Despite having grown up in Alabama, I know relatively little about how to make quintessential southern dishes. Fried chicken? Made it twice in my life. Grits? I know they’re made of corn, but don’t really know how to make them. I’m sure it’s not hard, but I’d have to follow a recipe, same as any other average joe.

I have a pretty valid excuse though: I didn’t grow up eating these things. My mom never made them so why would I have learned to make them? Well, that reasoning seemed all well and good until I realized that I had no idea how to make cobbler–THE staple dessert at our house in the summer. I didn’t grow up eating many pies, except for lemon ice box pie, which doesn’t even call for a pastry crust, so I don’t know if it even counts for what most people consider pie. I don’t remember any tarts and very few crumbles, but peach or blackberry or blueberry cobbler? I’ve probably eaten 50 of them. Seriously, my parents could be professional fruit cobbler chefs, if such a thing existed.

This is why I am so embarassed that I have to call my mom or dad EVERY time I want to make cobbler. Even with their instructions I have managed to mess it up several times. Take earlier this summer for example. I was following my dad’s recipe that he orated to me over the phone, which called for a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, and enough milk until “it looks right.” I evidently had no clue what the dough was supposed to look like because I stopped adding milk when I reached a biscuit-like consistency and it didn’t work at all.

The key to real southern cobbler is that you pour the topping in the dish (over a bunch of melted butter) and then you pour the berries on TOP. The dough is then supposed to rise above the fruit and ends up on top by the time you’re done baking it. You can probably imagine that a biscuit-like dough wouldn’t magically rise and overtop fruit, and you’re right. I learned the hard way that in order to make cobbler this way you need something that’s the consistency of cake batter.

If you make the batter correctly (which of course you will because you’ll follow the magical recipe below), then as soon as you pour the fruit on top it starts to rise on the edges. Before you bake it, you use a spatula or spoon to “pull” the batter towards the middle and then as it bakes it continues to rise a little more.

When you’re done, you’ll end up with something very imperfect-looking (compared to a perfect lattice pie, for example), but absolutely delicious. You can use any juicy fruit, like peaches or nectarines, or berry–except strawberries, which just don’t have the right texture. My favorite combo is peach blackberry cobbler served warm with vanilla ice cream. It just doesn’t get much better.

By the way, I feel like my last two posts give the impression that the only way I eat fruit is by coating it in sugar and fat, which isn’t actually the case. In fact, there aren’t many things I like more than fresh, untampered-with fruit in the summer. In case anyone is interested in a fresh, healthy alternative to cobbler and ice cream that tastes almost as good and that you can eat (guilt-free!) every day, you can slice any kind of fresh fruit, top it with a 1/2 cup or so of lowfat cottage cheese, and a handful of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal. I literally eat this almost every day for lunch or an afternoon snack. If you’re not absolutely repulsed by cottage cheese (as I know some people tend to be), then give it a try, but also don’t feel guilty about making the cobbler just because you now know this snack exists. The trick is to eat the cobbler on the weekends and the faux-dessert-snack all week to make up for it!

Peach blackberry cobbler
Dalrymple family recipe (sugar amount slightly modified)

Makes enough for a 9″x13″ pan, but you can easily adjust all the measurements for a smaller batch.

4 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 cups blackberries
(or any other combination of fruits totaling roughly 4-5 cups)
1/3 cup sugar

6 Tablespoons butter
1 cup self-rising flour*
3/4 cup sugar
scant 1 cup milk

*If you don’t have access to self-rising flour you can combine a scant cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

1. Put prepared fruit and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until fruit is very juicy, 5-10 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice butter into chunks and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish. Place in the oven for 2-3 minutes to melt the butter.

3. Meanwhile, mix the flour and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl. Add 3/4 cup of milk and whisk together. Continue adding the remaining ~1/4 cup milk until the batter resembles the consistency of cake batter.

4. Take the pan out of the oven, pour the batter into the pan and use a fork to mix some of the butter into the batter. Then pour the fruit overtop. Use a spatula to pull the dough from the edges of the pan over the fruit as much as possible (see photos above).

5. Bake the cobbler for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling beneath. (Five minutes into the baking time you can pull more dough up from the edges to help cover the cobbler, but this isn’t necessary.)

6. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, then enjoy room temperature leftovers by the fork-full (if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, that is).


My favorite part of spring for the last couple of years has been seeing the first local strawberries appear at the market after months of having only root vegetables and greens. This year we’ve been in for a real treat because we’ve been getting strawberries from our own garden! We planted them last fall and they didn’t appear to be doing much until about March, when they almost doubled in size and started flowering like crazy. Since April we’ve been getting at least a pint every other day, which is just enough to snack on for two days before they go bad. The other week I picked up some fresh blackberries at a farm-stand down the road and, as soon as I saw them beside some strawberries on the kitchen table, the only thing I could think about was making a buttermilk cake.

I have Deb from smittenkitchen to thank for originally making and writing about this recipe. I made it a handful of times last summer, each time with a different fruit or combination of fruits. I’ve actually written about the recipe on this site before, so I guess it’s cheating to do it again, but I like it and really, who’s going to stop me?

The original recipe calls for raspberries, but I’ve also used blueberries, nectarines, and now strawberries and blackberries. The cake base is super-simple to make and versatile–the slight tanginess of the buttermilk compliments pretty much anything sweet and juicy you decide to top it with.

The directions tell you to “scatter” berries over the top, but you can choose to press some or all of the fruit down into the batter a little (like I did) if you want it to get submerged in the cake. It doesn’t matter a great deal though. As the cake bakes, it rises and engulfs even the scattered fruit to some degree, so it all ends up incorporated in, rather than a topping on, the cake. You can see that I got a little carried away with the berries. I literally put as many as I could fit on the top–and it turned out perfectly.

