coconut is key.  It provides such fantastic flavor and a bit of chewiness to the crust – something ordinary confectioner’s sugar can’t accomplish on its best day.  The filling is bright and light, with a harmonic blend of sweet to tart.  You know you’re eating real lemons, but not in an alarming pucker-your-lips type way.  Lastly, the ratio of filling to crust is always up for wild debate, but I prefer mine to be fairly equal – so each bite resembles a tiny symphony in my mouth – with conductor, musicians and audience all in tune.  I’m through doting on my favorite middle child….for today.

Duo Music Pairing: Gonna Make You Love Me, Ryan Adams and Lemonheads, If I Could Talk I’d Tell You

Lemon-Coconut Bars
Tweaked from Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated, yields about 16 bars

I only had evaporated milk lying around and I’m thinking it added an unexpected little somethin’ extra special to the bars.  To get nice, clean edges when cutting through bars, use a sharp knife and wipe clean between cuts.


  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted, cooled
  • 6 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

lemon filling:

  • 2 large eggs , beaten lightly
  • 1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice from 2 large lemons, strained
  • 2 1/2 tbsp evaporated milk
  • pinch of table salt

for crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Butter foil, being careful not to rip the foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add coconut and butter; process until mixture resembles fine meal and begins to clump together. Gather dough and press evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden at edges, about 20-25 minutes.

for lemon filling:

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Remove crust from oven.  Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Using foil as aid, transfer lemon coconut bars to work surface. Flatten foil edges. Cut into as many bars or squares as your little heart desires.  Top with sifted powdered sugar.  Any leftover bars can be sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days – though I recommend eating them the same day, at room temperature.  They’re never the same after they’ve been refrigerated – the crust becomes too hard and the filling too stiff.  And oh, only plan on topping with powdered sugar right before you eat.