Summer Delights

June is busting out all over, and so are some wonderful new cookbooks by local authors.

Ruby Plum Soup

“I love cold fruit soups, but don’t want them to taste like dessert. Buttermilk and red wine give sugary plums enough balance to start a savory, summer supper. You’ll want to serve this cold, so make this a day ahead, said Jonathan Bardzik, author of “Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease.”

Bardzik, who is based in Washington, D.C., uses fresh, seasonal ingredients to create new recipes each week for the live cooking demonstrations he offers at farmers markets. His second book, “Seasons to Taste: Farm-fresh Joy for Kitchen and Table,” has 127 recipes organized by season.

Serves 6-8 as a first course

6 plums, pitted and diced

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger

1 cup dry red wine (like Cabernet Sauvignon)

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

Place the plums and ginger in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Add wine. Cover and cook for five minutes more.  Remove from stove and let cool to room temperature. Pass half the cooked plums through a food mill or processor. Add to a bowl with the remaining stewed plums and stir together.  Stir in honey and buttermilk.  Season to taste with vinegar. Add half of the vinegar at first, then add more as needed. The amount you use depends on how sugary your plums are. Chill soup until cold (about 30 minutes) before serving.

Tip: No buttermilk? Blend 1 cup of whole milk or cream with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.

Corn and Zucchini Orzo

Light, sweet flavors of summer are made bright with a splash of vinegar and the zing of jalapeño. This dish from “Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease” tastes just as good hot as it does as a cold pasta salad. This is also wonderfully light with fresh egg pasta.

Serves 6-8 as a side

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeño, seeds and white ribs removed, minced

2 cups finely diced zucchini, (about 1-2 medium)

2 ears corn, kernels removed

1 cup orzo, uncooked

2 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley

Sherry vinegar

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Salt heavily (about 2 tablespoons).

Heat olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened.

Add garlic and jalapeño and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn up heat to medium high and add zucchini.  When you add the zucchini to the pan, add the orzo to the pot of boiling water. When zucchini is tender but still firm in the center, add corn and cook one minute longer, about the time the orzo is ready.  When pasta is still undercooked, just shy of al dente (just a little too firm in the center), strain it, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add orzo and liquid to vegetables. Cook until water has evaporated. Add cilantro and butter. Season to taste with vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Tip: Worried the jalapeño is too hot? Most of the heat is in the seeds and ribs you remove. You can always use less (or more!).

Robert Cabeca is the author of “The Chocolate Chef Uncovered” and “The Chocolate Chef: Left-overs—The Missing Recipes.” Over the years, friends, family and acquaintances begged Cabeca to write a cookbook that would take the intimidation out of cooking with chocolate and teach everything a baker needs to know and practice when working with it. The resulting two books are full of practical information, written for chocolate enthusiasts and beginners alike.

Chocolate Souffle Brownies

These brownies are crispy on the surface and light, airy and gooey on the inside. They have this beautiful crackly appearance to them, which stands out when you dust them with powdered sugar.

Be careful when baking, as these go from done to burnt very quickly and are one of the most difficult brownies to bake. You will need to watch for the proper done-ness before removing them from the oven. The lower the percentage chocolate you use, the sweeter the brownie is going to be. I like to use a 65 percent cocoa.

9 ounces dark chocolate (55% to 75%)

9 ounces unsalted butter, softened

11 ounces superfine sugar (not powdered)

1.1 ounces of pastry flour (not regular flour)

5 extra large eggs, room temperature

1 ounce powdered sugar for decorating

Melt the chocolate and unsalted butter together in a bowl or double boiler over steaming water. Mix until smooth, but do not let it get hot.  Sift the sugar and the flour together. Do not include any chunks remaining in the sifter.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl.

Add the flour mix to the melted chocolate. Using a whisk, blend it together by stirring slowly but firmly.

Add the eggs and stir until mixed in thoroughly.   Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

Prepare 12 muffin tins with baking cups (or 18 cupcake tins) and pre-heat the oven to 355°F.

Evenly portion out to 3/4 height of the cup using an ice cream scoop.

Place on the center rack to bake. Turn after 15 minutes, then bake for an additional 15 minutes and check for done-ness by gently touching the center. If they are firm and crisp on top with just a little give, they are done.   Gently remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

As they cool they will begin to crackle and slightly sink in. This is normal.

When cool, dust with powdered sugar.

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