In a way, I think finding this recipe last summer has been detrimental to my development as a baker. You see, I really hadn’t tried many simple, basic, frosting-less cakes before, and seeing as how I haven’t tried another since makes me wonder if it’ll ever happen. Oh well, there are worse things than finding the perfect cake early in life I suppose.

Berry Buttermilk cake
scaled up from recipe on; her version adapted from Gourmet

In the past when I’ve made this cake it has been very thin. This time I wanted something thicker, so I increased the recipe by 50%, made it in a 10 inch spring-form pan, and adjusted the baking temperature and time. I put the adjusted measurements below, but you can refer to the link above for the original proportions, baking temps, etc. I also increased the amount of berries pretty dramatically because I wanted at least one berry in every bite.

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter
scant 1 cup sugar + 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp grated lemon zest
1 large egg
3/4 c. well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced into large chunks
1 cup blackberries, sliced in half if large

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9 or 10 inch round cake pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and scant 1 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

3. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.  Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top.  Then scatter berries over the top. (I started with strawberries and crowded them in, then pressed many of them into the batter a bit. Then I filled in any holes with blackberries.) Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp of sugar.

4. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake an additional 40-50 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then invert on a plate, or if using a spring-form pan, remove liner when ready to serve.

If you have any berries, nectarines, peaches, or any other slightly tart fruit and are looking for a good recipe to use them in, you should try this one. I found a raspberry buttermilk cake recipe on at the beginning of the summer and have made it 3 times now: once with raspberries, once with raspberries and blueberries, and now with diced nectarines.

This cake is divinely simple to make and a true crowd-pleaser.  It is delicate, moist, and perfectly sweet with a touch of tanginess from the buttermilk and lemon zest. It has been good with all of the fruits I have tried it with so far, and I’m far from done experimenting with what I can do with it!

When I decided to make it this time, I was going to a one-year-old’s birthday party and cupcakes seemed more appropriate than a cake.  I was also still surrounded by a few straggling ripe nectarines that I needed to use up and decided to substitute them for the raspberries called for in the original recipe. This ended up being really good because the nectarines, much like raspberries, are simultaneously sweet and tart. I just peeled and sliced the nectarines into small chunks and then imbedded them in the batter once it was poured into the cupcake tins.

The cupcakes that result from this recipe don’t end up with a “domed” top, but this didn’t really bother me.  The original recipe has you dust the top of the unbaked cake with sugar which results in a crispy, sweet crust. I left the extra sugar out this time, and knowing that the cake would be good enough on its own, I opted not to use a sugary frosting either.  Instead, I chose to top the cupcakes with a simple lemon glaze after they were done baking. The glaze turned out to be WAAAY too lemony (even for me, a girl who loves her lemons) so I included a glaze recipe with fewer lemons and more sugar (this time powdered instead of granulated) below.

Whether you choose to make this into a thin cake like in the original recipe or into cupcakes like I did, you should really give this recipe a try (not to sound like a broken record)!  It is currently my favorite cake! Not that I’m in a rush or anything, but if and when I ever get hitched, I’d even think of having this as my wedding cake.  Not sure how a frosting-less cake would go over with other people, but I think it would be fun and different–kind of like the cherry pie that my friends Lauren and John served at their wedding.  Doh!  Did I just spend a paragraph talking about a hypothetical wedding cake???  Here’s hoping a certain someone doesn’t see this post any time soon… 🙂

Nectarine buttermilk cupcakes
adapted ever so slightly from smittenkitchen, adapted previously from Gourmet

This made 10 cupcakes for me.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups fresh nectarines (2-3), peeled and diced

1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Place cupcake liners in a muffin tin.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

3. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.  Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 2/3 full.  Then imbed nectarine pieces in each cupcake.  I used about 6 or 7 chunks per cupcake.

4. Bake until cupcakes are golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Lemon glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Whisk the sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl until it forms a paste. Spoon and spread a dollup of the glaze over each cupcake once they have cooled.

A couple weeks ago my housemate Tim scored a bunch of free nectarines from the research orchard near campus. He froze as many as would fit in the freezer, but that still left boxes of ever ripening nectarines for us to eat as quickly as possible. Believe me, there are worse plights in life than being surrounded by an abundance of fresh fruit. For a whole week I had sliced nectarines with cottage cheese, one of the most delicious snacks on the face of the planet. But at a certain point your body begins to protest at the inclusion of nectarines in EVERY meal you eat, and you begin to lag in the race to keep up with the rotting fruit. This is why I was thrilled when some friends had a bbq and I got an opportunity to make a nectarine dish that I could at least partially pawn off on OTHER people.

I could have made a pie or a cobbler or something else sweet, but I wanted to try something a little different. Finally I found a salsa recipe that paired nectarines with yellow tomatoes and arugula and decided to give it a go. The chopping and slicing took a while, but the end product was worth the effort.

We served the salsa with chips and used it to top our grilled fish tacos. It was delicious! The next night we used the leftover corn tortillas and salsa to make chicken tacos. Equally delicious! I’m sure you could substitute peaches or mangos for the nectarines if you find yourself with an overabundance of one of those. Bottom line, if fish tacos are on your menu in the near future, I really encourage you to use this salsa. Top it with some feta, avocado, and cilantro and experience heaven.

Nectarine salsa
from Bon Appétit

1 1/2 cups 1/3-inch cubes pitted white nectarines (**I used yellow nectarines and removed the peel)
1 1/4 cups chopped yellow or orange tomatoes (8 to 9 ounces)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped arugula
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 3- to 4-inch-long serrano chile, seeded, minced

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.